Rodeo star Barb “Wicked” West shines in the spotlight as star of TV’s Rodeo Girls

While the new reality TV program Rodeo Girls shining the spotlight on rodeo veterans such as Barb West, it is an opportunity to recognize her as one of the best kept secrets in women’s sports. Once viewers get to know her, she may need to change her nickname from Wicked to Wondrous.


Definitely a strong woman who exemplifies dedication and perseverance, she is also a mother figure on the program. Having taken rookie Jessica Holmberg under her wing, West provides a caring and generous presence as she prepares to groom her for the rough and tumble world of rodeo barrel racing. Although rodeo may be a predominantly male dominated sport, women like West and co-star Marvel Murphy are helping to shatter barriers.

Raised in Langley, British Columbia, West began riding horses at the age of three. Of note, her mother grew up in Burnaby and relocated the family (which involved West’s two older sisters and her younger brother) to the country. With her blacksmith grandfather having taught her how to ride, it would establish a foundation towards a solid future.

An acreage off of 200th Street in Langley was where West fell in love with all things horses. As Langley had an annual rodeo that was one of the showcase events in the community, it did not take long for West to become enamored with its adrenaline rush and bright lights.

Having established herself as a fixture on the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, she is a card-holding barrel racer since 2001. The pinnacle of her career was attained in 2009 when West nabbed the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo Championship. From 2006-09, she was a Columbia River Circuit Finals qualifier (having won the event in 2005).

During that time span, she would also experience some other highlights. In 2006, victories at Fort Worth, Texas and Reno, Nevada displayed the great skill and horsemanship that would pave the way for future glories. One such glory was the Brn4d Final 1D Championship which she earned in 2007. Setting a new world record with a time of 16.735, she shared the win with her prized horse (also known as a riding partner) Scottie Too Hottie.

Sadly, an injury to the horse forced off the circuit after 2009. Taking a sabbatical from racing, it was an emotional time for West. During her illustrious career, she sustained some injuries also. Including a separated shoulder and a temporary paralysis which lasted 24 hours in 2003, she has a physical toughness that makes her a highly respected competitor.

Heading into 2014, West has helped to raise three new riding partners. With the support of cherished friend and handler Sadie Sullivan, the three go by the monikers Cashup to Me, Frenchmans Wild Guy and Shesha Roan Peppy.

Having also done stunt work, West comes across as a jill-of-all-trades. Actresses such as Drew Barrymore and Cheryl Ladd are a small sample of some of the starlets she has doubled for. Various stunt credits include Dead Man’s Gun (with episodes featuring TV legends Henry Winkler and the late John Ritter), Gunslingers Moon, Scary Movie 3 and the infamous Tom Green vehicle Freddie Got Fingered.

The experience of stunt work certainly made West comfortable in front of the camera during the action scenes (primarily the horse racing). Although she disclosed to the Vancouver Sun that the involvement of cameras after the races (filming reactions and after-race parties) involved a period of adjustment.

Elements of entertainment are blended into the program as well. While remarkable action shots and dramatic pauses add to the drama, this is still a television program and not a documentary. As such, the claws have come out a few times as West stood up for Sadie in an argument with Darcy LaPier (a co-executive producer on the program) in the second episode.

Ironically, that second episode would also find Sadie showing West some support. With the offer of competing in a bikini barrel race, Sadie stuns as she dons a black bikini as a show of solidarity. Proving she is a good sport, West joins the younger racers on the program in the bikini barrel races. Appearing stunning in a breathtaking blue bikini, West proves that beauty knows no age.

Currently based out of Washington State with her husband Brian, a competitive calf roper, the couple tends to a ranch full of horses and dogs that roam freely on the grounds. While raising horses and looking after them entails many responsibilities, it is a labor of love for West. Although the verdict is still out on the potential success of Rodeo Girls, one clear element that radiates is West’s love for horses. An inspiring and empowering figure, her good natured demeanor and acumen makes her a role model for women of all ages.

New reality series Rodeo Girls provides glimpse into rarely seen world

Providing a glimpse into the efforts of six strong women to shatter the glass ceiling in the male dominated world of rodeo, Rodeo Girls is the newest reality program on the A&E Network. While the ladies cover two generations, the essence of competition knows no age. Race footage and the reaction shots of the other women captures the adrenaline rush of barrel racing.

Not without its drama, the program blends elements from MTV’s The Real World and the Bravo franchise The Real Housewives. The aspect which blends itself into qualities from The Real World include that viewers feel an affinity towards certain characters while obtaining the feeling that they are right there as the action unfolds.

For viewers of The Real Housewives, the jealousy and tensions that emanate over wealth, privilege and beauty also rear its head on Rodeo Girls. After a rodeo event, the ladies are seen carousing in a local bar and the claws come out, as several ladies vent frustrations about LaPier behind her back. Of note, the ladies in question do apologize in the second episode, setting a positive example for the rookies.

Darcy LaPier

Darcy LaPier

Like any other program, various archetypes are featured. Rookie Jessica Holmberg, who broke the record at Trails End Arena in Olympia, Washington, is the blonde girl next door whose heart was broken. Fellow rookie Megan Etcheberry is the brunette, a perfect foil for Jessica. Having both endured personal tragedies in their lives, their perseverance cannot be questioned.

