Are cowboys a dying breed? I got the chance to catch up with Female Cowboys Katey Jo Gordon, Hannah Castellitto and Jennifer Hudgins and ask them. These ladies are contestants on INSP’s Ultimate Cowboy Showdown season 2. This season is going to be a wild ride!
“Country music icon, Trace Adkins, returns to host the highly anticipated second season of INSP’s first competition series. This season, fourteen strong-willed cowboys head to a sweltering Texas ranch to prove they can out-cowboy the competition. The contestants lock horns in a number of grueling challenges, with Trace and a panel of experts judging their skills, knowledge, grit, and passion. Competing to win it all is a group of men and women from all across the nation with diverse backgrounds, including a world-renowned horse trainer, an eight-time US team roping champion, and a professional bull rider, to name a few. Full of explosive drama, and lots of ego, the pressure is on for the cowboys to prove they have what it takes. One-by-one, the contestant that can’t stack up to the challenge hits the trail and heads home until only one stands, winning the prize of a lifetime” per INSP.
How did you become a female cowboy? Is this something you grew up with or is this something you got into?
K- I am a fifth-generation rancher, so I grew up in the lifestyle. It is all I have ever known, and I still ranch with my dad and now with my husband.
H- I grew up in the cowboy lifestyle. My mom ran barrels, and my dad was a pickup rider in rodeos and had rough stock.
J- I come from a long line of cowboys and ranchers; my whole family is rooted in ranching. I grew up on the back of a horse, and I could ride before I could walk. I don’t remember a time I didn’t want to be a cowboy.
What does being a female cowboy mean to you?
K- You really have to earn respect as a woman in this industry. A lot of people assume that as a woman I am too weak. Even though times have changed, there are still people that believe a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Being a cowboy means upholding the cowboy code and caring for the land and animals in your care above yourself. Female cowboys are more apt to uphold those traditions because we can be more tender-hearted to those values.
H- Being a female in the cowboy world means a lot to me. I want to be respected by my peers and hold my own as a female cowboy.
J- It means the world to me to be a female cowboy and be respected in a male-dominated industry.
What is it like being a female cowboy? Is it any different than a male cowboy?
K- There is definitely a difference between male and female cowboys. As a female, you can be looked down upon or pushed out of the way. A lot of people will not hire female cowboys or are hesitant to, so you have to persevere and show you can do the same things they can do. Female cowboys have to earn their stripes.
H- Being a female in this industry is different; you are doing a job that mostly men do. I hope that I can inspire young girls in the horse/livestock industry to go for it and leave a legacy for the generations to come.
J- There are definitely some differences. There is a lot of manual labor involved as a cowboy. Women aren’t always as physically strong as men, but that doesn’t mean women can’t get the job done. I learned from a young age to work smarter not harder. If I think things through before starting something, I can often get the same job done in less time. However, there have been times that I felt like I had to be better than the men I was working with to gain their respect, but it made me feel even better when I earned the respect of the old-school cowboys I looked up to.
What is one lesson you have learned from being a cowboy that has stuck with you throughout the years?
K- Hard work and perseverance. No matter how small the job, it is important to never let your work ethic fail.
H- One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that a horse can teach you more than most people can, without saying a word. Right when you think you know something; you realize how much you still have to learn. Just because you’re a cowboy doesn’t mean you’re a horseman. Anyone can ride a horse, but a true cowboy is a great horseman.
J- My dad taught me early on to have a strong work ethic. If you develop a strong work ethic and put the needs of your livestock first, it will get you a long way in anything you decide to do.
What brought you to Ultimate Cowboy Showdown?
K- I went to college with one of the wranglers from the show. He called me and told me that they were looking for contestants, and he asked if I wanted to be a part of it. I was put in touch with casting, and the rest is history! I didn’t think I was anything special, but they were interested.
H- I watched season 1 of the show, and I saw they were accepting applications for season 2. My little brother laughed and said, “I bet you won’t do that,” so I applied. Shortly after, I got a call and thought it was a scam. I noticed I had a voicemail; I listened to it, and it was Ultimate Cowboy Showdown. Needless to say, I won that bet.
J- My friend, Ethan was on the first season of Ultimate Cowboy Showdown, and he recommended me to the producers.
Did you learn anything from the other contestants since you all come from different areas?
K- A lot of us did things differently. It was interesting to learn from some of the contestants like Cole, who had never branded calves before, and we brand calves all the time in my area. He does a completely different process, so it was interesting to see all the different ways to brand cows.
