The best rodeo books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about rodeos and why they recommend each book.

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Cowgirls of the Rodeo

By Mary LeCompte,

Book cover of Cowgirls of the Rodeo: Pioneer Professional Athletes

This book is a must-read for any fan of cowgirls, rodeo, or female athletes. LeCompte’s history of cowgirls whom she identifies as “America’s first successful professional women athletes” is one of excitiment equivalanet to live competition. Through the description of early rodeo when women competed with men, performed for presidents and royalty as well as for crowds in the thousands we learn of their athletic talent, their personal sacrifice, and determination to pursue their own careers. They became stars and sometimes won annual earnings that surpassed the men. This thoroughly researched history describes women in rodeo from the mid-1800s to 1992 when Charmayne James Rodman and Scamper set a new world record for earnings in a single event. This book is as exciting as any professional sport.


Who am I?

I grew up around ranch and rodeo life, having always been fascinated by it, attended several rodeos each year. Watching Jonnie Jonckowski ride bulls and Martha Josey break records wining barrel races—they were an inspiration. When an opportunity arose for me to build a career around researching and writing about cowgirls, rodeo, and cattlewomen, it was a dream come true.  Hope you enjoy the books about them that I’ve recommended.


I wrote...

Oklahoma Rodeo Women

By Tracey Hanshew,

Book cover of Oklahoma Rodeo Women

What is my book about?

Oklahoma’s central location and ranching tradition gave it a unique connection to the rodeo industry as it grew from a local pastime to an internationally popular sport. From the very beginning, Oklahoma cowgirls played a significant role in developing the institution and the businesses that grew up in its shadow.

Lucille Mulhall’s pioneering roping carved out a place for women in the actual competition, while Mildred Chrisman’s promotional efforts kept rodeo chutes open during the Great Depression. Modern ranchers like Terry Stuart produced the Quarter Horses sought by professional rodeo athletes around the world. From Guymon to Pawhuska and from stock contractors to rodeo clowns, Oklahoma Rodeo Women follows the trail these women blazed across this rough-and-tumble sport.

Rodeo Road

By Vera McGinnis,

Book cover of Rodeo Road: My Life As a Pioneer Cowgirl

This book is fun! A rare autobiography of one of early rodeo’s star athletes, Vera McGinnis tells her story as a non-ranching woman who began a career in rodeo riding broncs and relay racing. This book reads like an action film with an early twentieth-century style of prose. We get bronc rides, relay wrecks, barns even stowaway rides on trains as Vera breaks into rodeo life. Through her firsthand account, readers are introduced to the rodeo “family.” Vera tells of the physical setbacks that rodeo contestants faced, the personal sacrifices cowgirls made to keep rodeoing, and perhaps most enlightening is the almost addictive lure of rodeo that resulted in cowgirls prioritizing it in their life.  


Who am I?

I grew up around ranch and rodeo life, having always been fascinated by it, attended several rodeos each year. Watching Jonnie Jonckowski ride bulls and Martha Josey break records wining barrel races—they were an inspiration. When an opportunity arose for me to build a career around researching and writing about cowgirls, rodeo, and cattlewomen, it was a dream come true.  Hope you enjoy the books about them that I’ve recommended.


I wrote...

Oklahoma Rodeo Women

By Tracey Hanshew,

Book cover of Oklahoma Rodeo Women

What is my book about?

Oklahoma’s central location and ranching tradition gave it a unique connection to the rodeo industry as it grew from a local pastime to an internationally popular sport. From the very beginning, Oklahoma cowgirls played a significant role in developing the institution and the businesses that grew up in its shadow.

Lucille Mulhall’s pioneering roping carved out a place for women in the actual competition, while Mildred Chrisman’s promotional efforts kept rodeo chutes open during the Great Depression. Modern ranchers like Terry Stuart produced the Quarter Horses sought by professional rodeo athletes around the world. From Guymon to Pawhuska and from stock contractors to rodeo clowns, Oklahoma Rodeo Women follows the trail these women blazed across this rough-and-tumble sport.

The Wildest Ride

By Marcella Bell,

Book cover of The Wildest Ride

I really enjoyed this tale of two people who’ve faced discrimination in rodeo their entire lives for being Black, Native, and, in Lil’s case, a woman. What I love is that it’s not primarily a story about racism. It’s a beautiful romance first, an exciting rodeo competition second, and while racism is there, of course, they succeed despite it. It’s such an uplifting read about strength, hard work, love, and passion.

