Rodeo Queen contestants share a love for riding |

Rodeo Queen contestants share a love for riding

Colin FisherRodeo Queen contestant Valeri Cauhape takes a lap during practice.

Whether becoming Miss Truckee Rodeo was a longtime dream, or simply a way of getting more involved in the rodeo, the girls competing all have one thing in common: a love of horses.

“They’re such surprisingly intelligent and spiritual creatures,” said Valerie Cauhape, one of the five contestants.

All the Miss Truckee Rodeo contestants have been riding since they were young, their experience ranging from English showing to roping at rodeos.

But the distinguishing characteristics of the winning Queen will be her horsemanship combined with her personality and appearance, said the Queen coordinator and co-chair of the rodeo, Carol Pauli.

Since the entry deadline June 15, judges have been observing the girls on their willingness to help other people and their involvement in weekly meetings and rodeo ticket sales.

During the pageant Aug. 3, the girls will receive a pattern they must learn. After they have run the pattern once, they take their saddles off their horses and switch with another girl. This gives the judges a chance to see if they saddle correctly and efficiently, as well as how they deal with a strange horse, Pauli said.

After the riding tests, each girl will be interviewed individually. The judges ask questions about rodeo, politics and other chosen topics. They include an “off-the-wall question,” like “If you could have breakfast with anyone in the world, who would it be?”

“It’s kind of interesting to see how they react,” Pauli said. They don’t necessarily judge on whether the question is right or not, but how the girl responds.

One year they asked what a piggin string (a rope a cowboy uses to tie three legs of a calf together) is used for.

“She just laughed and said, ‘I have no idea.’ It was just perfect because it was her personality that came through,” Pauli said.

The judges crown the Queen at the Sponsor’s Team Penning Aug. 8. The winner receives a scholarship and a few prizes Pauli picks out herself, like a western handbag, photo albums or jewelry.

The new Queen will make appearances at the Reno rodeo and others in the area, and at the Fourth of July Parade.

Contestants include: Brei Putman, Holly Courtney, Valerie Cauhape, Meghan McClain and Marika Curtin.

For Brie Putman, 17, the pageant offered a new experience and another way to compete with her horse. While she’s ridden in English Hunter Jumper competitions since she was young, she has become more involved in the rodeo in the last three years.

“I like the pressure of competition,” she said. “The rodeo is a good way to meet people and have fun, and be with people who love horses.”

Putman recently graduated from high school and plans to attend University of Reno on a full music scholarship.

As a little girl watching the rodeo from the stands, Holly Courtney, 19, viewed Miss Truckee rodeo with admiration and one thought: “I’m going to be her someday.”

Since then, the rodeo has been a large part of her life, she said. “My dad’s a cowboy. It’s just following in my dad’s footsteps.”

For Courtney, other sports don’t compare to watching bull riding or the energy people have during the events.

“You just don’t get the atmosphere you do (at other sports) when you’re at the rodeo,” she said.

Courtney has attended school at Fresno City, but is transferring to Fresno State where she will study Agriculture Business.

Valerie Cauhape’s Appaloosa mare, Abigail, has become her friend during years of lessons and English shows.

“The best thing about riding is that you create a silent partnership with an animal that you can’t speak to…It’s almost magical,” said Cauhape, who is 20.

While competing for Miss Truckee Rodeo has been a “pipe dream” of hers for a long time, she usually rides English and competes in Hunter Jumper and some Dressage.

“This is the first time that I’ve really delved in the western world,” she said.

She will be starting her third year at Chico state as an Exercise Physiology major with a minor in Sociology and Chemistry.

Meghan McClain doesn’t remember life before riding horses. She began when she was one year old and has ridden ever since.

“I grew up with it,” she said. “It’s just kind of a part of me. I can’t really get rid of it.”

She began showing horses 14 years ago with her mom, and later moved in with her dad on a cattle ranch. While she gained experience in ranching there, this year is her first time participating the rodeo. She applied for the pageant to try something new.

McClain it taking a couple years off from school but wants to go back eventually to major in Equine Studies and become a mounted sheriff.

Queen pageants are nothing new for Marika Curtin, 22. She has previously held the Miss Penn Valley title and competed in several other pageants.

“What I enjoy most about being a queen is promoting the sport of rodeo, educating all ages about the sport, and it’s still just a way of being involved with horses while going to school and having a full time job,” she said.

She also has competed at the national level for America Quarter Horses. Although she is a resident of New Castle, a former Queen from Truckee recommended she participate in this pageant.

Curtin recently graduated from Sacramento State with a degree in International Business. She wants to continue her studies by completing a public relations degree.

All five girls will appear at the grand entry of the Truckee Championship Rodeo Aug. 8, where they will ride with various sponsor flags.

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