H- There is a big difference between an East Coast cowboy and a West Coast cowboy. The West Coast cowboys are more of the buckaroo type, heavily influenced by the Spanish. East Coast cowboys are more influenced by the Texas cow punchers. Both styles are different and unique.
J- It was really neat to see how cowboys from different areas had different methods of getting the same job done. Morgan was one of the contestants I had a lot of respect for, and I was really fascinated by the different ways we all did the same job.
There are four of you (female cowboys) in this competition, what advantages do you think you had as a female over your male competitors? [Contestant Morgan Flinter was unavailable for comments]
K- We had to work smarter not harder and figure out a way to hold our own. The physical aspect of it is different. I tried to strategize and work with what I knew best and use those things to make up for my personal slack. Overall, we had to be more calculated and use our heads more.
H- In the true cowboy arena, being male or female doesn’t carry weight. It comes down to how well you can handle horse and cattle.
J- In general, I believe females can think things through more than men, and that can be a big advantage at times. Having the ability to think through the challenges can help prevent a collision before it happens.
Which events/challenges were you excited for?
K- I was excited for any of the challenges that involved roping. Anytime I was able to use my horse and rope something other than bulls, I was more than ready to do it!
H- The wrangling horses’ event was by far my favorite. I make a living on the back of a horse, and I have experience wrangling horses in Montana. We ran a few hundred head of horses on thousands of acres there, so bringing colts in and breaking was my cup of tea.
J- I really enjoyed the challenges that were geared more towards the everyday ranch cowboy, as opposed to the arena.
Which events/challenges were you dreading?
K- I was not looking forward to catching the bucking bulls. The bulls outweighed my horse, and it’s hard to do when you are also working with other ranchers that have different strategies.
H- Coming out of the box was not my strongest suit. I hadn’t roped out of a box in several years, since I had shifted my focus to my running horses and that aspect of rodeoing. It isn’t something I typically do on the ranch.
J- There weren’t any events I dreaded, but I was a little more nervous about the events that were geared towards the arena cowboy. I knew there were other contestants there that were really strong in the arena events.
What was your overall experience with this competition like?
K- It was awesome! I’m usually private, so it put me out of my comfort zone. I am grateful it pushed me beyond what I thought my limits were. I am also grateful for the new opportunities and contacts. I could not have asked for a better experience.
H- I learned a lot about myself. I learned that you don’t have to say much, and then when you do speak, it carries more weight. I also learned to walk in honor and integrity.
J- It was an overall great experience, and I am glad I went for it. I don’t think I realized how mentally difficult it would be, but I feel stronger having been through the experience.
What was your favorite part of the competition?
K- I enjoyed being able to do what I love every day. I’m also thankful for the opportunity to meet new people and learn from each of them. We would not have had the opportunity to connect if it wasn’t for the show.
H- My favorite part was wrangling horses. People can push cows, but colts are totally different. That’s where you separate the cow men from the horsemen.
J- My favorite part of the competition has been all the friendships I have made. I met a lot of great people through the experience, and I will always value those connections.
One theme that I’ve seen amongst the cowboy genre is the notion that cowboys are a dying breed. Do you agree with this?
K- In a sense I do, because the industry is so hard to get into if you do not come from it. It is hard to start out on your own, and even the rodeo world can be very expensive to get into. I try to encourage anyone who wants to pursue it to go for it, because it is the best industry you can be in. The world needs more cowboys. The traditions, values and camaraderie are unbeatable.
H- Yes and no. There are cowboys, and probably always will be. However, the old ways have changed a lot.
J- In a lot of ways, the cowboy is a dying breed. You just don’t see a lot of the true old school cowboys like my dad anymore. The old school cowboys were tough men and weren’t afraid to put someone in their place if they weren’t doing things the right way, and you don’t see a lot of that anymore. I grew up having to earn the respect of those cowboys, and it seems like some of the younger cowboys just expect it from the beginning, whether they can do the job or not.
If someone wanted to become a cowboy, what advice would you give them?
K- My advice would be to find the cowboys who have been living the lifestyle for a long time and listen to everything they have to say without talking back, just listen. The older generation cowboys are over the top valuable, and you cannot learn enough from them. It won’t be easy but take a leap of faith and do it.
H- Don’t do it for the money; do it because it’s your passion. Work hard at it, and the money will come.
J- If you really want to be a cowboy the best advice I can give is to start out with a strong work ethic. If you have a strong work ethic you can find a ranch job somewhere and learn from the cowboys doing it every day.
Ultimate Cowboy Showdown season 2 airs on INSP Wednesday February 24th at 9ET.