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Women in Rodeo: Past, Present, Future

The concept of the rodeo has deep roots and is seen partly as a competitive sport, and partly as a way to honour the hardworking men and women that wrangle livestock every day.
8-1 Rodeo
Credit: Pixabay

The many parts of the rodeo demonstrate horsemanship, calf roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding and more.

While rodeo queens have long been a staple of the show, wearing beautiful attire and waving to the crowd with a smile, let’s not overlook the women who have had an impact on the sport itself.

Calgary’s Shelby Boisjoli is the 2021 Women’s Rodeo World Champion All-Around Cowgirl. During that year’s event she earned 1,494 points over three days.

Phoebe Ann Moses is not a name you hear very often. Perhaps you know her better by her stage name, Annie Oakley. This American sharpshooter and fixture in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show helped pave the way for women in rodeo and continues to inspire girls to look into the sport, even though she passed in 1926.

The Canadian Cowgirls show a different side of rodeo action. They are a drill team that has been wowing audiences since 2002 with their ability to precision ride and perform stunts.

Viola Thomas is a three-time Canadian barrel racing champion. She was also the first licensed female jockey in Alberta and the 17th licensed female jockey in North America. This Alberta born and raised woman was inducted into the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2014.

These are just a small handful of women from the past and present that have impacted the sport over the years. While it is tempting to see the rodeo as a cowboy sport honouring the old Wild West, women have been a part of the action since it all began. On the frontier, women rode, shot, wrangled and herded and now, in the rodeo, they compete with equal determination and exceptional skill.

The Canadian Girls Rodeo Association has promoted women in the sport for 65 years. To learn more about women in rodeo and how to get involved, visit the organization online.

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