As the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association turns 70 this year, we look at what being a female in the sport looks like today and some top places to take in the rodeo action in our Texas destinations.

The WPRA celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, and now, with more than 3,000 members, it may seem like their rise was a breeze. But some serious grit was needed to get where they are today. What was once a shameful event for women to partake in is now widely respected and publicized, with the rodeo creating career opportunities for its athletes long after they jump off the saddle. And although it often seems like the sport takes women in two completely different directions – glam or grit – as it turns out, the two aren’t so different after all. Here, we give you a quick primer on that historical rise and then suggest some rodeos within Valencia destinations where you can see women competing today.


The History of Women in Texas Rodeo

Breaking the Barrier

During World War II, women took over many American family farms as men fought in Europe, leading to the rise of female ranchers. Though many enjoyed the work, they were frustrated with the inequality and lack of opportunities to female ropers, bronc riders, and barrel racers. In what was a risky move at the time, 38 women met secretly in a hotel in San Angelo, Texas, on February 28, 1948, and initiated their band. They wanted to change the way women were treated in the male-dominated world of rodeo – and add some color and femininity to the rough-and-tumble sport while they were at it. These women came together and created the very first professional sports association created solely for women by women: the Girls Rodeo Association (GRA). The GRA, which has now become the WPRA, wasted no time after its first meeting. The very same year those 38 women met, they approved the rules, regulations, and even persuaded rodeo committees to hold competitions by the GRA rules. A first-place barrel racer in the 1950s won as little as $8; today, first place goes for $1,000 to $4,000.

More than Just Sitting Pretty

When the idea of women in rodeo became more widely accepted, a group of men under the name International Rodeo Management decided there needed to be a female figurehead for the sport, commencing the first-ever Miss Rodeo America pageant in Casper, Wyoming, in 1955. Although the Western-themed “glam factor”’ is an aspect, the competition calls for much more than just “sitting pretty.” The contestants not only need deep rodeo experience, but are also quizzed on topics from politics to equine science, and sometimes even have to jump on the back of a horse they’ve never seen before to show their superior riding skills in front of thousands of spectators. Whoever is crowned Miss Rodeo America often travels more than 120,000 miles in that year, visiting schools, hospitals, civic groups, and of course, rodeos.


The History of Women in Texas Rodeo

Rodeos in Valencia Group Cities

See women and men compete in barrel racing, goat tying, and more at these celebrated Texas rodeos throughout the year in Valencia Group destinations.

Austin [March]

Rodeo Austin is “Where Weird Meets Western,” and it’s a walloping good time, with women’s barrel racing, more than 100 live performances during the 15-day festival, a cook-off to determine the State of Texas BBQ Grand Champion, and much more.

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Lone Star Court

College Station [October]

The Brazos Valley Fair & Rodeo features the Texas A&M team among its rodeo competitors. In addition, the rodeo offers carnival rides, concerts, and plenty of fried whatever-you-can-name.

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Cavalry Court | The George

Houston [February-March]

The world’s biggest, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo hosts 16,000 rodeo riders (including female barrel racers), ranch hands, and entertainers (think Garth Brooks and One Republic).

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Hotel Alessandra | Hotel Sorella CITYCENTRE

San Antonio [February]

The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2019, and brings two-million-plus visitors to the city for everything from “xtreme” bulls and a horse “skillathon” to shopping and a wine garden.

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Hotel Valencia Riverwalk