GOOD JUDGMENT: Montana cowboy wins WPRA Judge of the Year Award

A Montana man has won the Women’s Pro Rodeo Association Judge of the Year.

Ron Howard, Red Lodge, will be honored with the award at the WPRA Award Ceremony on December 4 in Las Vegas.

The retired school teacher and superintendent grew up on a farm in Wauneta, Neb., and started riding bulls and bareback horses in high school.

His mother, who was not pleased with his rodeo competition but knew competing collegiately would entice him to go to college, convinced him he could rodeo in college, so he got a teaching degree.

He rodeoed in the PRCA as a bull rider in the summers while he taught ag classes in Bennett, Colo.

A broken neck in 1984 ended his rodeo competition, but that same year, he attended a judging seminar and began judging college rodeos, then pro rodeos.

As a school superintendent, Howard continued to judge in the summer time. After twenty years as an ag teacher and another twenty years as a school administrator, Howard retired in 2018 but continued to evaluate rodeos.

As a judge, he strives to know the rule book exceptionally well, and make sure everyone gets the same opportunity. “On your watch, you want things done correctly, to make sure everybody gets a fair shot. That’s pretty important,” he said.

Howard is good to work with, said Wade Berry of Miles City, Mont., a PRCA judge and a two-time WPRA Judge of the Year award winner.

“He’s really, really conscientious and he’s approachable If somebody has a question, he’s not afraid to talk with them.” He’s also hard working, Berry said. “He damn sure does his job, whether it’s checking cattle or chute gates or the barrel markers. I really like working with him. If you work with somebody you like, it’s fun. I enjoy him immensely.”

One of the highlights of Howard’s career was judging the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, when it was the U.S. versus Canada. “That was pretty cool,” he said.

He works hard to better himself. “I think it’s pretty important for someone to work at their craft and condition their mind and their body. I try to stay in shape and stay young.”

Howard has been selected as one of the judges for the National Finals Breakaway Roping in Las Vegas Dec. 5-6. “I was tickled when they called me,” he said. He got the phone call while on the golf course with friends and birdied the next hole. “I think I was a little fired up,” he joked.

He will also judge the PRCA Permit Challenge hosted by the World Famous Benny Binion Bucking Horse and Bull Sale on Dec. 7 in Las Vegas.

Howard was humbled and honored to win the award.

“I can’t express enough how many people I get to work with that do a really good job and were very beneficial in me getting that award.

“The fact that I’ve been acknowledged, after all these years, by people that I’m associated with, that think I’ve done a good enough job that I deserve to win an award. It makes me feel pretty proud.”

Ron Howard, Red Lodge, Mont., is the 2023 WPRA Judge of the Year. The former school administrator has been judging rodeos since 1984. Photo courtesy Amy Lynn Nelson, Billings Gazette.