Rodeo veteran Barb West is the mother figure of the group, brining Jessica under her wing. She is joined by Sadie Sullivan, a no-nonsense wrangler who is a friend and support mechanism for West. Marvel Murphy is like an iron woman, willing to compete in spite of injury for the love of the competition. Darcy LaPier is portrayed (although sometimes unfairly) as the antagonist. While all of these women are older than the rookies, they possess a wisdom and maturity which forms a strong inner beauty to complement their outer beauty.

Clockwise from top left: Darcy LaPier, Marvel Murphy, Barb West, Morgan Etcheberry, Jessica Holmberg and Sadie Sullivan (Image obtained from:

Clockwise from top left: Darcy LaPier, Marvel Murphy, Barb West, Morgan Etcheberry, Jessica Holmberg and Sadie Sullivan (Image obtained from:

Early in the first episode, LaPier emerges from a private jet in a tight black dress, and proceeds to change into her cowgirl clothing in the backseat of a limousine. A later scene shows LaPier with the acquisition of an accomplished horse named Dash. It becomes evident very early in said episode that her wealth can serve to occasionally isolate her from the others.

As the prized horse is easily recognized by Marvel Murphy, a talented yet gutsy competitor with rodeo in her blood, the claws come out. She quickly states that a real cowgirl develops the horse rather than buying it. A comment from West also states that LaPier’s wealth gets old quickly.


By the culmination of the first episode, LaPier’s horse does not provide the desired results. All five ladies competed in Barrel Racing (in which the horse circles three barrels in a clover-leaf pattern, with a five-second penalty if the horse knocks one over), an event specifically for women to compete in at the rodeo.

LaPier would finish second among the five with a time of 18.39, while Marvel Murphy (with a broken ankle) logged an inspiring time of 18.15. Like Brett Favre playing football with a separated shoulder or Michael Jordan competing in basketball with the flu, Murphy is a tough as nails racer, embodying the spirit of empowerment.

Left to right: Holmberg, Murphy and LaPier in Las Vegas. Image obtained from:

Left to right: Holmberg, Murphy and LaPier in Las Vegas. Image obtained from:

Also one of the show’s executive producers, LaPier is an object of admiration yet jealousy. A swimsuit model in the 1990’s, she has been married to Hawaiian Tropic mogul Ron Rice, action film star Jean-Claude van Damme and Herbalife founder Mark Hughes. After the tragic death of Hughes, LaPier relocated to Oregon and purchased a ranch as part of the healing process.

With her beauty and considerable wealth, LaPier bears a strong resemblance to Sofia Vergara, making her a sex symbol on the program. Her projection on-screen places her in a villain role a la Joan Collins from the 1980’s blockbuster hit Dynasty. Of note, she is also a mother of three and her motherly empathy comes across. After she was “Marved” (receiving a phone call from Marvel in trouble), she displays genuine concern. With Murphy and the two rookies come unannounced to her door, she prepares them a meal. Despite past disputes, her effort to provide them with a meal shows remarkable forgiveness and maturity.

Barb West

Barb West

While Murphy is quick to declare that it is an all-male environment, the appearance of her younger cousin Ty certainly adds a male support role. Although Ty is critical of women not being focused enough to succeed, he is portrayed as the quintessential knuckle dragger. He is joined by the mandatory love interest, Anthony.

As life on the road relies heavily on the support of friends, the need for warmth and intimacy lingers. In the first episode, relationships statuses are discussed early on. he lassos his rope around LaPier and talks her into a date. The evening afterwards, he is seen flirting with Jessica.

Like all other programs in the Reality TV genre, there is also the obligatory showing of skin. Within the last five minutes of the second episode, the ladies enter a bikini barrel racing competition. While Murphy refuses to participate, the remaining women all choose to participate. Of note, Sadie Sullivan (one of West’s wranglers) even dons a bikini as a show of support. While Sullivan could be described as a ballsy woman, she comes across as very soft and likeable in her bikini.

While all of these women look striking in their swimsuit attire, it is somewhat sad that even in a sport like rodeo, there is a need to employ sex appeal. Sports such as football, floor hockey, basketball and even fishing have employed scantily-clad women in an effort to gain fans and potential viewers. Although it is unlikely that any of the macho men in rodeo would be daring enough to ride a bull in a Speedo, the courage needed to don a bikini and endure scrapes from falling exemplify how amazing these rodeo girls truly are.

So far, the program has met with mixed results. Pre-show complaints stated that the show is not an accurate portrayal while criticizing that some women are not real professional rodeo girls. To be fair, the rookies have yet to earn their professional status, while the program is also meant to provide entertainment. Infighting aside, there is a certain adrenaline rush that comes from watching these daring women race around the barrels.

For anyone to accuse the rest of these women to not be real professionals is at their own risk. Barb West is a 2009 Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo Champion while Murphy is a three-time Nevada State High School All-Around champion cowgirl. In addition, she earned a scholarship to Texas Tech University.

With Hollywood moguls Bob and Harvey Weinstein serving as executive producers, the show has a fighting chance to round up many potential viewers. Whether it has the opportunity to become a pop culture phenomenon in the same lines as other A&E reality offerings, such as Duck Dynasty and Storage Wars, is too early to tell, but its glance into such a unique world is one that is certainly worth watching.