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Happy Trails with Dawni O'Bryan: How 'Bout Them Cowgirls

By Dawni O'Bryan

September 13, 2023

The cowgirls in southwest Kansas and southeast Colorado have a special blessing of having many ladies willing and able to put on competitions on each side of the state line. We love to barrel race, congregate, and live out the cowgirl spirit. We have organizations made up of dedicated horsewomen making sure there are places to go and money to be won. The organizers work to have prizes, venues secured, and do the advertising necessary to attract the numbers. When talking to other horse people about their chosen discipline such as dressage, cutting, working cow horse, the response is usually something like this. “We don’t have anywhere to go and compete. The competitions that are available are 4-5 hours away.” Sometimes we take for granted that we cowgirls have competitions right in our backyard.

However, a little jaunt down the road, the Ardith Bruce Memorial Barrel Racing Jackpot was held over the Labor Day weekend on Sunday at the Painted Skull Ranch in Calhan, Colorado. Quite a few area barrel racers were in attendance to do what they love, in running their barrel horses, and to remember a great woman of rodeo. Ardith Bruce joined the Girls Rodeo Association (GRA) in 1960 and was the first world champion barrel racer to take her horse to the left barrel first. She was a well-respected rider and was in the top 15 in the world 1963-1969. The event garnered 146 runners and gave saddles to the winners of each division. Winning the first division and the fastest time of the race was Kelly Yates of Pueblo with 15.466 seconds and $470. Winning the 2D was Jayci West with a time of 16.013. Coming in second and third was Dwana Salisbury of Lamar on M’Lady 16. 035 seconds and Esther 16.059, respectively. Lori Diodosio of Fowler was fourth-16.07 seconds, Becky Maune of Syracuse got in the money in 8th-16.259 seconds, and Taleen Vick rounded out the money holes in 9th-16.267 seconds. In the 3rd division, LeeAnn Ridley of Las Animas, was 6th and the 4D say Tracy Housholder of Syracuse get 2nd. In the 5th division, Salisbury was 2nd on I-80, Julie Dorenkamp was 4th and LeeAnn Ridley was 9th.

Also, on Sunday the 3rd, the Southwest Barrel Racing Association, based out of Kansas, held their Labor Day event at the Finney County Fairgrounds in Garden City. Winning the first division with the fastest time of the day was Bianca O’Bryan, of Lamar, with a time of 17.46 seconds. Dawni O’Bryan of Lamar was 3rd in the 4D and Kelly Jo Jett of Scott City was 4th in the 4D.

The Kiowa County Fair is underway, and the barrel racers took to the arena on Wednesday for the fair race sponsored by Southeast Colorado Can Chasers. It was a tremendous turnout on a beautiful September evening with over 70 barrel racers competing. Winning first and second in the peewee division was Stealy Lord. Winning the youth division was Braylee Mae Pharo with a time of 16.826 seconds and Braya Ferris was second with 16.914 seconds. In the youth 2D, Garrett Hainer was first, and Taelyn Seufer was second. In the youth 3D, Hailey Pearson was first, Taelyn Seufer was second, and Stormie Lubbers was third. The open race was highly competitive, and a lot of flawless runs were made by super-athletic horses.

A good crowd was on hand, as the Kiowa County Fair is very much of a reunion-type atmosphere. Old friends meet up to take in the festivities, even if they go late into the evening.

Winning the open was Chancy Etbauer of Goodwell, OK with a blazing 16.41 seconds and $265, slightly edging out Salisbury for the title. Salisbury and M’Lady were 16.59 seconds for second. In the 2D Eads cowgirl, Giana Gibbs, was 3rd with 16.968 seconds and Lindsey Cade of Hartman was 4th-16.977 seconds. The 3D was won by LeeAnn Ridley, second was Karisa Brookshire, third was Tracy Housholder, and fourth was Talara Coen. The 4D was won by Dawni O’Bryan, second was Jetti Lorenz, and third was Jaelin Parker. The winner of the peewee, youth, and open divisions were each presented a beautiful championship belt buckle sponsored by the Kiowa County Fair Board. A big thanks to the volunteers that ran the two gates and to Dennis Ferris for running the tractor to make sure the ground was safe and fair for all runners.

Being a cowgirl is a way of life. Some gals begin riding as soon as they learn to walk. But you don’t have to have grown up on a ranch to embrace the cowgirl code — confidence and an independent streak is an attitude wide open to everyone.

Happy Trails.

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