Professional rodeos allow women to compete in all categories, but most women stick to barrel racing, making it one of the largest categories in terms of participation.
Ladies barrel racing in the Mandan Rodeo Days has the most entries out of all categories this year, with about 120 participants, said Mandan Rodeo Days spokeswoman Johna Cravens, with Cowgirl Imaging.
That's more than one-fifth of the 500 people who entered various categories at the Mandan Rodeo this week including steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping, bareback/saddle bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing.
Madison MacDonald-Thomas, from Stephenville, Texas, this year's specialty act with her Magic in Motion performance, has been a trick rider, barrel racer and team-roping participant in competitions for about 15 years. Wherever she goes, barrel racing tends to be the largest category.
“Barrel racing is the only women’s event in rodeo,” MacDonald-Thomas said. “They’re not really meant for women.”
Although women are allowed to participate in any category, “it just doesn’t happen often,” Cravens said. Women mostly participate in barrel racing and team roping.
MacDonald-Thomas took part in the barrel racing competition Tuesday night and was a “little slower than we would have liked,” she said. She is known for her trick riding and travels from May through October for performances; she only barrel races and team ropes when she can. In her downtime she teaches lessons on trick riding and barrel racing.
She started riding and preparing for rodeos about 20 years ago because of her love for horses. During her specialty act she stands on a horse, jumps off and on, rides on the side and underneath, and “everything you’re not supposed to do on a horse,” she said.