Women in the rough and tumble world of rodeo? Whoever heard of such a thing? Jim Dewey Brown, for one. Jim is the general manager of the Prescott Frontier Days, Inc – World’s Oldest Rodeo in Prescott, Arizona. His outline for success features 76% of rodeo chairman positions held by women (19 of 47 positions, with 22 positions yet to be filled). Jim’s support staff is also filled by women, all of whom have cowgirl backgrounds and experience.
Additionally, the World’s Oldest Rodeo proudly promotes women’s competitive sports and pays equal prize money and buckles for champions in these events. The Prescott Rodeo features women’s events that include barrel racing; a red-hot ballet of a cowgirl, her horse, three barrels, and a stopwatch; and breakaway roping, a lightning-fast display of skill and horsemanship.
In barrel racing, the horse and cowgirl enter the arena at top speed and maneuver around a cloverleaf grouping of pre-set barrels. Once again, communication between the horse and rider is crucial as they circle the barrels as closely as possible to race the clock. The electronic timer beam is crossed by the horse and rider to begin the event and the timer runs until the beam is crossed again at the end of the run.
Breakaway roping is a relatively new sport at the World’s Oldest Rodeo. This thrilling event is a variation of tie-down roping where the rider ropes the calf but does not throw and tie the calf. The horse and cowgirl wait in a box next to the chute that has a spring-loaded barrier rope tied to the saddle horn by a string. Timing begins as the barrier rope breaks. As soon as she throws the rope around the calf’s neck and the rope is taut, the string breaks and signals the timer to end the run. This sport depends upon a woman’s ability to communicate with her horse as well as split-second timing.
Rules and participation have changed greatly since women first competed for a lipstick case as part of the Girls Rodeo Association (GRA) in 1948. Renamed the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association in 1982, they used persuasion and demonstrated their athletic skills to compete with the Rodeo Cowboys Association. Today’s cowgirls compete alongside cowboys in the same arenas as part of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Celebrated as the oldest women’s sports organization in the country, the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association was built by women, for women. Standing on the shoulders of women competitors, today’s cowgirls are elite athletes who have earned the right to crown their champions in the world of rodeo.
Join us at the Prescott Frontier Days World’s Oldest Rodeo June 28 through July 4, 2022, and see for yourself!