The Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) is by far one of the largest rodeo associations, besides the PRCA, in the world. As the name suggests, it is only open to women. Any female age 18 or older is in position to become part of the association and partake in regular events. At this time, the association has several thousand members spreading throughout the United States, Canada and now Mexico. It is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Many people find it hard to believe that the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association was formed more than 70 years ago, in 1948. At the time, the organization was known as the Girls Rodeo Association (GRA). The early members of the Girl’s Rodeo Association (GRA) were barrel racers, bronc riders, and ropers. Upon starting, the organization only had 74 members and 60 events. Combined, these contests paid out a total of $29,000.
By 1981, the official name of the organization had changed to the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. At this time, they set out to promote events while demanding prize money equal to similar men’s events. By 1985, things had changed quite a bit and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association had achieved equality with male rodeo organizations.
The primary event associated with the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association is known as barrel racing. With this, contestants ride a horse through a pattern of barrels set up in the arena. The rider with the fastest time is named the winner. During the event, any tipped barrel results in a penalty of five seconds. Most of the barrel racing events held by the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association are done so in conjunction with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Breakaway roping has been emerging in big rodeos for the last couple of years as well. It is exciting to watch an event that has been in the background for so long, finally, get its opportunity in the spotlight just like barrel racing. Some of the big names that have pushed to make it happen are Lari Dee Guy, Jackie Crawford and the RFD-TV American for adding the event to the roster two years ago for the first time.
Contestant rankings are kept based on the amount of money earned in sanctioned competitions. At the end of the season, the top 15 riders compete at the National Finals Rodeo, which takes place every December at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
To ensure that the WPRA is around well into the future, the association has put a lot of time and money into promoting the growth of the industry as a whole. For example, they now have a WPRA Junior Division which is for females under the age of 18. Programs like this go a long way in getting members involved at an early age.
It is thrilling to see women in rodeo thrive and take the reins. Make sure to catch all your favorite riders at the next rodeo and cheer a little harder for them as they do what they work so hard for. If you have the opportunity to come to see these women at the National Finals, we highly encourage you to do so! The WPRA has the distinction of being the oldest women’s sports association governed entirely by women.
CLN Community & Event Sponsor