Every time wrestler Emily Howkins jumps on a roaring bronze, she prepares for the battle of her life.
- The newly created Western Ranch Rodeo Australia hosts events to prepare women for competitions in the United States
- Emily Howkins will compete in an international world final for women in Wyoming next year
- She says that before the group came, there was a lack of training for women in the sport
Although the Emerald resident did not grow up riding horses, she has found a passion for the harsh rodeoring.
After driving to an event in Gatton and later submitting videos of winning rides, the 28-year-old has received an invitation to compete in saddle bronze riding at the Women’s World Finals in Wyoming next year, an event hosted by the Texas Bronc Riders Association.
“I never really had a chance to ride horses, but I started riding racehorses and patterns, and I kept getting discouraged,” Ms. Howkins says.
“I was just thinking, ‘I have to go to some of these schools and find out how these cowboys are doing with these things.'”
Prior to competing against the world’s best, she hones her skills with the newly formed Western Ranch Rodeo Australia, a group in Queensland’s Central Highlands dedicated to training female riders to help them break into the male-dominated sport.
Riding the Broncs is “like an explosion that you’re trying to control. It’s pretty violent,” she says.
“You compete against yourself and the horse, but you want to win and you want to ride well, but you just want your teammates to do really well too.
“Your battle is against you and your horse.”
More women interested
There is growing interest in American-style sport in Australia, but a lack of training opportunities prompted Cameron Eiser to take the reins of the new group.
“I have ridden a lot in saddles and seen an opportunity to try to help the girls who want to get to [United] states, “says Mr. Eiser.
“We just held a training day and built from there.
In saddle bronze riding counts every second.
To qualify, participants must stay on their horse for eight seconds and hold on with either one or both hands.
If they lose the grip, it’s over.
“If a horse is straining really well and a girl is trying really hard, they will get a higher score than a medium distance horse and rider,” says Mr. Eiser.
“The rules are that it must be a strictly functioning ranch saddle so that an everyday saddle is not tampered with too much.”
Ms Howkins says until recently that women were not encouraged to succeed in the sport.
“If you came to a saddle bronze school for men, the boys would get support afterwards.
“[There’s] a lot of ‘well, when’s the next rodeo?’
“But when you’re a girl, they’re like, ‘well you had a ride, you had a try, you did it okay. It’s probably now.’
“[Before] you should either try to ask a saddle bronze rider or email someone in America and these [Western Ranch Rodeo Australia] guys being here now is really good. It helps a lot. “
Far away dreams
Brisbane’s self-described “concrete cowgirl” Emily Collits also dreams of competing in the United States.
“I will eventually get over to [United] Says and shows the guys that we need to be taken seriously and that the Australian girls can ride just as well as those over there, says the 24-year-old.
“But I expect to give it a try. You will find that there is a really good community of girls in there and they will support you.”
The group is currently running training days and jackpots, and is building to full rodeos with roping events next year.
Sir. Eiser says that although the American-style events had not yet attracted large crowds, they were designed to give women a hint of what it is like to compete on the world’s biggest stage with some of the best in the industry.