Women riders in the barrel racing, team, breakaway and tie-down roping events are tough, rough and ready competitors. It's not a game; it's a sport with money, recognition and big, flashy buckles at stake.
The Women's Professional Rodeo Association's Cactus Series opens the contests in the World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo, Thursday, Aug. 18. The competition includes barrel racing, team breakaway and tie-down roping.
Entries for the sanctioned events closed Monday, however, registration is still open for a special 4-D Barrel Race contest, until 5 p.m. Thursday. This contest is open to everyone regardless of age or gender.
The contests will start between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Admission is a can of food, which will be donated to the area food banks.
"We expect about 50 contestants this year," said Nancy Jane Hunter, of the Turquoise Circuit, which includes rodeos in Arizona and New Mexico.
The women with the WPRA earn points in the Payson contests that go toward year-end totals to determine ranks for the rodeo season.
In addition to the points, $400 is awarded in each event to the top finisher. The money comes from a combination of entry fees and funds provided by Budweiser, the sport's primary sponsor, Hunter said.