Eight years old and awe-stricken, I fell in love with a horse named Nugget. I begged my mom daily to drive me to the ranch just twenty minutes from our home to hang out with this handsome buckskin gelding.
Some time after, I attended my first rodeo and was moved to tears at the sight of a beautiful, talented young woman on horseback carrying the American flag during the national anthem. I was awe-stricken all over again.
Couple the two, a love of horses and the sport of rodeo, and you have the makings of a rodeo queen. These “tough as nails” pageant queens do everything of a traditional pageant girl, except they spend much of their reign on horseback, in the dirt and blazing heat all while looking beautiful. Think your job as royalty is tough? Think again!
Everything You Need to Know Before Competing in a Rodeo Queen Pageant
Rodeo queens act as ambassadors for the sport and their association, rodeo and/or state. Though primarily made popular through pageants in the United States such as Miss Rodeo America and Miss Rodeo USA, other programs extend worldwide and are popular especially in Canada and Australia. These titles also come with the opportunity of various prizes and scholarship opportunities. (Read: 12 Reasons Why Pageantry Is a Sport)
Those interested in becoming a rodeo queen must first compete for a local or state title. Like many traditional pageants, they may also qualify to go on to a national competition. Rodeo queens are typically judged through interviews, onstage questions, extemporaneous speaking, a written exam, horsemanship, photogenic/appearance, modeling and the like, depending on the competition.
There are quite a few things to be aware of before considering to compete to wear that coveted hat, crown and sash. As a contestant or titleholder, you must be able to:
Ride a horse
This is one of the most important aspects of the job. I’m not talking about the kind of riding skills acquired through the occasional trail ride. If you haven’t spent years in the saddle, you may be hard pressed to deliver a stellar performance in this competition.
Seek assistance on your horsemanship skills through lessons, clinics and former rodeo queens. Even the most experienced in the saddle can constantly make improvements on her horsemanship. You should know how to exceptionally complete a horsemanship pattern, run a flag and do a queen’s run.
Most rodeo queens ride horses provided to them by stock contractors, and it’s always a “luck of the draw” situation. You also must be able to work with, handle and ride a variety of horses with a range of temperaments and training. A pretty face won’t get you very far in this world if you cannot ride.
Work hard inside the arena
As a rodeo queen, you’ll be asked to perform various duties by the rodeo committee or stock contractor before, during and after what could be numerous rodeo performances. You may sign autographs and do promotions with sponsors and athletes beforehand, warm up the horse(s), participate in the queen’s run, carry your country’s flag and/or sponsor flags and run cattle during the performance, among other tasks.
“Rodeo queens are way more than just a pretty face,” said Johanna Tufte, who served professional rodeo as Miss Rodeo Minnesota in 2003 and competed for the title of Miss Rodeo America in Las Vegas that year. “She will work hard behind the scenes, meet fans, educate the public and keep a tight schedule from 6:00 a.m. until way past dark all while having perfect hair, flawless makeup and always wearing a smile.” (Read: Pageant Smile Tips for Tired Cheeks)
Work hard outside the arena
As the face of rodeo in your area, you will be expected to make appearances just like a traditional pageant queen. The year-long reign will be sprinkled with autograph signings, fundraisers, public speaking, community service, volunteer functions, school visits, media interviews and attendance at rodeos all while possibly preparing to compete at the next level! (Read: 10 Reasons Why Pageants Promote Girl Power)
Know what you are representing
Rodeo queens do not only represent the sport of rodeo, but traditional, moral values and the Western way of life as well. Thus, queens must be well educated on numerous topics. Everything from current events, politics, rodeo knowledge and standings, agriculture, animal science (particularly equine) and similar topics are all on the table for interview and onstage questions. (Read: What To Do With Your Hands During Onstage Interview)
There are a number of situations where you’ll be posed questions and you must remain poised and professional while delivering accurate information. Rodeo queens have to be able to think on their feet.
Practice public speaking in as many venues as possible. This will help not only if crowned, but if you need to compete in an extemporaneous speaking portion for your pageant. (Read: 7 Activities That Help You Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking)
Hold your own
Rodeo queens must be independent and able to handle situations on their own. Most pageants collect cell phones before the competition so that contestants cannot rely on outside sources for help or support during the extensive competitions.
On top of the typical pageant critics, you have to also know how to handle critics of the sport. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) sets over 60 official rules and regulations to mandate the humane care and treatment of all livestock. (Read: How to Overcome Pageant Criticism From Friends and Family)
Rodeo queens absolutely must be well-versed in the above regulations (or similar regulations set by their particular association) and have the ability to advocate for the measures taken, which ensure the utmost of safety to animals, contestants and spectators.
Have the ability to travel…a lot
The basic here is to have a valid driver’s license (if you’re a younger titleholder, a parent/guardian or similar) and reliable transportation to get to appearances. During her reign, Miss Rodeo America may compile upwards of 100,000 miles of travel across the country. Local queens won’t do as much, but state queens certainly rack up miles as well.
Some rodeo queens are able to secure trucks and trailers (if hauling their own horse) to drive to rodeos through generous sponsors. If there are no living quarters, sometimes hotels rooms are provided and at times they are not. You must be willing to be flexible in accommodations and payment thereof. (Read: How Far Should You Travel for a Pageant Appearance On Your Own Dime?)
Traveling a lot also requires time. Make sure if you are employed that your job is aware of the commitments you may face.
Have the ability to fund expenses
Traveling as a rodeo queen can get expensive if there are costs not covered by the rodeo or your pageant association. Know what those costs may consist of prior to competing. Be well prepared to either pull out your own checkbook for some costs or know how to secure sponsors.
Rodeo is a sport fueled by some amazing sponsors who are a bit easier to secure than sponsors for traditional pageant contestants. Remember to always be a thankful and gracious spokeswoman for these businesses. (Read: 4 Creative Ways to Thank Your Pageant Sponsors)
Rodeo queens are a force made up of brains, brawn and beauty in one complete package. You’ll be judged on appearance in most categories and will likely encounter a photogenic competition. These shots may also be used for publicity purposes as a candidate or the newly crowned queen.
Attire in the rodeo queen world has evolved quite a bit recently. Keeping up on trends and styles is important to you overall image as a contestant or queen. Most importantly, donning attire of major sponsors who support your association is crucial. Many queens even step into a “brand ambassador” role during their reign.
Every detail, from your boots to your hat with everything in between, will withstand dirt and heat and must be meticulously coordinated.
Somewhere in there you need to find time to stay hydrated, well-rested and eat healthy. It can be tempting to eat fair-type food when traveling to different rodeos, but you have to think of solutions to stay fit. (Read: 25 Healthy Habits that Will Help You Win the Crown)
If you’re lucky enough to win the title, be the kind of hard-working queen that contractors and committees want around. Be on time! Just like in traditional pageant world, “if you’re on time, you’re late!” Be in the saddle ready at 6:45 for a 7:00 p.m. performance.
Have an intro card for announcers and plenty of autograph sheets to hand out to fans. Cultivate a following on social media and promote yourself, events and sponsors along the way.
Rodeo queens represent tradition, values and strong work ethic with a love of horses and the sport of rodeo. Be ready to work and make awesome connections and friendships in the industry at the same time.
Being a rodeo queen is much more than carrying flags and looking pretty. Know your abilities and be realistic before competing. Perhaps your horseback riding skills are lacking or you aren’t familiar with the sport, but you have a genuine interest in “queening.” Before moving forward, contact a knowledgeable source and spend some time soaking up the exciting sport and all that the unique rodeo queen lifestyle has to offer!