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.