At barrel shows across the country, men are equal to women. Men share the spotlight with women in the National Barrel Horse Association and International Barrel Racing Association, yet, traditionally, the same men are not allowed in the rodeo pen.
Recently, Barrel Horse News posted a question to their readers on their Facebook site, asking readers if they felt men should be allowed to compete in pro rodeo. Women dominated the responses, with most saying that men should stay out of rodeo. But, the real question is, is this truly fair or are women sticking to tradition just for tradition’s sake?
At this year’s AQHA Congress, the Top 6 fastest times and ten of the Top 15 in the coveted Wenger Sweepstakes Finals were men. Trainers like Bret Monroe, Troy Crumrine and Lance Graves have helped take barrel racing to a new level, with younger, faster horses. This statement is not meant to take anything away from top talents like Brittany Pozzi, Lindsey Sears or even Charmayne James, but can women really say we’re the best in the world if we aren’t really competing against some of the world’s top talent? It’s kind of like the international baseball argument – is the World Series of Baseball truly the World Series when top Japanese or other international teams are not included?
Some of the arguments made on Barrel Horse News’s post suggest that women have to work hard enough as it is in professional rodeo that adding men to the mix would make things unfair for women. While women absolutely do work very, very hard, some of their horses are trained by greats like Lance Graves, and who is not to say that he didn’t work hard?
Personally, I grew up competing against some of the best youth in Pennsylvania and Ohio, male and female. I didn’t see gender as a youth. I never said, “I’m the best female youth,” or “He’s the best male barrel racer I know.”
I highly, highly doubt that rodeo will change it’s male-female policies any time soon, yet I just worry that stigmas attached to certain genderized issues can almost always be harmful. If women shun men from a “women’s” sport, I worry that women will be received the same by men when they try to make the same changes. Female friends of mine that rope have discussed going to round robins and men purposefully missing for them and going to jackpots where they cannot find a decent partner to save their soul. Double standards, in any case, can be dangerous.