Two local area Central Alberta Rodeo Association (CARA) cow riders are bucking the idea women should be limited to barrel racing.
Katy Praught, 23, and Seana Rousseau, 19, are proving girls can ride roughstock, not only in the CARA – the only rodeo association where ladies cow riding is a sanctioned event in Canada – but in Texas, where they’re headed this Thursday to take part in women’s bull riding.
Gaining support for women riding stock, whether its bulls or cows, however, hasn’t been easy, with some believing women should be limited to timed events.
“There’s a lot of old-fashioned cowboys. They think that women are just barrel racers – we’re not tough enough to ride, we’re smaller,” said Rousseau. “We had stock contractors a few years ago that did not like us, but now they see that we’re good and we can ride and they’re fighting to get us at more rodeos and have us get bigger.”
Ladies cow riding has only been a sanctioned sport in CARA since 2016, but historically, woman have been part of rodeo since the late 19th century and even competed in bronc and bull riding in the early 20th century. When female bronc rider Bonnie McCarroll died in a 1929 rodeo, however, female participation was curtailed and it wasn’t until the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA – originally the Girls Rodeo Association – was formed in Texas that women began to gain ground in rodeo again, but it’s been a long and steady struggle.
While Ladies Breakaway Roping is now becoming a bigger thing, it’s still a timed event, and Praught and Rousseau want to see that change – and fortunately were able to see some progress in 2016 when CARA made ladies cow riding a sanctioned event.
“We’re not going to step on anyone’s toes – we have our own event,” said Rousseau.
“We’re only getting on these bulls in Texas because it’s a women’s event and they’re easier bulls – we’re not trying to go up against the guys,” added Praught. “I’m not sure why people have a problem with it….A lot of people aren’t a big fan of it but we’ve definitely proved ourselves.”
Rousseau was originally a dancer, aiming to be a ballerina and spending many nights at the dance studio in a variety of disciplines. However, she started working on a farm and met a couple whose son is a professional steer rider and was convinced to try her hand at riding junior bulls, and she stuck with it ever since, leaving the dance world behind.
Praught, meanwhile, got her start through her cousin’s fiance, who was a bullrider and put her on a steer. Then, through mutual friends, she met another girl that cow rode who showed her the ropes.
“I tried it once, thinking it was maybe a bucket list thing, but I was addicted and I’ve been riding in every rodeo since.”
For both, it’s the adrenaline rush of riding that’s kept them with it, but they’ll face a whole new kind of adrenaline this weekend as they’ll have two opportunities to ride bulls in Texas.
It’ll be their first time riding an animal competitively one-handed, but most of their preparation is on the mental side.
“We’re very comfortable riding two-handed, so it’s just the mental game that we have to ride on something that’s going to buck a little more,” said Rousseau.
“It’s nice they recognize girls can do this too,” said Praught.
After their return, they’ll also compete in the CARA finals at the Rimbey Agriplex in Rimbey, Alta. Aug. 31-Sept. 1.