Art of the Cowgirl Raises the Bar in Creativity and Competition

The fifth annual Art of the Cowgirl main event held January 18-22 at Horseshoe Park & Equestrian Centre in Queen Creek, Arizona, brought together spectators from all over the world and the best female artisans and horsewomen to demonstrate and celebrate their diverse contributions to the western industry.

The five-day event kicked off with horsemanship clinics and educational workshops taught by masters in their fields, as well as the preliminary rounds of competition for the Kimes Ranch World’s Greatest Horsewoman competition, presented by Western Horseman, and the All Women’s Ranch Rodeo, presented by Cowgirl Magazine.

On Friday, some of the handiest horsewomen competed in two rounds of the Open Breakaway Roping, presented by Merck Animal Health, the inaugural ranch roping and working cowdog rodear trials. That evening, spectators flocked into the Merck Arena to watch the fast-paced breakaway roping and ranch rodeo finals.

Emilee Charlesworth of Marathon, Texas, took home the breakaway championships, while the Vaqueras Locas team, comprised of Codie Brown, Becca Gagan, Whitney Hall and Kelsey Love Thomas, celebrated their victory in the ranch rodeo.

Besides fierce competition, there were opportunities to shop women-made gear and accessories in the trade show, watch demonstrations with expert artists, craftspeople and horsewomen, participate in discussions, listen to live music and watch the cowboy documentary “Bitterbrush.”

Cowgirl Artists of America and Art of the Cowgirl co-produced a two-day Quick Draw competition sponsored by Art of the West magazine that featured eight respected western women artists. Jan Mapes received the champion buckle for her painting of a Paint draft horse, while Donna Toavs took home honorable mention. Alexa “Lexi” Bagnell’s painting received the People’s Choice Award. The artists’ finished paintings were auctioned to raise money for the Art of the Cowgirl Fellowship program.

On Saturday night, twenty-eight well-bred and -trained horses and eight working cowdogs went on the auction block at the Elite Horse & Cowdog Sale, presented by Western Horseman. Lot #3, Paradox Playdablux (Once In A Blue Boon x Paradox Play May x Freckles Playboy) was the high-selling Elite horse. The 2015 Quarter Horse gelding, consigned by Ripley Bellio of the 2 Ranch LLC, sold for $47,000 to John Reed of San Tan Valley, Arizona. The high selling Select Prospect was Lot #25, Boons Open Bar 33 (Cgos Pepto Quixote x Jae Bar Pixie 073 x Naturally A Fletch). The 2020 Quarter Horse gelding, consigned by Judy Beard of XO Horses & Cattle Co. in Ellensburg, Washington, sold for $30,000 to Carol Jones of Stillwater, Oklahoma.

The event culminated in the prestigious Kimes Ranch World’s Greatest Horsewoman finals, presented by Western Horseman. The field of finalists competed in four events—reined work, steer stopping, herd work and cow work—to determine the winner. Kelsey Love Thomas claimed her second World’s Greatest Horsewoman championship aboard her versatile mare Kit Kat Jerrie (“Elvira”). The duo won the inaugural title in 2019. In addition to winning cash and prizes, she also gained an entry in the World’s Greatest Horseman competition, held in February during the National Reined Cow Horse Celebrations of Champions in Fort Worth, Texas. Morgan Holmes of Stephenville, Texas, earned reserve on her home-raised horse Monster Truk.

Montana horsewoman Tammy Pate founded Art of the Cowgirl in 2019 with the mission of creating a fellowship program that invests in women interested in pursuing businesses in traditional western trades. Fellowship recipients are paired with masters in traditional trades, such as saddle making, boot making, horse training and fine art for a once-in-a-lifetime, hands-on educational opportunity. Applications are available on, and the submission deadline is March 1.

“My mission for Art of the Cowgirl has always been to establish a quality event that honors and showcases art, horsemanship and our ranching culture,” explains Pate. “I’m humbled and so proud of the event that we have created, and this year it exceeded all my expectations.

“The competitions and trade show sometimes overshadow our core mission, the fellowship program,” she continues. “This year, I felt people really understood that we bring this community together to support artists, makers and trainer. We have exciting ideas for next year, including more youth participation and the debut of the World’s Greatest Cowgirl competition. Our event will showcase all the talents that ranching women possess.”

Photos by Lauren Summers & Anne Albert