Monday, March 28, 2016

2015 to the finish line

Wow it has been pedal to the metal the past few months I realize that I haven't updated my blog very much OK well maybe not at all. But here is my chance to redeem myself I hope y'all aren't too mad at me or haven't forgotten about me! 

After Grand National my schedule shifted gears and I had several parades back to back. I even managed to have my family in Sonora to help celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and ring in Christmas with a 20 degree night parade.

One very soggy downpoured equestrian parade and several meetings later came my favorite time. No not Christmas, the National Finals Rodeo!

This year I did big kid queen stuff like meeting with sponsors and getting fitted for yet another custom hat. I do believe that I am going to single-handedly keep Trent at Greeley Hat Works in business. I am majorly obssesed with his stuff! 

Luckily Las Vegas is not far from mom and dad so they were able to come down for the day so we could spend it as a family. I am constantly in awe about how much rodeo and horses play a part in our lives. My parents are so incredible as dad got into hat fittings and even talked about getting one of his own; and mom put up with 2 hours of this! 

Because I am that girl never sits still for long I flew in and out of Vegas in one day. I flew out at five in the morning and arrived home at midnight. Of course this was due to a 3 hour delay at the airport. But I managed to meet a few adorable new rodeo fans so that made it go by quickly.

With Christmas came a few days downtime and by the first of the year I was back on it but that will have to wait for another post there's a lot that I need to catch up all of y'all up on last year's adventures! 

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Monday, January 11, 2016

That one horse...

We all have that one horse, the animal that we tip our hat to. Not because they are necessarily the most talented and fabulous individual, or the one who always saves our butt, instead they are the bit of fur that reminds us why we willingly clamber onto a 1200 pound animal. 

It's not about a flawless symmetry as horse and rider become one, or a sunday stroll in the park. Instead that horse proves to be our match, the one that tests us as a rider, and sometimes even best's us. 

The other day I stumbled across a pretty great post from a legendary PRCA cowboy Larry Mahan. As an 8 time world champion rough stock rider, and accomplished roper, Mahan knows a thing or two about riding horses.

His wonderful story tells about a horse named Rounder, who bested him out of the roping box and gave him  one of the "worst whuppings of my life."

But instead of speaking with contempt on 'Ol Rouder, it's admiration and affection for the great horse's heart. "If the universe allows him another go round, I know exactly where he'll be - at the NFR....and not backing into a roping box, either."

We all have that horse, that tests us as a rider, and truly reminds us why we love the sport. For me it is Miss Mouse. If I want to go win the derby I'll ride her sister, if I want to truly and completely feel like I've accomplished something as a rider, I saddle up and strap down on my sassy little spitfire.

Just like Rounder, each horse has something that they give to our world, he just happened to add an extra special notch to his belt.

"He entered heaven with bragging rights...having taught a world champion cowboy a BIG lesson."

Larry and Rounder

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The greats

So everyone has their favorites, from Babe Ruth to George Morris, every sport has hall of famers that truly change the game. Rodeo queens are no exception, but for me the greats are not just best of the best, or those with the most saddles come age 26 (cause our careers have a ticking clock); instead those I label great are the girls who have gone on to make an impact, in my life and others. Thought I could pick hundreds that I look up to and hope to emulate, that list would be a little too long. So without further ado here are my top 5 favorites!

Trisha Shields-Smeenk
2012 Miss Rodeo USA 

Though I have not had the honor of meeting this amazing lady, I have the utmost honor and respect and idolize her from afar. Not only did she secure the coveted Miss Rodeo USA title, but this cowgirl is a role model for girls everywhere. She has been a member of the South Dakota National Guard, letter earner for the South Dakota State University Equestrian team, and flag girl for the National Finals rodeo. She has not one, but two degrees and continues to be an amazing example of a true cowgirl! 

Ashley Hoffman-Corkery
2009 Miss Rodeo California

Miss Ashley was one of the first women I worked with when I decided to jump head long into queening. She is truly a beautiful and stunning woman when you meet her, and her resume shows there is more than just beauty there. As a queen she represented the prestigious Clovis Rodeo, rode for the Stanford Equestrian team, won California and went on to be written test winner at MRA. Since queening she has graduated from Stanford, completed her law degree gotten married and taken the bar exam, all in a few short years.

