Welcome to my guest, Kaila Mussell, a saddle-bronc-riding cowgirl from Chilliwack BC. Kaila is the first and only woman since the 1940s to qualify to compete with men in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Kaila, tell me how you got involved in riding rough stock?
Grew up on a farm, mainly horses, some cows, dogs etc. Started off as a barrel racer, steer rider, professional trick rider and then saddle bronc riding. My dad was a saddle bronc rider and bull rider and my mom was a rodeo queen. My oldest brother CEJ rode saddle broncs and steer wrestled and my younger sister Filene barrel raced and rode steers as well.
How did you earn enough points to compete with the men in the PRCA?
To fill your pro card (to become a full-card professional) you have to win $1,000 while competing in PRCA approved rodeos. Generally you can enter the smaller money-added rodeos, but you can’t qualify for large big-money added rodeos, or if you can, they draw amongst those who have their PERMIT…you can buy a permit to enter rodeos, once you win the money you have the option of buying your full pro card.
Are there any other women who are getting close?
There is a female bull rider who has won some money but hasn’t filled her pro card
Why do you do it?
Challenge, adrenaline rush, danger, love of the sport – the feeling of being in sync with a bucking horse.
Can you describe the feeling of being on the back of a thrashing, sunfishing bronc who only wants to shed its unwelcome burden?
Thrilling, powerful, connected, reactive, instinctive.
What’s your definition of danger?
Whatever gets your heart racing and seems scary.
What do you feel like when you know you’ve made a successful ride?
Happy, excited, successful, energetic, positive, confident, empowered.
Have you run into any stigma or prejudice against a woman doing a “man’s” extreme sport?
Some, as to be expected but it’s all in your attitude. Doing what I do, if you go after it for the same reasons, put in an honest effort and are serious about what you do, I find for the most part males are relatively accepting, especially the younger generations.
How did your family feel when you decided this was your career?
I wouldn’t consider saddle bronc riding a career. It definitely doesn’t pay my bills. I’d call it a passion, an expensive hobby. My family overall has been pretty supportive but they also have been involved in rodeo so that definitely helps. They support me in what I do.
How many broken bones, injuries etc. have you had?
Lots, broke left collar bone, right collar bone twice, separated right shoulder, dislocated left shoulder twice, two surgeries on left shoulder, one surgery on right, both knees, ACL surgeries, broken right wrist.
What keeps you going?
Drawn to the support, invested a lot of time, energy, passionate about the sport, love what I do.
Do you enjoy the travel or does it get old after awhile?
Yes and no, traveling to new places is exciting, traveling by yourself can get old, but with company it is fun. If you are doing well rodeoing the traveling is easy, if not, it is hard
What gets you down?
Not riding up to my expectations, drawing poor broncs, being broke.
What brings you back up?
Family, friends and fans’ support, looking at the bigger picture – my goals, why I do what I do, inspirational quotes.
Do you have an old-time cowgirl heroine?
None in particular but I did look up to and was inspired by a lot of the early cowgirls from the early 1900s.
If you weren’t a bronc-riding cowgirl, what would you like to be?
A professional snowboarder or surfer or downhill bike racer or motorcross…anything to keep up with the adrenaline rush
Do you have a particular philosophy of life?
Live for the now, don’t dwell on the little things, focus on what makes you happy, follow your heart, don’t take life too seriously
A favorite quote or theme you live by?
“I will not tiptoe through life only to arrive safely at death.”
Tell me about the recent competition you went to in Vegas—the Indian National Finals Rodeo (INFR).
I was the first female to ever qualify for the INFR this year in Las Vegas in saddle bronc. It was a very cool feat and I’m proud that I did. I didn’t do as well as I had hoped in Vegas, but it was a great experience and met a lot of really cool people and had a good time. There is always next year.
Thank you, Kaila! I have been researching women’s rodeo from the early 1900s, since my grandmother rode bucking stock in Montana rodeos in the 1920s. Back then, women competed in the same arena as men, drawing the same bucking stock they did, and at times even beating the men in steer roping and many other events. Madison Square Garden in 1941 was the last World Champion rodeo where women were allowed to compete on rough stock. Vivian White of Oklahoma won that championship. Kaila Mussell is the first women since that time to qualify and compete with men in the PRCA arena.