Do we ever think about what the definition of certain words really mean? For example, take two simple words like cowgirl and essence. When used separately they are quite simple and easy to understand, but what happens when you use them together? What is the true meaning of cowgirl essence and why would that be important as a rodeo queen? To me, these two words combined bring on a whole new meaning. Maybe cowgirl essence is being authentic and passionate in a way no one else can understand. It is the ability to have enough grit to outwork anyone standing in your way. Cowgirl essence can’t be described, it has to be shown. It was definitely show last weekend at a new and special event!
When I heard there was a cowgirl essence exchange I couldn’t help but become intrigued by what that meant. As I looked more into this event called The Cowgirl Gathering, I knew it was something I needed to attend! The inaugural Cowgirl Gathering was held in Fort Worth, Texas at the Cowboy Channel Studio. The weekend consisted of a number of women from the western industry that came together to speak on a whole gamut of topics revolving around the spirit of the American Cowgirl. These women came from all walks of life and different parts of the western industry but all had the same hard working cowgirl heart.
We kicked off the weekend with a round table of five well known women in the industry. Lindy Burch, Sarah Dawson, Stephanie Lynn, Dena Kirkpatrick, and Kim Lindsey all came together to talk about different disciplines of the performance world. One thing that continued to be said by all of them in their separate industries is that the one thing that helped them find success was that they out worked everyone else. It wasn’t always the special horse or the connections that made them champions in their disciplines it was more the hard work that they put in that ultimately paved a way to their success.
My favorite speaker all weekend definitely was Amanda Kimes. She and her husband started Kimes Ranch from the bottom up. They literally both quit their day jobs after watching a pair of jeans being made on T.V. and said, “This is what we want to do.” I appreciated her transparency in how she told the story of their adventure in making a denim jean. She had the whole studio in laughter at times even while she was speaking of all the hardships she went through to just get one prototype sewn together. In spite of all the bumps in the road they never let it deter them from the end goal of owning their own company.
In addition to the engaging speakers there were also female entertainers! We heard some of the most beautiful voices from Macy Dot Neal and Madison Paige. Both are up and coming country singers and songwriters. On top of that, Jessica K. Haas came in for a speed painting performance where she painted an image of Beth Dutton upside down! If you are a Yellowstone fan you can understand when I say the crowd went wild when she flipped the painting around and we discovered who the image portrayed. Cowgirl poetry might not be the first thing you think of when you hear the word entertainment, but Amy C. Witt delivered multiple beautiful and truthful poems from her book. All four women did a spectacular job of entertaining and really added to the cowgirl essence of the weekend!
Each speaker mentioned setbacks that this year has brought them. Whether it was cancelled events or missed opportunities because of the pandemic everyone missed out on something or so it seemed. One lady had a different view on it though. LeAnn Hart came to us for our morning Sunday worship. I appreciated LeAnn’s story about a broken flank strap that she couldn’t get over until she realized the bull rider in that particular ride was hurt. She talked about how she had to step back and look at the big picture instead of focusing on the silly things. The lesson here was that the loss isn’t greater than the gain. This hit me pretty hard as I have been really working on focusing on the positive of 2020 instead of the negative. We all struggle with this but in that moment it all made perfect sense. I just loved how her words perfectly flowed together to give everyone a different perspective on such a trying year.
We wrapped up the weekend with a session on mental performance. I am already a firm believer in the mental game of an athlete or anyone who is competing. I have experienced this time and time again in rodeo queen competitions where I realized if my mind wasn’t in it to win it, I definitely didn’t perform my best. Donene hit it home when she said, “Close the gap from where you are to where you want to be.” She spoke a lot about procrastination and how we can hinder our productivity by not taking the first step toward the future. We got up and danced, hooped, and hollered through “45 Minutes To More Confidence” with the author of “Heart of a Champion,” Donene Taylor.
These descriptions only begin to hit all of the amazing content from two full days. On top of everything else, we heard even more on cowgirl history, horse racing, life for a Thoroughbred after racing, modern horsewomen, podcasting, and strategies for a business. I was blown away on how they pulled such a great event together during a pandemic and kept everyone safe in doing so. I can’t wait to go back next year!
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: For the first time this year I have come up short with a funny situation. I can tell you what potentially could have ended in a funny story though. While in the Fort Worth Stockyards I came across a longhorn named Patron. I could have climbed atop this huge creature but instead I decided that my outfit wasn’t really made for straddling livestock. Considering I was wearing a skirt. I chose to take the safest road traveled here and just walk on by. Could you imagine the story this could have been if I would have tried to climb aboard?
