Art of the Cowgirl 2021 in Bozeman, MT
Last weekend, I finally checked a trip off my horse girl bucket list when I traveled to Art of the Cowgirl in Bozeman, Montana at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds. I signed up to attend the 2020 event at the end of 2019, but it was canceled as an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. You could say the anticipation was real.
This was my first experience in Montana and to call it breathtaking would be an understatement. The drive was a mix of rolling prairies, towering mountains, and rocky cliffs. The beautiful Snake River earned its name slithering through the landscape beneath an endless sky full of fluffy clouds.
The Art of the Cowgirl is coined as “a gathering to celebrate cowgirls and their contributions to western lifestyle and culture.” Their efforts throughout the year and at the event “raise funds to support up and coming artists to expand their knowledge and skills via fellowships with master artists in their field.” The moment I discovered its existence, I was bought in.
I grew up in a family with zero connections to the western lifestyle, but I knew I wanted in. Since then, my life’s pursuit has become immersing myself in the culture and learning everything I can about this amazing lifestyle.
At Art of the Cowgirl, I got to sit in on skilled clinicians teaching on subjects ranging from liberty training and cow work to cutting and colt starting. I watched as students learned how to craft silver and turquoise earrings, bosal braiding techniques, and painting leather by hand from master artists. I witnessed the best in the business compete in the bridle horse challenge, trail classes, breakaway roping, and the ranch rodeo. All with my camera in hand, documenting the days. It was a dream.
One of my favorite things about this industry is its non-competitive competitive nature. Every woman competing or attending was there to be better. But they weren’t there to be better than the other women around them. They were there to be better than they were last time they swung their leg over their horse. I witnessed women cheering other women on, genuinely sighing when their competition missed a calf, dusting each other off, and holding each other’s horses.
This is why I love the western lifestyle. We show up to compete. We show up to cheer each other on. We show up to win. Sometimes we show up to lose. But through it all, we show up.
I am so grateful to have attended the Art of the Cowgirl this year. The trip reinvigorated my appreciation of this life we have chosen. It introduced me to some truly spectacular women with the most admirable horsemanship, art, and stories. It energized me to learn new things with my horses and push the bounds of my creativity. Aaaand it might have convinced me to move to Montana (sorry, Texas!).