All-around cowgirl champion Ruth Roach had an unmistakable style in riding, roping, and dress. She had a winning smile and topped off every rodeo outfit she wore with a giant bow affixed to the back of her hair. Ruth stood out in a sea of other riders. It wasn’t only her look that brought her attention, but the exciting moves she performed on the back of a horse. In her 24-year long career with such programs as Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and the 101 Wild West Ranch Show, Ruth entertained audiences with daring feats in the saddle no one could match.
Raised in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, Ruth started to ride when she was 3 years old. She signed on with the Miller 101 Ranch as a trick rider in 1914 when she was 14 and traveled the world. In 1917, she joined the Hagenback-Wallace Circus and began riding bucking horses in the show. She made her bronc-riding debut in the Fort Worth rodeo that same year.
In just two years, Ruth won the Women’s Saddle Bronc contest in 1919 and from there, added to her list of awards the World Champion All-Around Cowgirl, World’s Champion Trick Rider, and World’s Champion Girl Bronc Rider.
But Ruth’s victories came with a price.
After winning her heat in the cowgirl’s riding contest in the Madison Square Garden rodeo in October 1933, Ruth was thrown from a bucking bronco as she was about to dismount. She was carried from the arena with a broken leg. A year later, she was thrown from her horse and broke her wrist.
Ruth retired from the rodeo in 1938, and with her third husband, Fred Salmon, started ranching in Nocona, Texas. She passed away in 1986 at the age of 100. Ruth was inducted into both the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and the Rodeo Hall of Fame in the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1989.