Thursday, April 18, 2013

Trying New Things: Flag Girl?

A friend of mine rides for the Calgary Stampede Ranch Girls, and invited myself and Brigitte out to try-outs for the 2013 Calgary Stampede Season. We both thought, heck - why not! The Ranch Girls are the Flag girls that ride Grand Entry and throughout the daily rodeos during the ten days of madness that is the Calgary Stampede.

Watching them as a kid I remember thinking that they, and their matching sorrel horses with white blazes and white socks, were the epitome of cool cowgirls. I wasn't wrong.

We got to the try-outs with resumes in hands, dressed like the real things - boots with spurs, jeans, a nice belt and western shirt and a cowboy hat. I bought the hat especially for the try-out, and also because I thought it was about time I finally got one. I've always ridden in crappy straw cowboy hats, baseball caps, sometimes a helmet, and more often than not I prefer to have my hair down. However, fast-forward to the try out and I realized that I've never, ya know, loped with this hat on. I had added stampede strings to it, but my stomach still kind of clenched up a bit. Then, I realized that one of the snaps on my Panhandle Slim shirt kept popping loose... right in the centre of my stomach. Frick. Stop that. A quick safety pin later and we were ready to rumble!

We watched 9 of the girls practice their routine for Aggie Days next week. They all looked so good and poised - even when their horses started to bunch together, run amuck, or in one instance - buck. Dibs out on that horse.  Then they called us down and split us into 2 groups of five.

I couldn't help but notice that a lot of the girls trying out were wearing drill-team, and rodeo jackets. Then there's me... never ridden in a rodeo in my life. Gulp.
The first group went, and all the girls looked great. They did their first lap without flags, then a second lap with flags and just like that, they were done.

Then we hopped up on our horses, trotted them around and then were called in to start.

We all piled in to the smallest corral possible, my horse was basically turned away from the exit, and all of a sudden I found myself turning and galloping out a chute. Holy heck. Of course my foot clipped the gate on the way out, all I heard behind me was "WATCH YOUR FEET GIRLS". Fml. The first run around was good, I felt pretty confident (except for gate clip), my horse had already been run quite a bit at this point and definitely wasn't feeling the most energetic, I tried to keep him on the rail but he was cutting corners. shooooot.

Then we headed back in and were handed flags. A man helped me get my flag in my flag boot - the contraption that is attached to the stirrups that holds the flag in. I unwound the fabric and turned my horse towards the exit back into the arena. The girl infront of me lowered her flag forwards and then kind of shot it backwards and I realized that the flags were going to catch on the panels as we headed out - too late - my flag clipped the top of a panel as we headed out and popped right out of the flag boot.

I plastered a big smile on my face and cursed in my head the whole way around that darn arena. My friend in the stands said she could barely tell my flag wasn't secured in - but I bet she was lying. When we got to the centre to stop and stand at attention, I popped the flag back in, but it felt like it took hours of me fumbling around like an idiot. Then we headed out of the arena, again - at a gallop, and it was all over.

The nice man came back to grab my flag and told me I had done a good job holding it without the flag boot, and I weakly smiled back at him. One of the coordinators came in and gave a speech about watching our flags and also how close we are to the panels and gates because the horses love to cheat corners... so was she talking just to me? I looked around and thought for sure none of the other girls had clipped the panel or the gate... cool.

Afterwards they told us that they would contact us in two weeks if we had gotten in.

Alas, I don't think I'll be making Ranch Girls this year... but, thinking about it now, it was a fun and crazy experience. Who shows up to try out for one of the most famous grand entry groups around, and has never even held a flag before? Sometimes my life is so crazy haha. Atleast I got to dress up!

My try-out outfit, do I look the part?


I wrote this last week, a day after the try-out, and today to my UTTER shock and amazement, I was invited to be a member of the 2013 Calgary Stampede Ranch Girls! How Exciting is that!! I absolutely can't wait.

My stomach is all knotted up with butterflies of happiness, excitement and complete nervousness.

This summer is going to be amazing!


  1. SWEET!!!! Do you know why you got in? I do. Because even though things went wrong you kept your cool and kept that flag up to the very best of your ability. You showed them that in the even of an unforeseen disaster, you will be the one that keeps things together. That is way more desirable than some one with experience but falls apart or drops the flag when things go awry.
    Well Done! Congratulations.

  2. Oh my gosh, too exciting!! Congrats!!!

  3. You never know until you try and you did and look at what happened! Congratulations!

  4. I am so glad I came across this story, I thought I was the only one crazy things like this happened to lol.
    to try out for the CFR, we had to carry the flags in the strathmore rodeo and I too had never carried a flag. The horse they gave me went lame after a couple practice runs at a lope so we were in a panic to find another horse for me to borrow. Eventually finding one from a rodeo princess, I didn't have time to practice. so heading in to the first grand entry performance on this fresh and inexperienced horse, we were lined up in 2 lines of 5 heading straight towards the stands at a gallop. When we reached the rail to split off in the turn, my horse hit a dead stop and broke out bucking! front. and. center. I lost both stirrups and my flag came out of the boot but I managed not to not drop it. I did however miss the whole pattern until I eventually got my horse to calm down enough to bring her to the middle for the anthem line up where she was spinning and hitting other horses but I kept a smile on my face haha. When we did our exit after that, it was one of those laugh or you will cry moments. So I was dying laughing. Alas, I do not think I will be riding at the CFR this year, but like you said, at least I got to give it a shot and have the experience once :). And the audience got a little preview of a rodeo before the events even started lol. I'll try again next year.

  5. I am trying out this year (for 2015 season) and I want you to know that I am in the same boat as you, I have only held a flag once in my life. I am super excited and am hoping that I have the same luck as you!
    thanks for letting me know that I am not the only one crazy enough to try out for this.