The Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls will ride into your heart
Spectacular is the only word to describe a performance by the Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls. They streak into the arena on their horses, vaulting off and on at a full gallop, hanging just above the flying hooves. These young women have dazzled audiences worldwide with their daring trick-riding routines, but breathtaking performances are only part of the picture. The Cowboy Girls are "hands" in the best Western tradition. They can ride, rope, show, and beat the toughest competition.
Take a behind-the-scenes look at the values, hard work, discipline, and endurance that it takes to make the team, and share the thrill of international performance and competition. Experience the grit and the glory of Riata Ranch!
"With dazzling trick rides, the Cowboy Girls keep alive a grand rodeo tradition." (Sports Illustrated)
"Tom Maier has the rare ability to bring horsemanship to an art form. Tom's Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls are not only dedicated showmen and talented horsewomen, but most important, they are ladies." (Sharon Camarillo, barrel-racing champion, former Women's Professional Rodeo Champion, author, and clinician)
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About the Author
Larry Mahan is a six-time World Champion Cowboy (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) and an inductee into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.
Tom Maier, founder of the Riata Ranch, is a former Hollywood stunt cowboy and professional rodeo champion. For more than 40 years he has taught young people from the towns and ranches of California's San Joaquin Valley a unique combination of self-confidence, self discipline, horsemanship, and performance skills.
William Shepley, based in southern California, specializes in Western photography.
Rebekah Ferran Witter is author of Living with HorsePower!, Winning with HorsePower!, and America's Super Horse: The Story of Rugged Lark. She lives in Menlo Park, California.
Read an Excerpt
Holding Your Head Up High
One important aspect of a Cowboy Girl's education echoes from an ancient, universally resented maternal supplication: "Stand up straight!" Well, much as it hurts to admit it, Mom's right. Good posture is the skeletal foundation of personal bearing, proper equitation, and lifelong fitness.
"At Riata we emphasize staying fit and strong," advises Jennifer Welch. "Don't lose your energy and your activity over the years. Many schools have dropped gym classes, and recent reports indicate obesity is becoming an epidemic in the United States. Our hope is that the fitness training each girl gets here she'll take with her. In addition to fitness we teach movement: how to walk up and down stairs gracefully, how to sit and stand properly, how to make an entrance. And, yes, we do walk around with books on our heads to keep our chin lines parallel to the ground."
Former Riata student Diana Pierce laughs as she recalls a posture lesson from Tom. "I vividly remember Tom telling me, 'Sit up straight in the saddle; don't slump over like a sack of potatoes!'
"It hadn't occurred to me that I wasn't sitting up straight, but he came over to the horse, placed his hand in the middle of my back and made me sit up straight. From that moment on I had the straightest back of any of those riders. To this day people compliment me on my posture."
The Cowboy Code
Riata Ranch gives its students a solid foundation rooted in traditional cowboy values. Having grown up in a time and place that were still governed by traditional values and the Code of the West, Tom has planted those values deep in Riata Ranch. Cowboy values have served Tom and Riata well over the years, passing on ideals such as living your word, doing your job well, honoring your commitments, and treating others fairly. "Living by your conscience" is the best summary of the Code of the West. It is a strong notion, but one that makes it crystal-clear that at Riata everyone is accountable for her own choices and actions. This pretty well eliminates excuses.
No Excuses and No Complaints
As the record shows, even during numerous life-threatening illnesses and accidents Tom has been the proverbial rock, showing courageous calm and logical realism rather than railing against fate. In entertainment his business may be drama, but in an emergency he's all business and no drama at all.
This is the example he sets for Riata: Assess the situation, do whatever possible to improve it, then accept the outcome. When the outcome is arduous he acknowledges, "This too shall pass." When the outcome is favorable he notes, "Things usually work out for the best." Either way, he accepts life in stride.
That Riata Style
In appearance and bearing there is a style, an aura, a "Riata persona" that all Cowboy Girls develop, yet Riata nurtures individuality so each girl is very much her own person. Paula Herrera's interest in presentation turned into a fascination with fashion design, inspiring her and Idalia Reveles to switch from the current baggy teenage style to wearing dresses at school. "These girls don't have much money, but they both sew and they make it work," says Tom. "They look nice. I am so proud of them!" Bucking the fashion trends of high school is a mark of strong individuals.
In their Riata uniform of neat jeans, pressed shirts, and white hats, Cowboy Girls may look alike to the uninitiated, but that's as far as it goes. As Idalia realized, "When I first visited Riata Ranch I noticed everyone wore cowboy hats. I'd never seen that before. Since everyone looked alike I thought everyone was the same. But when I started training at Riata, I found everyone was different. Now I know when I put on that hat, I'm an individual."
Jennifer adds, "People often think our hats are part of a costume. But they are a critical part of our everyday work clothing."
Table of Contents
1. THE ROAD TO RIATA (1)
2. FROM THE GROUND UP (21)
3. LEARNING THE ROPES (39)
4. "MAKE A HAND" (69)
5. RIDE FOR THE BRAND (99)
6. SHOWTIME! (127)