Who am I?

I am an award-winning author of sex-positive contemporary romance and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. As a reader, I’ve grown weary of Native American romance characters who are mostly caricatures and stereotypes. Last year, I went on a quest to find romance stories that portrayed contemporary Native characters experiencing love as they navigated real life in the 21st century. And who better to tell those stories than Native authors using their own voice? Now that I’ve found several great Native romance authors, I want to share these recommendations far and wide. Come, come, read Native romance!


I wrote...

The Road Home

By Christina Berry,

Book cover of The Road Home

What is my book about?

Sex and rock & roll are Jake Sixkiller’s top priorities. As frontman of Austin’s hottest band and with a long line of lovers knocking on his bedroom door, he has it all. Until a car accident shakes his world to its core. With his best friend in the hospital, he’s flooded with memories of the night he lost his family at the hands of a drunk driver.

Amid the turmoil, he finds solace with Nicole, aka Arson Nic, a roller derby dynamo who throws Jake into a tailspin. When he’s offered a once-in-a-lifetime tour opportunity that brings him back to the Cherokee reservation where he grew up, Jake must decide what matters most, a future still unwritten or a past he buried long ago.

Tad Lucas

By Laura Edge, Stephanie Ford (illustrator),

Book cover of Tad Lucas: Trick-Riding Rodeo Cowgirl

Tad Lucas was an amazing cowgirl! Born in Texas, she amazed crowds at rodeos all over the world for more than 40 years. She was known for trick riding, bronco riding, and steer riding. She is the only woman honored in the National Rodeo Hall of Fame. Her daring horse riding was astonishing in the rodeo world of men and cowboys.


Who am I?

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and have always been fascinated by the Wild West. Native Americans, cowboys, rodeos, settlers, farmers, and the great National Parks of the West. I’ve been fortunate to see Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Glacier National Park, and many western national monuments. My first elementary school was Sequoyah, named for the great Cherokee who created the Cherokee alphabet. While researching early library methods of transportation, I came across books being delivered by stagecoach in the west. That eventually led me to discover the amazing life of Jackson Sundown. I hope these books on cowboys, buckaroos, and rodeos enchant you and your little ones like they have me.


I wrote...

Jackson Sundown: Native American Bronco Buster

By Doris Fisher, Sarah Cotton (illustrator),

Book cover of Jackson Sundown: Native American Bronco Buster

What is my book about?

Jackson Sundown was the best rodeo performer in Idaho and Oregon. He was a member of the Nez Perce tribe who fled from the U.S. Cavalry in 1877. Due to his Native American heritage, he was denied first place. With determination and persistence, his amazing rodeo tricks and bareback rides eventually caused the crowds to insist he be recognized. He won the 1916 Pendleton Round-Up World Champion for bronco riding! He is the only Native American in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Armadillo Rodeo

By Jan Brett, Jan Brett (illustrator),

Book cover of Armadillo Rodeo

Just looking at the colorful illustrations in this book make me want to look at it again and again. When Bo, the armadillo, mistakes a red cowboy boot for an armadillo friend, chaos happens.
With his poor eyesight, Bo follows that ‘red armadillo’ to the Curly H ranch for some rodeo time shenanigans. He gets bucked off a horse, eats a fiery jalapeno pepper, is kicked up on the dance floor. After he discovers his red friend is not an armadillo, he heads back with his ma, knowing he can find more fun at the Curly H, whenever he gets bored!


Who am I?

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and have always been fascinated by the Wild West. Native Americans, cowboys, rodeos, settlers, farmers, and the great National Parks of the West. I’ve been fortunate to see Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Glacier National Park, and many western national monuments. My first elementary school was Sequoyah, named for the great Cherokee who created the Cherokee alphabet. While researching early library methods of transportation, I came across books being delivered by stagecoach in the west. That eventually led me to discover the amazing life of Jackson Sundown. I hope these books on cowboys, buckaroos, and rodeos enchant you and your little ones like they have me.


I wrote...

Jackson Sundown: Native American Bronco Buster

By Doris Fisher, Sarah Cotton (illustrator),

Book cover of Jackson Sundown: Native American Bronco Buster

What is my book about?

