So, You Want to Be A Rodeo Queen?

There’s more to becoming a rodeo queen than meets the eye. The public sees the parades, the rodeo appearances, the autograph signing, the pictures, and the 50-50 raffle-ticket and program selling, but contests aren’t won or lost based on how well a girl smiles and waves.

Contests and visiting royalty sign autograph at  Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night .

Contests and visiting royalty sign autograph at Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night.

Competitors are judged on their horsemanship; public speaking and interview skills; rodeo, equine science, and current event knowledge; personality; and overall put-together-ness (or appearance). Why? Because the job of a queen is to promote the rodeo, and if a spectator who’s new to rodeo asks you about an event, you should be friendly, approachable, and knowledgeable about the sport.

Yes, it’s a lot to know, but, like anything, the best way to learn and get better, is to start. You can do it!

How to Get Started

Most girls find rodeo queening through other horse activities: 4-H, association showing, rodeo, gymkhana, Eh-Capa, and other community groups. This is a great kick-off point because the riding basics are there. At this point, getting started is about making the right connections.

Connect with state-level representatives.

The majority of states have a queen (Miss Rodeo Colorado, California, Nebraska, etc.) who travels nationally to represent all professional rodeos in her state. There’s also a separate rodeo queen committee that organizes each year’s pageant and oversees the state queen’s travels. Queens and committees at this level are well connected with the local community and will be able to recommend and connect you with local pageants and resources.

Connect with your local rodeo coordinator.

Typically the smaller the rodeo, the more beginner-friendly the contest. If you have a local rodeo that you’re interested in competing at, reach out to the queen coordinator (usual his/her contact information is available on the Website or Facebook page) to request information. Coordinators are always happy to help and will be your greatest advocate and asset as you start, so be friendly and ask good questions!

What You’ll Need to Compete

There are a few essentials you’ll need for every contest. After you’ve won, you’ll want to expand your wardrobe selection for appearance. There are many online groups and resources where you can buy secondhand to save money----more on that later. Note: State contests, high school rodeo pageants, and more-competitive events require more than just the basics, so read individual applications and rulebooks carefully so you show up prepared.

As you start, stick to the basics and expand as needed. Well-fitted, clean, and solid-color clothes always present a more polished look than poorly fitted expensive items. Here’s what you’ll need to compete at your first contest:

A Horse:

I’ve made the assumption that if you’re reading this, you either own horse or have access to a horse to compete. You don’t need anything fancy broke. He or she just needs to be relatively quiet and be able to do basic maneuvers, such as stop, backup, hindquarter turns, and simple lead changes (find online resources to help you sharpen these skills). Ultimately, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable and confident on your horse.

Horsemanship attire is basic, fitted, and creates clean lines. Photo courtesy of  Captured Memories Photography .

Horsemanship attire is basic, fitted, and creates clean lines. Photo courtesy of Captured Memories Photography.

Competition Attire:

  • One felt black or white hat. Straw hats are generally a no-no, and while colored hats are in style and add a little bit of polish, they’re not as versatile.
  • One white fitted, long-sleeve button-up shirt. Go to a local thrift store and find the brightest shirt without front, breast pockets. Breast pockets add bulk that you don’t want. Check the elbow and waist length as part of your fit. Can you raise your arms without the shirt coming un-tucked? Can you bend your elbows without your wrists showing? If yes, it’s a good fit. If possible, fit the shirt before you compete so there’s not extra fabric or find a blouse with darts.
  • One pair of jeans. If you’ve opted for a black hat, choose black jeans. If you’ve chosen a white hat, choose denim blue. 5-pocket Wranglers are typically the rule, which means no bling or embroidery.
  • One pair of Roper-style slip-on riding boots. If you’ve chosen black Wranglers, choose black boots. If you’ve chosen blue denim, look for matching blue boots. The idea behind this is to create a clean line to minimize appearance of movement. Mismatched boots or belts draw attention to your feet or your waist. You want the judges to focus on your horse and not on how much your feet are moving.
  • A plain leather belt. Again, choose a color that matches your jeans.
  • A dress or interview suit. Contests that are completed in the course of one day usually don’t require an outfit change. But, separate speech events often require a dress. Find secondhand items online or in Facebook groups. Most Western stores don’t have appropriate skirts or dresses in stock. Long-sleeve, ankle length dresses are the norm for competition, and, more fashion-forward items can be used for appearances after you win (when in doubt, ask your coordinator!).

Hair and Makeup.

Age-appropriate makeup to enhance appearance keeps you from looking washed out under lights or in a large arena. A curling iron or rollers will help you get the ‘queen’ look. Check out the hair of state queens to guide you (big is not better in 2017, but that may change!).

  • Foundation. Cream or liquid is best. Powder tends to show the little white facial hairs under light.
  • Mascara. Waterproof! Competitions are sweaty business.
  • Lipstick. Brighter than natural helps your lips pop. 
  • Eyeliner. If age appropriate, and even still go easy.
  • Eye shadow. Again, go easy on it and learn how to apply it first. Check out Youtube or Instagram tutorials.

How to Prepare

The greatest barrier to entry is typically the knowledge needed to compete. Do your homework, read a lot (A LOT), and ask for help.

  • Read content here! Learn how to deliver speeches well, prep for an interview, and what to do after you’ve won.
  • Attend a clinic. If available, go to a local clinic. The content will be geared toward your area, some states are slightly different, and you’ll often get some individual feedback.
  • Go to a competition. If you’re never competed before, go watch a pageant. You’ll learn a lot as a spectator, and you’ll have the opportunity to meet other girls and parents---ask them questions.
  • Find a mentor. If you know someone who’s held rodeo queen titles, ask them for pointers.
  • Practice speaking and interviewing. If you have to present a speech, memorize it and practice in front of anyone who will listen. Gather friends for a mock interview; give them questions to ask or let them make up their own.
  • Study!
    • Read the news. Stay informed of local and national current events.
    • Read the rodeo program. Learn who the leaders of the rodeo are, the rodeo dates, how long the event’s been around, and other stats.
    • Study horse and tack anatomy. 4-H books are REALLY helpful and are relatively inexpensive online.
    • Learn about rodeo and the events. A quick search online will give you the basics of each event. You should be able to describe each event in general terms, know the penalties and reasons for disqualification, and scoring system.
    • Review the rulebook. Don’t go down this rabbit hole unless you’re really interested, or are running for a state pageant. If this is the case, read the PRCA rulebook for pro rodeos or the local association rulebook. Some local associations have breakaway or steer roping as sanctioned events, so you’ll want to know about these.
    • Subscribe to magazines. The PSN (pro rodeo sports news) keeps you up-to-date on rodeos, standings, and industry news. Spin-to-Win is all about roping: learn the nuances of the events and about individual ropers. Horse&Rider provides generalist horsemanship instruction, equine health information, and Western style tips.