Jenna Smeenk
2013 Miss Rodeo Florida
Just like her sister Jenna is one of the most inspiring rodeo queens ever! She was named photogenic at the MRA pageant for 2014, but her accomplishments begin long before then. At 18 she joined the Air National Guard, competed on her college's equestrian team, served two tours in the Middle East, and since giving up her title continues her term with her guard unit while touring as part of the Wrangler National Patriot tour promoting the western heritage as well as our country's finest. If that's not enough in her free time she models for the well known brand Ranch Dress'n, and is making her start on the WPRA circuit in barrels! 

Anna Bavor
2008 Miss Rodeo Nevada 

This girl has become one of my best friends and idols since joining the queen world. The moment I met her as a judge for my Motherlode pageant I instantly respected her firm handshake and fabulous personality.  A few weeks after the pageant I asked her to have dinner with me, I was greeted like an old friend, I knew then that I had made a lifelong connection. Though originally hailing from California she found her way to the desert and was crowned Miss Rodeo Nevada where she went on to receive honors at MRA including winning written test (us Cali girls are smarties, don't let the good looks fool you!). Since hanging up her chaps she completed a bachelors, worked her way up to the top in her field at work, gives her time to support rodeo and kicks ass in the reining horse pen.

My mommy (Jackie Ryan/Freeman)
1979 Miss Rodeo Fresno 

Well since she gave me life and all she kinda ranks high on the list. But aside from that she is pretty rad. In college she first competed for her university's pageant where she met a handsome (ok awkward tall and gangly) cowboy. But she didn't let a cute pair of Wranglers stand in her way, she went on to participate in GNR and finally receive the Miss Rodeo Fresno title. After that she made her way to Miss Rodeo California, where she was first runner up, mind you back then there were a LOT more girls queening. After she put aside her sparkles she got married to that cowboy whose first date was cleaning tack for a rodeo pageant, trained horses receiving multiple world champion honors,  had a fabulous daughter, and completed a second college degree. 

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Well Third Times the Charm!

I have written and re written this blog post because Blogger keeps eating it, so I am literally the worst posting this so late.

We just finished one of my favorite, yea I know I say that about them all! But pretty sure it is actually true, the big one the one that started it all. Well the crazy idea that I'd make a rodeo queen, the Grand National.

After we left Circuit Finals we headed north back to SF.  It was the rare occasion with less work that week than usual and my parents to myself. But in true Ryan fashion most of that was spent at the rodeo grounds. 

Mom and I put our time into Miss Mouse and cooking for the guys. Dad decided help move equipment in the stock barns. Which basically meant an excuse to play with a front loader for seven days (he likes big tractors).

We did manage a little sightseeing in my SF neighborhood. Also mom and I went once... ok maybe three times to my favorite fabric store. While there we found literally the most perfect fabric for THE most perfect outfit. It will remain a secret for a while but let me tell you it is fabulous

On Friday I reconnected with a friend I meet last year who takes care of all the social media for the Cow Palace and several other large agricultural productions.  Because she is super fun and game for anything she agreed to let me help her with the social media during the rodeo. 

So Friday night we saddled up and started off the first performance for that week. Miss Mouse was a stunning example of rodeo perfection, and I'm pretty sure she's forgotten all about her previous trauma at grand entry last year 

After I did my run I put her in the stall and headed down to the moat. This is the circular area around the arena where the rodeo personnel, photographers, and all the cool kids hang out. 

I spent the rest of that performance shooting photos, taking video and helping to cover the action going on in the arena. It was pretty much a dream come true getting to ride in a grand entry and cover from the marketing side. I'm pretty sure like my life has peeked and I could die tomorrow completely happy...... ok I'm only sort of kidding.

Saturday morning I was up bright and early to wish my friend Emilie good luck as she competed for Miss Grand National. From interviews, to speeches, to the horsemanship (where she and her pony Rocky were fabulous) she really shone! 

Then came the category everybody waits for, the mystery category. Or an event that's not announced until the very end of the contest. It's been anything from a silent judging component, to draw a horse contest and this year it was a written test. So after the girls finished their written test we headed to the barns to saddle up and get ready for that night's rodeo performance.

