Forged through the times of the wild, wild West, rodeo royalty comes from a long line of pioneering women who were roping and riding broncs alongside the cowboys.
Rodeos featured legends like Annie Oakley who showcased her talents of shooting and riding. Bertha Blancett was the first woman to ride a bucking bronc at the fourth Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Lucile Mulhall was first woman to be officially called a ‘cowgirl’ in 1907, a nickname deemed by Teddy Roosevelt after seeing her ride at the Mulhall ranch according to the Oklahoma Historical Society.
After being fined-tuned through decades of competition, the Sheridan WYO Rodeo royalty has become a representative of cowboy living and the western heritage that lives on in Sheridan’s day-to-day living. During the Sheridan WYO Rodeo Royalty Pageant, girls are not only judged on the glitz and glam, but the level of horsemanship it takes to be crowned a queen is what truly sets the pageant apart. The girls have to score 70% in each category to be crowned Miss Sheridan WYO Rodeo and the horsemanship competition counts for half of the girls score.
“The horsemanship aspect represents our western way of life,” said MaryAnn Bledsoe, a member of the Sheridan WYO Rodeo Queen board. “A rodeo queen is the epitome of it all, she’s representing the rodeo and the town and really the whole idea of western life; it’s very important that she knows how to work her horse and we have really high standards.”
The contestants have to execute a concise reining pattern that consists of circles, spins and stops that requires the rider and her horse to be responsive and in rhythm as they simulate reining’s origin — working cattle. They’re also judged on their queen’s wave, their knowledge of parts of the horse and saddle, a flag run, a grand entry wave and a freestyle event.
“There’s a lot of people that could speak well on stage, but it takes a really good horsemanship to be able to ride random horses all year,” said Keri Parr, president of the Sheridan WYO Rodeo Royalty Board. “That’s the thing, our girls don’t model, they’re cowgirls. On stage they can be totally awkward, but once they’re on the horse, it’s completely natural.”
The current royalty is no stranger to the workload that comes with the crown.
“I ride five or six days a week because you can’t run 10 miles without at least prepping for it and it’s the same for our horses,” Katie Bailey, 2019 Miss Sheridan WYO Rodeo Queen, said about the title responsibilities. “They are athletes that are our feet and so getting them ready is just as prominent for us as it is getting ourselves ready.”
“Once you’re put into that arena the energy is so high key,” Lainey Konetzki, 2019 Sheridan WYO Rodeo Princess, said about the arena.
“There are banners and flashes and we need to be able to be on our horse keeping our space and moving our feet showing everyone what we are capable of doing and that we belong in the arena too.”
The position of being a poised young woman representing the sport of rodeo and her hometown ranges from 10 to 24 between the categories of queen, senior princess, princess and junior princess. But the level of dedication and love for her four-legged partner in the arena doesn’t discriminate.
“It’s been fun because my mom has been helping me with my questions and my western wear and my dad has been helping me with my reining patterns,” said Grace Van Dyke who ran for Miss Sheridan WYO Rodeo Junior Princess. “But being with my horse throughout all my prep has been my favorite part.”
Results will be announced at the Queen’s luncheon 10 a.m. Thursday 10a.m. at the Hub on Smith.