One by one, teams of four women on horseback entered the rodeo arena Saturday at Marion County Fairgrounds in Hillsboro, vying for a spot in the Women’s Ranch Rodeo Association national finals.
Six teams from Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas competed. As riders exited the arena, they offered encouragement to competitors entering the ring. Such things are common among WRRA riders, who compete from February through September for a shot at the October finals in Loveland, Colorado.
“Everybody wants to go to the finals,” WRRA president Edy Jost said. “It’s good money, it’s fun, and you get to hang out with a bunch of gals you’ve met and rodeoed with all summer.”
There were two rodeos Saturday, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. Jost said she staged past rodeos in conjunction with the county fair, but conflicts mandated this year’s stand-alone event.
“We try to do them with fairs, with anything,” Jost said. “Usually we do this one with the Marion County Fair, the Saturday before it starts.”
The WRRA was founded nine years ago, Jost said. Women’s team rodeo was well established, but there was dissatisfaction over inconsistencies in events and rules from rodeo to rodeo.
“We didn’t have set rules or guidelines,” Jost said. “A bunch of girls got together and said “We want to have the same five events each time, and we want to have the same rules each time.”
Most of the women don’t work together, and while ‘ranch’ is in the name, teams aren’t associated with a particular ranch. Social media is one way women connect to form teams, Jost said.
“We go out on Facebook.” She said. “We put it out there and they send in their entries.”
Jost said the popularity of the sport among riders is good, and that a new division in Nebraska is attracting attention.
“You can have up to 16 teams, and they’re topping out at 13 to 16 teams at every rodeo,” Jost said. “Mine’s a small rodeo compared to theirs.”
The overriding goal for the riders, Jost said, is to have a good time with family and friends.
“We try to make it a family event,” she said. “We like to have the kids out here helping. My son sang the the national anthem today for us both times. Family, that’s what it’s about. Family, fun, and winning a little money.”
Jost said she had plenty of help putting together the rodeo.
“The fair board helps me put this on,” Jost said. “So without my husband and my son, and all the fair board members who come out and help me out, I wouldn’t be able to do it. It’s a lot of work.”