After I did another rodeo run it was back down to the moat to get ready for the coronation of Miss Grand National. While waiting I shot some great photos of the beautiful saddle and waited anxiously, I'm pretty sure I was just as nervous as the other girls. Until finally they announced our 2016 Miss Grand National as Emilie Montoya. It was really exciting to get to watch on the arena floor and take photos as Emilie was crowned and receive the title she's worked so incredibly hard for!

And after a few more hours of action we killed the lights on another performance at the Grand National Rodeo. I don't know if it's the history or being back in San Francisco but something about this rodeo gets me every time. Although nothing compares to my sweet little Mother Lode Round-Up, its amazing to know that the sport of rodeo is still alive and well in a place such as San Francisco. 

So Mouse headed back in LA to enjoy some more vacation in the sun and I'm back hard at work. But the rodeo season isn't over just yet I've got a few more parades and hopefully we'll get a chance to stop by the National Finals this year. Come January it starts over again. I can't believe my year is halfway over. But there is nothing that has compared to traveling this year as the Mother Lode Round-Up Queen.

Emilie after her coronation and I. 

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Chasing those white lines

Well this month it's been a pretty busy one; weird considering July is supposed to be the busiest rodeo month. But for me it's October, I've had an event every weekend!

This past weekend was the California Circuit finals. For the non rodeo esque, the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) divides the nation up into 12 circuits. California is so big that it has its own circuit, so I'm headed down south again for our circuit finals/state finals. 

I left SF early with every intention of going to cheer on some of my friends who were competing for Miss Rodeo California and reminisce about the fact that sadly I'm too old to compete myself.
And it's pretty lucky I left when I did, because California experienced a little wet weather. 

As soon as I made it down south we were hit by flooding of the two major arteries in and out of Southern California/LA. Luckily I was on the SoCal side of the flooding, otherwise I would have been stuck in mud for hours if not days! Because of all this I didn't make it into the rodeo grounds until Saturday morning.

But I was able to be there for the coronation of Rachel the 2016 Miss Rodeo California. Those who may not remember Rachel was the doll who stepped up and saved my butt at Norco when Mouse came up lame and let me use Bentley to finish the rodeo. 

Because of the rain, one of the biggest rarities in rodeo happened, a performance was cancelled! I know what you're thinking, those Cowboys and Cowgirls can't handle a little moisture? 
Well trust me we would have if there had been stock to use! 

Unfortunately some of the animal athletes (bulls and bucking horses) on their way to the rodeo got stuck on the other side of the mudslide. They almost made it in time, but in the interest of safety our committee chose to cancel Friday's performance. 

But we were back at it Saturday morning!  In a rodeo you generally have a main performance and slack (or the Cowboys that don't fit into a performance). But because everyone has qualified to be there at the finals all the stops are pulled out; instead each day had two public performances. 

For the queens this means we are working ALOT. Miss Mouse ended up carrying a flag about 15 times! We even had the opportunity to carry our rodeo flags to help educate the public about California's 35 different rodeos.

My girl was perfect as always and on Sunday we had to skip a performance because it was time to hit the road and head back up north. 

The end of October means one thing, that is the Grand National! So now we are back in San Francisco and getting ready for the one that started it all. Stay tuned to hear more about this year's Grand National adventures. 

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Home Sweet Rodeo

This weekend was one of the things I have been looking forward to most in my year as Round-Up Queen. Not the National Finals, or Gold Tour rodeos, but my simple little hometown rodeo.

Throughout my life I have been split between two homes, one in the mountains of Sonora, and the LA suburbs of Apple Valley. With that came not one, but TWO hometown rodeos, Mother Lode Round-Up and San Bernardino County Sheriff's Rodeo. 

For the past 3 years I've been blessed to ride in the Mother Lode Round-Up. Now after 16 years of attending and helping backstage I was finally able to ride in my "other" rodeo. 
Along the rodeo road you make so many friends and surrogate family, but this weekend, I remembered how truly amazing it is to share what you love with your biological family. 

As the fourth generation to participate in the Sheriff's Rodeo it was incredible to carry the same flag as my family before me has done. I've rodeoed alongside my father for years but the feeling of sharing our rodeo together was one that I'll never forget. 