Jackson Sundown was the best rodeo performer in Idaho and Oregon. He was a member of the Nez Perce tribe who fled from the U.S. Cavalry in 1877. Due to his Native American heritage, he was denied first place. With determination and persistence, his amazing rodeo tricks and bareback rides eventually caused the crowds to insist he be recognized. He won the 1916 Pendleton Round-Up World Champion for bronco riding! He is the only Native American in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Red Rock Ranch

By Brittney Joy,

Book cover of Red Rock Ranch: Lucy's Chance

I really enjoyed this young adult novel and felt I traveled back in time to my younger self while reading it. The author’s characters, particularly Lucy, speak to readers' emotions, and Brittney Joy winds them into a good plot and a compelling story. I almost read this in one sitting and ordered the next in the series shortly thereafter. I’ve now read all three, and each is unique, while readers get to meet up with some of the same characters and watch them grow. A great read for horse lovers and those who appreciate “sweet romance,” no matter the age.


Who am I?

I’ve been in love with horses since I was a toddler and have read more horse books than I can count. My favorite books are about horses and their humans – the bond that holds us together. No other animal reads a human’s soul like the horse does, and it’s one of the reasons for their success in equine-assisted activities and therapy programs. I’ve written horse stories since childhood and am proud of my three award-winning books in the Believing In Horses series featuring horse rescue, equine assisted activities, show competition, and dude ranches. I hope to create and inspire more horse and human connections through my stories.


I wrote...

Believing In Horses Out West

By Valerie Ormond,

Book cover of Believing In Horses Out West

What is my book about?

Sadie Navarro rescued a mare from an auction accomplishing what she thought was the most important mission of her young life. Now, that mare is headed to a ranch in Montana and a home Sadie knows nothing about. She wants to make sure the horse is in good hands, but Montana is far away and a different world from Maryland. Will fourteen-year-old Sadie need to stand up to rugged cowboys to protect her special rescue horse?

Phoebe Clappsaddle and the Tumbleweed Gang

By Melanie Chrismer, Virginia Roeder (illustrator),

Book cover of Phoebe Clappsaddle and the Tumbleweed Gang

Phoebe Clapsaddle was a southern belle who lived on a ranch. This fiction book involves the Tumbleweed Gang who made an acquaintance with Phoebe after they visited her town. Appalled by their lack of manners and impolite speech, Phoebe decides they need her southern charm and culture. Phoebe teaches them lessons in riding, roping, and good manners. There are more Tumbleweed Gang adventures in other books, too. I know the author personally. Phoebe Clapsaddle’s name is in her family tree. Though she didn’t know if Phoebe was a southern belle cowgirl, the author loved her name so much, she wanted to write a book about her as a main character.


Who am I?

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and have always been fascinated by the Wild West. Native Americans, cowboys, rodeos, settlers, farmers, and the great National Parks of the West. I’ve been fortunate to see Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Glacier National Park, and many western national monuments. My first elementary school was Sequoyah, named for the great Cherokee who created the Cherokee alphabet. While researching early library methods of transportation, I came across books being delivered by stagecoach in the west. That eventually led me to discover the amazing life of Jackson Sundown. I hope these books on cowboys, buckaroos, and rodeos enchant you and your little ones like they have me.


I wrote...

Jackson Sundown: Native American Bronco Buster

By Doris Fisher, Sarah Cotton (illustrator),

Book cover of Jackson Sundown: Native American Bronco Buster

What is my book about?

Jackson Sundown was the best rodeo performer in Idaho and Oregon. He was a member of the Nez Perce tribe who fled from the U.S. Cavalry in 1877. Due to his Native American heritage, he was denied first place. With determination and persistence, his amazing rodeo tricks and bareback rides eventually caused the crowds to insist he be recognized. He won the 1916 Pendleton Round-Up World Champion for bronco riding! He is the only Native American in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Cowboy Camp

By Tammi Sauer, Mike Reed (illustrator),

Book cover of Cowboy Camp

Who doesn’t want to be a cowboy or cowgirl when they grow up? Avery certainly does. Cowboy Dan will help his campers become true rootin’ tootin’ cowboys. Although Avery tries to dress like a cowboy like the other campers, things aren’t quite right for him. He is allergic to grits and beans, he sneezes around horses, and develops rope burn when is tries his hand at twirling a lasso. But his problems come in real handy when Black Bart appears one night.


Who am I?

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and have always been fascinated by the Wild West. Native Americans, cowboys, rodeos, settlers, farmers, and the great National Parks of the West. I’ve been fortunate to see Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Glacier National Park, and many western national monuments. My first elementary school was Sequoyah, named for the great Cherokee who created the Cherokee alphabet. While researching early library methods of transportation, I came across books being delivered by stagecoach in the west. That eventually led me to discover the amazing life of Jackson Sundown. I hope these books on cowboys, buckaroos, and rodeos enchant you and your little ones like they have me.


