Meet the Cowgirls: Billi
Q: Were you involved in rodeo before competing in the bronc riding? If so, what events did you do and do you still compete in them?
A: In high school I competed in team roping and breakaway roping, with a few entertaining attempts at pole bending and barrel racing. I also showed horses in high school and college and participated in a drill team on horseback. After that I hit the road pretty hard riding bulls for about 7 years. I tried a few bareback horses, but thought they were scary, so I went back to just bulls. Recently, I took polo lessons and loved it. I look forward to roping and playing polo again when my plate isn't so full!
Q: Tell us about yourself and what led to you to try out riding broncs competitively?
A: I was raised in North Dakota where my family farms and raises beef cattle. My sister barrel races and rides horses doing ranch work with the rest of my family. After high school I went to college in Powell, WY to get my degree in Equine Studies, then relocated to Texas. Texas had the practice pens I needed and all of the rodeos I wanted.
After my riding arm was stepped on and broke (twice) by a bull, I had problems with grip strength. Much of the muscle was removed during the surgery and I just could not get my forearm back to normal. So I went back to school and got my Kinesiology degree and started playing Roller Derby. Although roller skating was completely foreign to these legs, it became the perfect sport for me. It is intense and physical, but hip checks and shoulder checks do not require use of my forearms! Then I started seeing a lot of ads for a ladies bronc riding tour and it sparked my interest. Two hands are used in ranch bronc riding (for men and women) so my left arm would have a little help. My friends kept tagging me in the event telling me I should try it. The dates did not interfere too much with my derby schedule, so I figured what the heck, and I entered up!
Q: How do you prepare yourself physically and mentally before getting on the bronc?
A: By the time you get to the rodeo, most of your physical and mental preparation should already be done. Once there, I keep it pretty simple. While doing warm-up stretches I like to pray and visualize a perfect ride and keep my thoughts 100% positive.
Q: What would you tell women and girls who also want to do things other than the mainstream events such as what you’re doing?
A: If you want to do something, by all means do it! And be sure to give it 100%. Don't say you're a roughstock rider and then jump off your animal first jump out of the chute. I've seen plenty of guys do this, but as woman, you just can't. People will be looking at you with a lot more judgment, so when you nod your head, you better mean it. In rodeo you may draw the easiest animal in the pen, or you may draw a double rank son of a gun, either way, you get on and give it your all. I think this can be applied to just about any challenge women face. I'm proud to compete against the women on this ranch bronc tour, they are not content with "just getting on", they want that whistle. Doesn't matter how bad their last wreck was, or how much that horse is jerking them around in that chute. They get out of their comfort zone and make things happen. I believe women like Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, and Susan B. Anthony had this same attitude.
Q: Tell us about one of your best rides or most memorable moments in bronc riding competition.
A: My first ranch bronc paycheck in Wichita Falls, TX! All of my experience and success had been on bulls, so I didn't know if or when I would ever place on a bronc. I did not care if my form wasn't perfect, or if my bronc wasn't the rankest horse in the pen...I made the whistle and boy did it feel good!
Q: What was the best career advice you have ever received?
A: "You can't have no in your heart." Joe Dirt
Q: What has been the biggest challenge of being a bronc rider?
A: Figuring out what the heck to do up there on that bucking horse! On bulls you post and get up on your legs and stay to the front end, away from the power. It's incredibly different with broncs and I can't say I have it figured out yet. So until I do, I will make rides more difficult than they need to be, and they won't look as pretty as I would like them to. All I can do is keep learning and piecing things together and trying to make the whistle in any way possible!
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Photos provided by Billi Halverson.