Gwen Peterson: Women of the Wild West shaped the way ladies ride |

Gwen Peterson: Women of the Wild West shaped the way ladies ride

The annual Horse Drive in Gardiner, Mont., is coming up in May. From a holding pen in Gardiner, a bunch of cowboys drive/lead a herd of a couple of hundred horses nine miles up a mountain to Hells-a-Roarin’ Outfitters Camp. ‘Tis a grand and glorious sight and even grander if you’re still young enough, fit enough and disciplined enough to ride with the drovers. However, not only cowboys are present. There’s plenty of cowgirls whoopin’ along with cowpokes.

Out West, women have always been part of the activity. Ridin’, ropin’, rootin’, tootin’ — whatever the situation calls for, a cowgirl will show up and keep up. In earlier days, many an eastern la-di-da lady, yearning for adventure, went west.


Sidesaddle riding once was a must

For a lady in long-layered skirt,

With knee fitted over a cradling hook,

She mostly endured till it hurt.

In the East she was expert at riding to hounds

In habit and black derby hat;

A groom helped her mount with his hand on her rump

Of course she could never say that!

If ever she tried to ride astride

There were gasps and glances askance:

In order to do so in practical garb,

She would have to wear — masculine PANTS!

Besides that, she’d loosen some organs inside

With a leg on each side of a beast!

For females, like mermaids, everyone knew

Had lower limbs all in one piece.

But then she went West where the living was rough

To see what the real cowboys do.

To ride like a pretzel was painful and tough,

And twisted her backbone in two.

So she hiked up her skirts and piled on her bronc—

Put a leg on each side of her saddle.

With yippie ki yi she went searching the range

For cattle, astraddle her saddle.

History somehow fails to mention her name,

This woman who helped win the West.

Though small, she was tall when she got on her horse,

And she rode and she roped with the best.


And last year at the annual Gardiner Horse Drive, one of the lead riders was a woman. Makes you tingle, don’t it… ❖

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