The face of women’s rodeo in Alberta is changing and those competing say it’s about time.
Previously, they’ve only been able to compete in barrel racing under the Canadian Pro Rodeo Association, frustrating many athletes who know they’re capable of more.
“Sometimes I would start to wonder why I was putting so much effort into my roping,” Lakota Bird said Saturday.
“I roped the dummy a lot and practiced all the time, knowing once I was done high school and college rodeo, there really wouldn’t be anywhere to go. It was discouraging.”
That all changed this year when the CPRA added breakaway roping to women’s events.
“Breakaway roping is the women’s version of tie-down roping,” Bird explained. “When the calf is roped, rather than dismounting and tying the calf, the rope is secured to the saddlehorn with a string. Once the calf is roped, the string breaks away and the time stops.”
The best of the best can do it in just over two seconds.
Already, the Nanton-raised cowgirl is making history.
Bird became the first woman to win the all-around cowboy title in a Canadian pro rodeo at last month’s Guy Weadick Days in High River.
She’ll try to repeat that this weekend in Okotoks.
Throughout the weekend, 80 riders will compete for a berth in Sunday’s final. But, there’s still more on the line.
The Okotoks Pro Rodeo is one of 10 stops on the circuit that serve as a qualifier for the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer this October.
“That’s the feather in the cap,” said Renne Reidy, the Okotoks Pro Rodeo board president. “That’s such an honour for all the contestants. That’s their aim of the whole year: to go to the CFR.
“To see people we recognize from the area, that’s another plus.”
The athletes hope to inspire another generation of cowgirls to grow the sport even more.
“It was one woman in rodeo that inspired me to get involved,” said Jaden Holle, Miss Rodeo Canada 2019. “If we have any aspiring young girls that want to be a roper when they get older, this is where it will all start.”