Jamie McElhaney of Lusk, Wyoming, takes her chances in annual So You Think You’re a Cowgirl? event
In a pool of 30 cowgirls, five events, five rounds, and only one horse each, Lusk, Wyoming, cowgirl Jamie McElhaney took a chance. The contestants of “So You Think You’re a Cowgirl” at the Scrivner Arena in New Plymouth, Idaho, competed Oct. 7 to 9 in barrels, heading, heeling, goat tying, and breakaway roping.
The event was started in 2009 by Karen and Ryan Young of Terrebonne, Oregon, event host Shelli Scrivner said. “They hosted the event for five years and then took a break,” she said, “I attended this event in Terrebone all but one year, and when she stopped doing it I really missed it. I contacted her very early in the year and ask if she minded if I carry it on. She of course had no problem with that.”
“I saw the event floating around on Facebook, a few college and rodeo friends were interested in the event so that’s how it popped up on my screen,” McElhaney said.
McElhaney, a fifth generation rancher at Reed Ranch, competed in junior and high school rodeos, then college rodeoed at the University of Wyoming, though not in all the events that were required for SYTYAC.
“I’ve been working on the ranch since March of 2013. It’s nice because I can hone my horsemanship skills on the job, but it can also be tricky to find adequate time to practice, since I don’t have a 9 to 5 job,” McElhaney said. “I’ve mainly focused on team roping since I’ve moved home, basically only on my heading, so I’ve had to find time to work on my Heel-O-Matic a lot for my heeling. I hadn’t tied a goat since my junior year of college, spring of 2010. Luckily a friend let me borrow a couple of her goats to practice on. Another friend let me borrow their breakaway calf sled, and my brother in law and his friends have let me rope their calves.”
Swifty, a 15-year-old grey Quarter horse, was McElhaney’s pick for competing in Idaho. McElhaney’s parents, Jake and Lorrie Reed purchased Swifty when he was six and Jake used him for several years before McElhaney drafted him as her college rodeo mount.
“When I was a sophomore in college, I told my parents I wanted to rodeo. My dad said I could take him; he also said I didn’t need to haul two horses to all the rodeos so I would need to train him to do goats,” McElhaney said. “Mom and I spent a couple days before I headed to college and got him going pretty good. It was a little tricky. He’s significantly taller than my high school goat horse at 15.3.”
Where McElhaney hadn’t competing, Swifty had, except barrel racing.
“Swifty and I really bonded during our college years and I’m pretty sure I’m his favorite person now. He’s an extremely athletic and powerful horse, and sometimes he wears me out when I’m riding him on the ranch because he has so much energy and power in every step,” McElhaney said. “My dad has heeled on him quite a bit so that event was covered and I figured since he’s fast and can stop, the transition over to breakaway wouldn’t be too hard for him. The only event he hadn’t really done is barrel racing so we worked on them some. I’ve been lucky that the boss gave me some time off to be able to go to some close rodeos and play days that offered several of the events I’ve needed to practice on.”
McElhaney did not do as well as hoped at SYTYAC and ended in the middle of the pack, though she and Swifty redeemed themselves shortly after the event.
“I went to a roping the weekend after I got back and I think my horse was so glad he didn’t have to run barrels I ended up winning a trophy bit and buckle, so I might have to get a new horse started on more events if I decide to do it next year,” McElhaney said, laughing.
The event was a test in endurance as well as skill.
“All the ladies were very tired and sore, and the horses were tired too, by Sunday afternoon for the fifth round,” McElhaney said. “It was really a mental and physical toughness challenge.”
SYTYAC participants competed for an Usher Brand Saddle donated by Tree Top Ranches for the average winner, though many sponsors and businesses have donated varying prizes and awards, including Horse Lics, Scentsy products, and apparel. Each contestant left with a gift basket with a t-shirt, LulaRoe leggings, NRS $20 gift card, and more.
“It has been a lot of work to host and event of this caliber but turned out to be a great event. We limited the entries to 30 contestants and were full the first day entries opened,” Scrivner said. “We are geographically in a great location to accommodate a lot of ladies from the great Northwest. We had one gal that came all the way from Oklahoma.”
McElhaney was glad to experience the event and may compete in it next year as well. She is also considering hosting a similar event in her hometown. Her mom Lorrie was happy she went since the calcutta made it worth her time.
“My mom bought the girl parked next to us for $75 and ended up winning $1,000 because she placed third!” McElhaney said.