Mighty Mouse was sassy and fiery as always and despite her injuries and bumps on the road lately she gave it her all. But to give the princess a bit of a break we also pulled my old rodeo mount Parker out of retirement for an encore, he was mister perfect as always, and I was a tad sad I no longer own him!

What I didn't bank on when I decided to ride in my second favorite rodeo, was how nervous I'd be having my extended family see me as a queen for the first time. It's a little different for them to follow your adventures via Facebook and blogs and other websites. But seeing it live I really feel like you have to give the best performance you can. 

By the end of the weekend I remembered we're all here because we love rodeo and they would love me tiara or not. Butttt luckily I also didn't drop any flags!

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Monday, August 24, 2015

The golden girl has returned!

OK maybe I'm exaggerating just a tiny bit.. I mean I would never do that! Anyway I am super excited to finally get to do a SoCal rodeo, my whole life has been spent all over the world, but it is always fun to come back to Southern California, this time it was to ride in the Norco Rodeo.

Norco is a pretty cool town, it's smack in the middle of LA, the Inland Empire and all of the SoCal crazines. Yet it is probably one of the horsey towns you will ever see, there's a horse on every postage stamp lot you turn around to. 

We decided to take two trailers mine and the big living quarters, and it was lucky we did! Because about halfway into the trip my truck decided to blow a fan belt.  It seems for me truck troubles are the name of Reba's game but luckily the family was close by and we were saved with little issue 

I've traveled the road a lot this year with my Black Oak horse trailer but it's nice every once in a while to have mom and dad's big Cadillac of a trailer; because air-conditioning, a microwave, and ice cream come in a really handy during 3 long dusty days of rodeo.

Each night was jampacked, Norco has a lot of sponsor flags being that they have a lot of support in that such a horsey community. So not only did I do to queen runs but I also carried several flags a performance.

Unfortunately the last performance on my last run I walked out of the arena and Mouse was three legged, I panicked. I've ridden horses my whole life and dealt with my fair share of injuries but there something sickening about being right in the middle of an event and knowing that your baby is hurt. But you cowgirl up, I am incredibly blessed that a fellow queen friend Rachel offered up her horse and I was able to finish my run.

We took Miss Mouse home and we think it was just so bruised sole. She and I may be a little dramatic but it never hurts to be safe.  Alls well that ends well!

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Ro-day-o run!

Feel the need the need for speed!!

It's pretty funny to think that throughout my equestrian career most of my time was spent in the slower end of the saddle. But this past weekend was not one of those times.  

This trip was a bit of a different ballgame, everything from the massive Salinas rodeo park, to having my Posse by my side, upped the game! Not only was my family and my posse along for the ride, I was blessed to have a few former queens and contestants too. My spirit animal Miss Mary helped me to truly have the best time hanging out by the fire and making late night ice cream runs.

In true Gold Tour fashion Salinas was the full experience. The rodeo grounds was overwhelming taking up several city blocks and housing more than just a few hours of fun. 

There were concerts, dances, tradeshows, horse shows and dozens of other events. In addition I had the honor of watching former Mother Lode queen Taylor Howell crowned the 2016 Salinas queen, I am incredibly excited to share the rodeo road with her!

My days each started with a parade, riding alongside my Posse. It was wonderful to see the community's support of their rodeo. For three days the streets were lined with people to watch as the pageantry passed by.  

The parade finished in front of the grandstands on the rodeo grounds. After that I parted ways with my guys to get ready for the big show! 

We were all brought to a holding area, and as I waited I looked upon the track. Instead of a simple little oval, or a large stately arena, I was to ride on a true race track!  I was a few girls back and as the rider in front of me left the gate person asked me to go. Dad and I suggested that I hang back, knowing Miss Mouse's style we figured I would have no trouble catching up.

I gave into her insistence and let my girl go. Seconds later my little rocket was airborne, of course we like to make an entrance and this was no exception.  By the time the announcer saw me I was about to pass the rider in front of me! He didn't even get a chance to say my name, all I heard was "OH there she goes!"  

But we finished in style saluting our way through one of the largest California rodeos. Sadly the weekend ended too soon and I was back on the road headed to work in SF, but I will always leave a little piece of my heart on the Salinas track.

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