Written by Barbara Newtown
Original Publish Date February 2013
Patsy Trahan, the first ever All-Around Cowgirl for the Louisiana High School Rodeo Association, learned to ride and cut cattle in the early 1940s on her grandfather’s ranch in Hackberry, Louisiana. Her father competed in roping, and she followed right along. By age 7 she was riding in open rodeos and was one of the few kids competing in straight away barrels.
Her grandfather also trained her to jump. From ages 7 to 10, Patsy earned money as a specialty act, entertaining the crowds at pro rodeos. She would jump her gray horse over a pole propped on top of 55-gallon drums—with no ground line AND in a Western saddle! “These days,” says Brenda Shope, her daughter, “you don’t often see exhibition jumping like my mom did—you’re more likely to see riding monkeys and rodeo clowns.”
Patsy competed in the very first Louisiana High School Rodeo. Her events were barrels (the cloverleaf pattern had just been introduced) and cutting, the only options for girls. She was loaned a cow horse from a relative, and she rode him in both events. She placed 1st in cutting and 4th in barrels, and earned the very first LHSRA All-Around Cowgirl award. The All-Around Cowboy received a saddle, but Patsy only got a watch. However, in 1954, her senior year, she won 1st in barrels, 3rd in cutting, and 1st in the flag race. This time the cowgirl got a saddle, which she still has and proudly displays.
Brenda began riding with the Lake Charles Riders Club when she was 5 years old. She also rode in club rodeos in Iowa, LA. The kid rodeos were called Little Britches back then, but were not yet sanctioned.
Brenda’s show record is stellar: she won a saddle three weekends in a row when she was only 10. She qualified for the Nationals all four years of high school. In 1974, her senior year, she too won the Louisiana High School Rodeo Association’s All-Around Cowgirl. Her events were barrels, poles, break away roping, goat tying, and cutting, and she placed in all of them except break away.
Brenda married a large-animal veterinarian, Dr. Ted Shope. She helped him on his calls and with his office books until daughters Klancy (now 21) and Darby (now 19) came along. Klancy and Darby started riding at ages 2 and 4 in the DeRidder Riding Club, and each won her first saddle at age 7. When the girls moved up from club rodeos to Little Britches events, they continued their winning ways. Klancy won Louisiana State All-Around Cowgirl in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Darby won the same award in 2011, and in 2012 was the National Little Britches Senior Girl All Around Cowgirl. She won two saddles because she was not only the world champion, but the finals champion as well. The “world” title counts points from all the Little Britches shows, but the “finals” title means that you can maintain your top form for the last and most important competition. Mom Brenda says, “Yes, she had a very good show for her last year!”
How did Klancy and Darby manage these show careers?
First of all, they were completely home-schooled by their mother, who is also their rodeo coach. Riding is another part of daily studying.
Second, their father is a passionate rodeo dad. He volunteers as horse show veterinarian, and trades with fellow large animal vets in his clinic for time off. Brenda says, “When the girls were ready to begin the marathon of finals competitions each year, their dad was able to go with them on those 25-day runs!”
Third, they aren’t afraid to haul. “In my mother’s day, they competed on working ranch horses. Now we have specifically trained animals for each event.” Bottom line: two daughters, many events, and backup horses for cutting, pole bending, and barrels equals a White Freightliner pulling a 7-horse trailer with living quarters, plus a one-ton pulling a 4-horse on occasion for the cutting events.
Fourth, they have a supply of horses. Their father and the Bayou South Animal Hospital are well known, and people often offer him horses that need a good home, need some care.
Fifth, they maintain the cowgirl tradition: they live on a 1500-acre ranch with 350 cow-calf pairs. Roping, cutting, and trail rides are part of daily life.
Sixth, they are passionate about training. When Klancy and Darby were showing in high school, they regularly kept 15 horses in shape. Different events require different sorts of conditioning. “Short-twitch” muscles have to be tip-top for goat tying and breakaway roping. Stamina is necessary for cutting; you have to spend a lot of time trotting and loping to build up wind. And in barrels and poles, horses have to have a combination of stamina and a fast start. “We look at our horses as individuals,” says Brenda. Klancy and Darby’s favorite horses are both pole benders. Klancy’s horse, called “Cat” for “Coushatta,” is a small, bay, unregistered mare. Darby’s is a sorrel registered Quarter Horse named “Two Eye Trey Bar.” Darby and Klancy always rode their own horses in competitions, and the girls have very different riding styles. Darby is left-handed, and started out roping on that side, but she actually improved when she switched to throwing right-handed. “Her horse definitely preferred her to rope right-handed,” says Brenda.
Seventh, the girls are smart and motivated. They both maintain 3.98 averages at McNeese State University in Lake Charles. Klancy is studying Marketing and Business and is considering going for a Masters, and Darby is in her second year of Pre-Veterinary, with a concentration in Equine Science.
Eighth, the girls are tough! Klancy’s favorite story from her high school showing days highlights how glad she is that her dad is a vet. On a run out of the arena in Alexandria, her horse took her (by accident!) into a pole. She got up and thought she only had a bump on her head, but it turned out to be a nasty gash. She didn’t want to miss out on any competing, so her dad pulled out his sewing kit and sutured her up…without lidocaine. She roped that night and hauled to Little Britches the next day.
Grandmother Patsy, mother Brenda, and granddaughters Klancy and Darby, three generations of cowgirls, know the rodeo scene as well as the joys of ranch life. They also know the value of family and tradition. In an unexpected way, the dynasty started by Patsy might come full circle: her granddaughter Darby is intrigued by jumping. Her favorite movie is National Velvet, and she enjoyed the taste of jumping that she got in 4-H. She is considering a few lessons in elementary dressage and jumping at The Stables at Le Bocage in Lake Charles, LA. A rodeo star taking up English riding? Not so unusual, when you remember she carries the genes of the little girl who thrilled the crowd with her barrel jumping.