Canton cowgirl to lead defending champs at fair

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Participating in a sport solely for the love of it is unique in today’s world of athletics.

The Marion County Fair will present the third annual Women’s Ranch Rodeo on Friday, Aug. 6, and among the participants will be last year’s champion team based in Canton, Tee Jay Quarter Horses.

Kandee Prieb, a member of last year’s team, said women’s ranch rodeo highlights the abilities of area cowgirls.

“You don’t get to see women show their ranching skills very often,” she said. “Some of these women will really amaze you with the talent they have,” Prieb said. “You always hear about the ranching and roping talents of the men, but you don’t hear about the women that often.”

Prieb is employed in McPherson as a legal secretary while husband Trevin, also a rodeo competitor, operates a ranch in the Canton area.

But roping and riding are in her blood.

“I grew up in a rodeo family and I’ve ridden a horse since I was born,” she said. “I’ve known how to ride a horse about as long as I could walk.”

A women’s ranch rodeo team has four members. Joining Prieb on the Tee Jay Quarter Horse team are Jill Miller of Brookville, Lana Stueve of Olpe and Amy Langvardt of Junction City.

“Last year, the Marion County Fair was the first time the four of us got together,” Prieb said. “We got together through being good friends and just a common bond and love for the sport.”

A native of a small Kansas community called Colony, Prieb has participated in women’s ranch rodeos since 1998.

“It started out with lots of men’s ranch rodeos and pretty soon it was evident the women could show off what they were capable of doing, too,” she said. “Ranching isn’t just a guy thing.

“Women like to go out and do the roping and handle the cattle and show what we can do, too.”

Women’s ranch rodeo participants compete in four events: calf branding, team sorting, trailer loading and calf doctoring.

“Calf branding is where we have to rope and brand one or two calves,” Prieb said. “They have calves in a pen and you have to rope a specific calf, and other team members flank the calf and get it on its side.”

Prieb handles the roping chores for the team, having learned the skill through family activities as a youth.

“Team sorting is where you cross the line with your horse and you have to sort out particular numbered cows without the others crossing the line,” she said.

“In the trailer loading, you sort a specific cow, load her in the front of the trailer, and then you load your horse in the rear of the trailer.”

“The fourth event, calf doctoring, is where you sort a specific numbered calf, you head and heel it, and the ‘doctor; on your team marks it with a piece of chalk,” she said. “I usually rope the head during this event.”

Due to the distance factor, practicing as a team isn’t an option for the Tee Jay Quarter Horse team, Prieb said.

“We practice individually,” she said. “Amy’s family has the sale barn in Junction City, while both Jill and Lana live on ranches like I do.”

Prieb said most ranch rodeos use a similar format, with only slight variations.

“I enjoy going to the Marion County ranch rodeo because they run a good show and try to get things done right,” she said. “It’s hard keeping a bunch of women happy, but they seem to do that.”

But even the best rider is only as good as the trusty steed on which she competes.

“I ride a big gray quarter horse named Badger that’s 19 years old,” Prieb said. “He was raised by Duane Walker right here in Canton.

“Badger still loves to compete-you can just tell,” she added. “But even at 19, he’s still learning new things that make him better.”

Instinct goes a long way in the overall abilities of a good ranch rodeo horse, she said.

“They also have training, and most of the time it’s mainly going down the road and sorting pens, riding pastures and being able to teach your horse how to read a cow,” she said.

“Badger is still a working horse and gets ridden about four times a week by my nephew on our ranch.”

The thought of competition still gives Prieb butterflies before an event.

“I think getting mentally prepared for the ranch rodeo is the most difficult part of it just because I’m having so much fun,” she said.

“I still always get nervous before an event and I’m sure the horses get nervous, too. But being good at this involves getting in a lot of practice and just having years of experience.”

The success of the team isn’t always measured by wins and losses, Prieb said.

“You can really tell when you’re doing good when the team is working together,” she said. “Even if you don’t win, but your team worked well together, you still get a real feeling of satisfaction.”

In addition to the Aug. 6 event in Hillsboro, the Tee Jay Quarter Horse team also will compete at Ellsworth, Herington and Emporia this summer.

“Each rodeo is individual in itself,” Prieb said. “It’s just whoever can do the best at that rodeo.”

In an effort to increase attendance, the Marion County ranch rodeo has been moved to Friday night.

“The first year they had a really good crowd,” Prieb said. “This year, since it’s on Friday, I hope they get a lot of people to come out and watch.”

Letting people know ranching isn’t just for guys is a driving force for Prieb and her teammates.

“We like to go out and do the roping and handle the cattle and show we can do it,” she said. “I’d encourage young girls to get involved in this sport.

“You learn a lot of team work because not just one individual can go out and dominate this sport-you have to have good team work.”

Prieb said it doesn’t matter if you live in the country or city, everyone will have fun witnessing the skills at a women’s ranch rodeo.

If that’s not enough, she added one last incentive: “Maybe the most enjoyable thing would be to come out and see the good-looking women and the good-looking horses.”

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