Queen of the Rodeo: Royalty and Drill Team in Ridgway
by Peter Shelton
Aug 31, 2012 | 2332 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
NATIONAL ANTHEM – 2010 Ouray County Rodeo Queen Morgan Jossi rode the American flag during the Labor Day fair and pro rodeo. (Photo by Sue Williamson)
NATIONAL ANTHEM – 2010 Ouray County Rodeo Queen Morgan Jossi rode the American flag during the Labor Day fair and pro rodeo. (Photo by Sue Williamson)
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FLAG RUN – 2012 Rodeo Princess Skylar Smith participated in the flag run, in which Drill Team riders parade the flags of Rodeo sponsors in between events. (Photo by Sue Williamson)
FLAG RUN – 2012 Rodeo Princess Skylar Smith participated in the flag run, in which Drill Team riders parade the flags of Rodeo sponsors in between events. (Photo by Sue Williamson)
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WAIVING THE FLAG – A rider shows off a sponsor flag at the Ouray County Fair and Rodeo. (Photo by Sue Williamson)
WAIVING THE FLAG – A rider shows off a sponsor flag at the Ouray County Fair and Rodeo. (Photo by Sue Williamson)
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RIDGWAY – Skylar Smith has the bearing of a princess. Still petite at 12, her wavy blonde hair frames her blue eyes behind delicate square glasses. On a horse, there’s nothing delicate about her.

Skylar is the incoming Ouray County Rodeo Princess. As a member of the rodeo’s  Royalty, she will streak across the Fairgrounds arena on Sunday (Sept. 2) at a full gallop on her Quarter Horse, Olivia, as her introduction is read. It’s called the “hot lap.” It’s a thrill for the crowd. For Skylar, it’s “the funnest thing ever! You hear the crowd. They introduce you and, yeah, you go fast! I could do it over and over.”

They’ll all do the hot lap.

All of last year’s outgoing Royalty, handing off to this year’s incoming Royalty. Joining Skylar in the 2012 court will be Queen Rosie Rogers, a 17-year-old senior at Ridgway High School; Queen Attendant Ashlynn Killip, of Olathe; and Princess Attendant Darshawn Flowers, a 12-year-old attending Colorado West Christian School in Montrose.

The outgoing Royalty includes: Queen Deanne Blankmeyer, Queen Attendant Rosie Rogers, Princess Brynne Skalla, and Princess Attendants Alexis Darcy and Caitlin Stadelman.

Both courts will ride in the Grand Entrance at the start of the rodeo each day, Sunday and Monday, Labor Day, starting at 1 p.m.

They will “run the flags” representing the major rodeo sponsors in a circle around the arena. They will ride in the Labor Day Parade beginning at 10 a.m. through downtown Ridgway. (The parade is open entry; anyone can join. Lineup begins at 9 a.m. at the Elementary School.)

The Royalty represent Ouray County for the full year, participating in other rodeos on the Western Slope, marching in the 4th of July Parade in Ouray, and other ceremonial events.

Not to be confused with the Royalty (although it’s easy to do) is the Ouray County Equestrian Drill Team, which has been practicing all summer and will also be showing off their horsemanship this weekend. The two groups are intertwined. There are 12 girls on the team. All but one of the incoming and outgoing Royalty participate. Although, according to Fairgrounds Manager Susan Long, “they don’t have to.”

Mostly, they all want to, said mom Cheryl Darcy, if only “to practice their hot runs.”

The Royalty is selected and sponsored by the Ouray County Rodeo Association. (According to the program they are “judged on their ability to complete a horsemanship pattern which includes various gaits, lead changes, stops, reverse and a flag carry. The young ladies must present a Western appearance in clothing and tack, and demonstrate knowledge of the sport of rodeo and an ability to speak well.”)

The Drill Team is a separate entity, supported by parents, and coached by experienced show rider Cheryl Smith, Skylar’s mom. In addition to the Royalty, the Drill Team consists of Wendy Folsom, Emerson Gentry, Hunter Gentry, Brianna Killip, and Brooke Replogle.

Alexis Darcy is an assured 15-year-old RHS sophomore. She described the “pattern” the Drill Team will be riding. “We kind of all put the pattern together. We watched a lot of video [of other drill teams]. We’re doing it to Toby Keith’s ‘Made In America.’ I guess we’ll just call our pattern ‘Made In America.’” The dozen members of the team have been practicing the pattern, and getting their horses used to riding with the flags, and with each other, since their selection in June.

Alexis said the reasons for Drill Team are “to spend time with friends, to get to see the community come together, and to get to bond with your horse.” She’ll be riding her 12-year-old Quarter Horse, Nikki.

Darshawn Flowers will be riding Spoof, a 22-year-old “sorrel with a dark dorsal stripe.” (While 22 might seem old for a horse, the girls all spoke excitedly about the 28-year-old jumper in the Olympics just past. “Hard to believe they’d have the flexibility to make those moves in dressage,” Alexis Darcy marveled.) Darshawn’s mom Marty Flowers remembered another old horse, the 31-year-old palomino Penny, who lived with the Olins off Highway 550 north of the Ridgway dam.)

Darshawn said Spoof “gets excited to perform. He does. He goes really fast for me.”

Replogle pointed to her horse, Lakota, who backed out of his trailer as easy as you please. “He’s 14, a gelding,” she said. “Sorrel, but he’s turning chestnut.” He has a sweet disposition, a white nose and a white blaze on his forehead. “His dad is a champion halter horse. He likes the drill. He takes to it.”

Queen Rosie Rogers has been involved with Royalty for six years and with Drill Team for two. “I’ve been a princess twice,” she said. She’s the veteran.

“Most rodeos do a pattern,” she told me. “It’s a tradition. We did the sponsor flag run before, between rodeo events [the bronc riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, and bull riding]. But the pattern, it does take a lot of practice. You have to work together, work with everyone’s horses.”

Rosie will be riding, Sparky, her “big, tall, gorgeous paint Quarter Horse.”

And then came Sparky, ridden by his owner, Mark Harvey, who’d come over from the corrals to see what all the standing around talking was about.

“They’re all good riders,” Harvey said, speaking of the Drill Team girls while looking down over Sparky’s white and black mane. “And all smarter than us. It’s amazing.”

The Team, under Cheryl Smith’s guidance, met once and sometimes twice a week at the Fairgrounds to practice. “They worked so hard,” said mom Cheryl Darcy. “It’s all about the girls; it give them a chance to shine.” 

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