Queens Corner: The Cowgirl Gathering was the perfect opportunity for a rodeo queen to attend an event that was a bit out of the ordinary. I urge all the rodeo queens out there to take the time to branch out and find different events to attend. This was exactly the kind of motivational event anyone would need to recharge and continue to represent the western lifestyle in the rodeo and equine industries.
At last, it was time for another photo shoot with the famous Sherry Smith! This time instead of me traveling to Arkansas, she came to Kansas to capture the beautiful Flint Hills and some of my favorite horses. We originally had hoped to catch some authentic sunflowers for this final shoot but couldn’t quite make that happen. Having Sherry come to Kansas at any point was the top priority and we finally had a date that worked for both of us. The icing on the cake was her assistant, Ryan Clawson, who was on standby and he made the journey with her as well. I was excited to have extra eyes on the set to guarantee to most spectacular photos. If you have been following along on my social media you have seen countless pictures taken by Sherry Smith. I knew it would be hard to capture even better photos this time around.
Sherry and Ryan arrived the evening before the shoot. We all loaded up and I drove them around Council Grove, the quaint little town I currently call home. We contemplated all the spots we could shoot the next day and eventually narrowed it down to a handful. Picking out the locations to shoot and what outfits go best with each place is just the start and definitely can be a deal breaker. Not even just those details but also what time of day we can get the best photos in the places we chose. A lot more planning goes into it than you would ever expect. We finally called it a day because a queen needs her beauty sleep before a big photo shoot.
The morning of a photo shoot there are many last minute adjustments. One of the main details is making sure each horse is clean especially when you have a palomino and white paint. We had multiple props for the sets needing to be packed up and of course making sure every outfit was perfectly pressed! Thankfully I had the help of my Aunt Sara to assist with all the day of preparations.
We started out in the barn and we took photos that the sun was too harsh for outside. This was very handy to make the most of our time. Then we moved outside in the shade of the barn and took some of my favorite photos inside my Dad’s silver and red 1959 Chevrolet pickup. After wrapping up there, we went over to the lake for a change of scenery. Then back for more pictures on the ranch amongst the beautiful Flint Hills. To my surprise, while shooting a group shot with three of my horses, we were able to catch all of their attention at once with a special trick. We played the sound of a horse neighing on a phone and sure enough it worked like a charm! They all had their ears perked and straight at the camera. If you have ever tried to take pictures with even just one horse you know the struggle of getting them to “pose”.
It was very special to be able to have multiple sentimental items to use in the sets of my shoot. It was important to me to include both of my Dad’s Chevrolet’s and three of my own horses. I also took a picture with a stuffed animal that was my cousin DJ’s. It was almost like having her with me for the final capture of my year as Miss Rodeo USA. One final detail of the day was taking a photo with my great grandmother’s sewing machine. As many of you know I love to sew and getting to capture a photo with this machine was extra special because it showcases the individuality that I have as a rodeo queen that can sew her own clothing! Pictures already capture beautiful memories for a lifetime but they also mean so much more with the added details of special mementoes.
We finally called it a wrap on a full day of taking over 1,700 photos in 6 hours! When you put it like that, it seems very grueling but the day honestly went so fast! I didn’t realize how many hours had gone by until my stomach started to growl or how many outfit changes I had until I started to hang up each outfit and store all my jewelry back into its place. I easily made 15 different outfit changes by the end of our session. Luckily with a great plan like we had, it was amazing what we were able to accomplish in one day!
Maybe the most important part of all was the amount of times Ryan had everyone rolling on the ground with laughter. He is an entertainer by trade and most certainly made everyone smile all day. That wasn’t his only contribution though. Ryan truly was helpful in creating beautiful poses for each set. Sherry and Ryan are the perfect pair in setting the scene and capturing each shot with complete perfection. I was blown away when I first glanced through all the photos. It definitely was hard to narrow down my favorites from the day!
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: As we were navigating on the edge of the lake to capture one of my sponsored outfits I realized there were a good amount of mossy rocks I was stepping on. It registered to me I should be careful or I might fall right into the water. Just as that thought crossed my mind I felt my foot slip! As lucky as I tend to be in the most unlucky situations I managed to keep my footing. No lake swimming for me in October! Can you imagine how cold that water would have been?!
Queens Corner: Sometimes it takes a second set of eyes to make the perfect outfit for a photo shoot. At first glance an outfit that might seem perfect might not photograph as well. Things to help with this are accenting with a good amount of jewelry. I will say, there is always a time and a place for a simple necklace but if it is part of the outfit that needs to be seen make sure you layer it on. If you have certain sponsored items that need to be seen in a photo make sure they pop with whatever you are wearing. It is also important that your makeup is also a bit heavier and darker to be seen in the photo so your features pop! Preparation is key to everything when looking to get the perfect photo. These steps will help you create those moments.