Miss Rodeo Colorado contestants show equestrian prowess during competition | TheFencePost.com

Miss Rodeo Colorado contestants show equestrian prowess during competition

Every Miss Rodeo Colorado has her personality on display as she meets fans of all ages during her reign. But personality isn't the only thing that earned her the state's iconic turquoise and silver crown. A big part of her title comes from her ability to ride.

Every year, the Miss Rodeo Colorado competition is held during the Greeley Stampede, and all eight finalists vying to be 2017's Colorado queen showed up June 29 to test their horsemanship skills inside the Island Grove Arena in front of a trio of judges. Though horsemanship is just one part of the overall competition, Wednesday morning's mounted tests were important to every royalty hopeful.

"Horsemanship (points are) equally weighted with personality and appearance points," said Tami Inskeep, Miss Rodeo Colorado secretary and member of the executive committee. "The only difference is you earn points in personality and appearance in every event (speeches, interviews, appearances, etc.) but you can only earn the horsemanship points during this specific event."

To test their depth of equine skills, fresh horses were supplied by Colorado's Sombrero Ranches and each contestant drew the name of their horse for the reining patter section from a jar It didn't stop there, though. The competitors used a different horse for the rail section of riding, similar to competing in a show ring. The ability to ride new and different horses is an important part of being a rodeo queen.

The current Miss Rodeo Colorado, Madelaine Mills, said learning to ride a new horse at every location is an important part of the process.

Here, these girls will get on horses they have never been on before, and as Miss Rodeo Colorado, that is pretty much what you do at every rodeo," Mills said. "So these girls have been riding as many horses as they can get on."

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At the end of every participant's reining pattern, they each rode to edge of the arena where the trio of judges was located. Part of displaying horsemanship skill is dismounting and mounting, so the contestants would dismount and stand with their horse while they answered equine and tack related questions. Handling questions and remaining poised while an unfamiliar horse nuzzles your hat or tries to walk away seemed to be part of the challenge. After finishing the question and answer session, each contestant then mounted up and exited the arena on horseback.

Shortly after the last contestant finished her reining pattern and follow-up questions, it was time to get a new horse and get back inside the arena. Only this time, four Miss Rodeo Colorado hopefuls rode at the same time for the rail section of the event. In a show ring style of riding, the contestants all walked, trotted or loped their horses at the request of the judges. When the first four were finished, the final four contestants took their turn inside the arena to do the same thing.

The horsemanship section wrapped up with the contestants galloping at a fast Queen's Run, smiling and waving, in front of the judges as the third and final ride of the event. Several Miss Rodeo Colorado hopefuls described the Queen's Run as their favorite part of the event, and it was made even more exciting when the horse of contestant Mary Oulliber, of Sedalia, Colo., decided to buck and jump almost the entire way. It couldn't prevent her from smiling and waving, however.

"I was really just trying to keep his head up so he couldn't get it down and buck," Oulliber said afterward. "And then I had to end up going to two hands and say, 'No, we're not doing this today, and then go back to waving.' It was interesting, but actually it was a lot of fun."

All the contestants said they enjoyed the morning's competition.

"It was absolutely fantastic," said Sara Coblentz of Gunnison, Colo. "I thought it was really a great opportunity for everybody to get to ride three different horses."

Everyone also agreed it was nerve-wracking. The group laughed together when they talked about their nerves that morning.

"It was a lot of fun," said Evergreen's Sierra Knodle. "I love all these ladies so much. It was really neat getting to ride with them, which, for most of us, is our favorite thing to do. The horses were great and really well trained. We're really thankful they brought them today."

And Miss Rodeo Colorado 2017 is…

Kelsie Winslow

1st runner up — Sierra Knodle,

2nd Runner up — Sara Sage Coblentz

Horsemanship award — Sierra Knodle

Personality — Kelsie Winslow

Appearance — Kelsie Winslow

Speech award — Kelsie Winslow

Congeniality award — Kelsie Winslow

Spirit award — Mary Oulliber

Written Test — Mandi Larson

Photogenic — Nadia Postek