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Saddle Bronc Riding

The Lady Bronc Rider’s Trail Has Ups and Downs

Lady bronc riding has erupted in the last few years and this is a story of just one. A short year after the State of California issued Brittany Miller’s birth certificate, she said her first word. It was ‘horse’. On their way to start a new life in Missouri, her parents thought it was cute. What they didn’t truly realize yet wasn’t going to cause them any grief.

Miller fought her way to the world she calls hers today. She rode her first horse in her early teens. Good times, but she wanted more. In the stands at a little rodeo just outside St. Louis, she watched the latch crack on the first bronc ride she’d ever witnessed and a dam broke inside of her. She didn’t just want to be the high flying rider going for it – she NEEDED to be that cowgirl. Her part of the country was a lot like Rodeo Switzerland. Neutral isn’t what’s needed to learn to ride horses who have no interest in being a beast of burden. You need to be in a place where you can practice and surround yourself with people who live, eat and breath bucking horses. She started some colts and worked hard in high school to get herself to college in Dillon, Montana. It was there that she found a home and a place where day working cowgirls could earn cash for entry fees at every ranch bronc riding she could get to.

There’s no time to think about anything but the challenge ahead when a royally bred bucking horse is on her way to the chute.

You’ve seen her and other lady bronc riders on the RIDE TV series ‘Cowgirls’. At this stage of her career, she’s been on well over 300 horses in competition without more serious injury than the kind you’d get from being beaten by an angry crowd. The ranch bronc she drew in Hulett, Montana, in early June was about to change all of that.

“I got on a horse Saturday night who fouled me hard at the chute, catching my left ankle on the post on his way out and turning it straight backward,” Miller said. “I iced it through the night as I drove over to Hulett. Wasn’t about to turn down the crack at one of Burch’s outstanding Lunatic Fringe youngsters they’d brought for the open ranch bronc riders.”

Saddling from the off side of a horse in a bucking chute requires acrobatics of its own.

Determined not to let anybody see her limp, she visited with buddies on the platform, stretched as she could with the unstable, sprained ankle and set her stock saddle on a fairly quiet filly. It was about 5 seconds into the ride when she shook loose. Everybody who rides knows how to fall. It’s an art form that once mastered, allows you to shape it so you can avoid the worst of the impact and be in a position to get up and move. Brittany didn’t want to hit that bad leg and tried to take all of the landing on her right. It broke.

Today, the young twister is trying to manage life on the road with her faithful dog and no usable legs. She’s wrapping her head around the newfound vulnerability that’s clashing with her native independence. It’s part of lady bronc riding. That’s what everybody says with a shrug when bad things interrupt customary good times. There is heartbreak and pain wrapped up in those words. There’s also victory and the promise of being stronger and wiser on the other side. This is what cowgirls know. This, too, is part of the amazing journey of the cowboy lifestyle.

Carried from the arena floor to rounds of applause from the Hulett, Wyoming, crowd, Miller takes stock of the situation while waiting for the EMTs.

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Lori O'Harver is a woman on a mission to tell the stories of the world without borders known as Bronc Riding Nation. From the vast grasslands the great bucking horses call home to the bright lights of Las Vegas, where good ones buck and the people called to ride them come to make their high flying dreams come true, she writes about the horses and people who feel the spirit of freedom and devote their lives to keeping the legends alive.

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