I wasn’t raised in this lifestyle. No one put a rope in my hand at 2 or had me on a horse before I could walk. I didn’t grow up being ponied around in different arenas, in different states and cities, always seeing the same people at each place. The people you grow up with, love them or hate them at times, are the same people that are considered extended family. These same people you compete with, learn with, and travel with. It is a very interesting and almost carney-like lifestyle, and very different than the way I grew up. I found my way into it, but my husband lived it, breathed it, was raised in it, and now so will my son.
I always rode horses. I started out with an English trainer and showed in the American Horse Show Association in the jumpers and hunters. I boarded my horse at a barn filled with box stalls. Our horses were never loaded in a trailer without wraps. Their manes were meticulously braided. I was always spotless, with a very well pinned hairnet, always wearing a helmet and perfectly polished boots, jumping over fences, and happily posting in the right diagonal on the rail of an arena. As long as I was on a horse I was happy.
But then (and a very big but), I became a teenager! I was officially boy crazy. I decided that boys were way cuter in Wranglers than in riding breaches, so I decided to join 4-H. I traded my crops in for over-and-unders. I switched not only to a western saddle, but also to a completely different lifestyle.
My mom bought me my first western saddle at some random feed store. One of the other 4-H moms convinced her to enter me in the El Paso Junior Rodeo Queen contest. I saddled my warmblood/thoroughbred cross and I posted right into that rodeo arena. It was a whole new world. I ended up dead last, but I was hooked on the lifestyle.
I queened for awhile and was the New Mexico State Fair Queen in 1999. Along the way I found my way into the New Mexico High School Rodeo scene. That is when I fell in love with running barrels, poles, and cutting, and made some of the best lifelong friends.
Eventually, I bought a real barrel horse from an elementary school teacher who lived in Fort Hancock, Texas. She was a young mom, new to the area, who had rodeoed her whole life. Whether she knew it or not at the time, she had made a lifetime fan. Her name is Jana Bean. She became my new mentor, and over the years a best friend.
I had some success in the arena. I made the high school finals, won state in the cutting, and made the New Mexico Rodeo Association finals a few times. After high school I planned on college rodeoing at NMSU. I had a really cool little mare at the time and was excited for our future. Unfortunately, she coliced and died after winning a round at my first college rodeo. I was heart broken. I didn’t want to rodeo anymore. I didn’t enter another rodeo until two Bachelors and Masters degrees later in 2005.
Maybe the saying is true, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours.” I quit horses and rodeoing, and I set that dream free. I traveled the world, went to school in Mexico, worked with The Red Cross, and experienced how non-horse/rodeo people lived. It was great, but I loved this sport. Obviously, I came back.
In 2005 I called Jana and told her I wanted a horse – just to play on, just one for fun, nothing fancy. She found me THE horse. He was perfect and a complete freak. He far surpassed any expectations any of us had for him. He fit me, he could win for me, and he could run and win against the big horses. I filled my permit in a few rodeos and hit the rodeo trail with an old friend from high school rodeos days, Kendra. We went full speed ahead with the plans of living the dream.
However, in all actuality I was living the nightmare. As the very familiar story goes, my horse got hurt, he healed, he died. It was horrible. I was crushed. Jana found me another one, and since I was entered, I went and I did okay. I scratched here and there. However, now I realize that I wasn’t out there to win big in the arena. I was out there to win big in my life. I met my super cowboy (that’s what my hippy non-rodeo friends call him), Shain Sproul.
I was more of a hippy who followed the Dave Matthews Band than a cowgirl while I was in college. I loved the sport, but cowboys were not my thing. I was far from looking for a relationship. My hauling partner that summer, Jessie Moody, and I were just living the rodeo road adventure and living our fun summer journey across the country.
After one ridiculous 12 hour drive from Nampa, Idaho to Salinas, California, Jessie and I decided to go eat sushi with some friends. Our friends brought a friend also – a cowboy from from Arizona. We did not know him, but I recognized his last name – Sproul. His sister was on the New Mexico State Rodeo team when I worked as the the Athletic Department Photographer. Apparently, he roped.
We enjoyed our strip mall sushi, then decided to drive up north to Monterey Beach. Shain had rented a convertible; he thought he was pretty cool. I called shotgun, jumped in, grabbed the CD case, and claimed DJ position.
As I skimmed through his CDs, I was pleasantly surprised. I think you can tell a lot about people by their music. Modest Mouse, Pearl Jam, and DAVE MATTHEWS were all part of his collection. This cowboy had just become a little tiny bit interesting. We all enjoyed the rest of the day. Then, the team roping cowboy flew away. He went back to Cheyenne. Jessie and I headed home. That was the last time I saw him until Dodge City.
After the perf on the way to a bar, I got a call from a weird number. It was the Shain guy from Salinas. Somehow he got my number? He was up in Pillisberg, Kansas that night and was just calling to chat. I told him we were headed into the bar and that maybe we could talk later. We proceeded to go to the bar, really enjoying our night.
I guess later came sooner than I expected. At around 1 a.m. the group of slightly intoxicated calf ropers we were with started hollering and cheering, “SPROULY!!!!!” They were happy to see him, obviously. This cool-music-listening team roper had come to make sure I got home safely. Never had I met someone like him before.
I played hard to get for awhile. We had different schedules, but apparently the Arizona cowboy I met at a sushi place in California was meant to be my husband.
A year later we had a 4 lb 9 oz, tiny, little, cowboy named Steel Owen Sproul.
I became a mom. I started a new journey and a new chapter. This little person was mine. I now had to figure out how to raise him.
So, this is the preface to my story – my story about my failures, my wins, the lessons, the twists and turns, the struggles and triumphs of Raising A Modern Day American Cowboy.