I wrote...

Jackson Sundown: Native American Bronco Buster

By Doris Fisher, Sarah Cotton (illustrator),

Book cover of Jackson Sundown: Native American Bronco Buster

What is my book about?

Jackson Sundown was the best rodeo performer in Idaho and Oregon. He was a member of the Nez Perce tribe who fled from the U.S. Cavalry in 1877. Due to his Native American heritage, he was denied first place. With determination and persistence, his amazing rodeo tricks and bareback rides eventually caused the crowds to insist he be recognized. He won the 1916 Pendleton Round-Up World Champion for bronco riding! He is the only Native American in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

When the Legends Die

By Hal Borland,

Book cover of When the Legends Die

When Ute Native American, Thomas Black Bull, is orphaned, he’s forced into a white boarding school aiming to “civilize” him by erasing every trace of his heritage, language, customs and culture. The novel is a graphic picture of what happened historically to so many Native American youths, something recently revealed with previously unknown details—a horrifying scenario. My feelings of sympathy, empathy ,and fear for young Tom grew with each page. I felt hopeless, alienated ,and angry right along with him in his struggle to break free and return to his own beliefs. The novel evoked my fury at the attempt to erase a beautiful culture because it is “different.” I love how relevant this book is, though it was written decades ago. It is a perfect way to blend the past with the present for young students.


Who am I?

I have a passion for the theme of building self-esteem and finding self-identity at middle and high school age because I taught secondary English for 30 years. So many of my students struggled with this issue; reading novels about kids with similar situations offers a way for readers to help themselves work out their own problems. I deliberately chose both recent and classic novels with a wide variety of protagonists, settings and plots, each with a unique author voice to show how universal the need to build self-esteem can be. My own novel, Eaglebait, is another strong novel with a similar theme.


I wrote...

Eaglebait: Can a smart kid survive school bullies?

By Susan Coryell,

Book cover of Eaglebait: Can a smart kid survive school bullies?

What is my book about?

Wardy Spinks has been a loser for as long as he can remember. Freshman year in high school Wardy becomes the victim of malicious bullying. Eventually, his life begins to change. First, a charismatic science teacher becomes his mentor. Then, quiet Meg seems friendly. And Big Vi takes on a life of her own. Wardy discovers his attitude makes a difference in how others treat him. If Wardy doesn’t feel like a loser, maybe he won’t be one.

The Cowgirls

By Joyce Gibson Roach,

Book cover of The Cowgirls

Cowgirls evoke a variety of images: Wild West show shootist, rodeo athletes, working ranch women, and pin-ups. Many stories, dime novels, and a plethora of fiction about the cowgirl confuse her true history and are in many ways responsible for why we have so many interpretations of her. In The Cowgirls, Joyce Gibson Roach unravels the folklore to give us the history of the cowgirl, the good, and the “lady rustlers,” to explain her longevity as heroic cattlewomen who hold our attention and fascination even today. Roach’s narrative is as entertaining as it is informative and is a history any fan of the cowgirl should read.


Who am I?

I grew up around ranch and rodeo life, having always been fascinated by it, attended several rodeos each year. Watching Jonnie Jonckowski ride bulls and Martha Josey break records wining barrel races—they were an inspiration. When an opportunity arose for me to build a career around researching and writing about cowgirls, rodeo, and cattlewomen, it was a dream come true.  Hope you enjoy the books about them that I’ve recommended.


I wrote...

Oklahoma Rodeo Women

By Tracey Hanshew,

Book cover of Oklahoma Rodeo Women

What is my book about?

Oklahoma’s central location and ranching tradition gave it a unique connection to the rodeo industry as it grew from a local pastime to an internationally popular sport. From the very beginning, Oklahoma cowgirls played a significant role in developing the institution and the businesses that grew up in its shadow.

Lucille Mulhall’s pioneering roping carved out a place for women in the actual competition, while Mildred Chrisman’s promotional efforts kept rodeo chutes open during the Great Depression. Modern ranchers like Terry Stuart produced the Quarter Horses sought by professional rodeo athletes around the world. From Guymon to Pawhuska and from stock contractors to rodeo clowns, Oklahoma Rodeo Women follows the trail these women blazed across this rough-and-tumble sport.

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