While stepping up her horsemanship for the World’s Greatest Horsewoman competition, Patty Ralls shined a spotlight on women-owned businesses.

Patty Ralls and 16-year-old stallion Solano Cat made quite a splash at the Art of the Cowgirl’s World’s Greatest Horsewoman competition in Queen Creek, Arizona, earlier this year when they rode away with the win.

Typically a non-pro rider, Patty competed as open when riding Solano Cat, who is owned by Shannon and Hershel Reid. An open rider can have sponsors, and Patty spotlighted Western businesses owned or operated by women with her sponsored shirt.

Patty is married to National Reined Cow Horse Association Hall of Fame trainer and rider Ron Ralls. The horseman trained Solano Cat when the horse came to him as a 2-year-old.

 “I had never ridden a High Brow Cat and always wanted one, so I didn’t want to pass that opportunity up to try him,” says Ron. “When I saw the horse, I was kinda disappointed because he was fat and cresty-necked, real study and didn’t look right. But when I put him in the pen the first day to saddle him, I just knew that he was very intelligent and very much an athlete.”

Ron trained the horse in the traditional reined cow horse methods . As a 3-year-old, the High Brow Cat son out of Smartest Solano, by Smart Little Lena, won the Southwest Reined Cow Horse Association pre-futurity event in August. Then he tied for 13th in the intermediate open and tied for 18th in the open divisions of the NRCHA’s premier event. The pair also racked up an NRCHA world champion title in the hackamore and a 2010 American Quarter Horse Association reserve world champion title in junior working cow horse.

While her husband trained and showed the horse, Patty’s also handled “Gato” throughout his career. She groomed, doctored and even warmed up the horse.

 “As a 2-year-old, he had colic surgery, and I am the one that doctored him back to health,” recalls Patty. “I [doctored] on him everyday. It was the connection then and now that is unbelievable. I don’t know if I’ll ever have that kind of connection again [with another horse].

 “I had been in a couple of pretty big horse accidents and my confidence was pretty low,” Patty continues. “When I watched the Art of the Cowgirl [in 2019] I thought, ‘Wow, what a great event.’ It was a nice playing field to ride with women and it was a great event to strive for [to compete].”

Mounted on a horse that she’d known for more than a decade, Patty took a leap of faith and got back in the show pen. At the 2021 World’s Greatest Horsewoman event in Patty and Solano Cat did not fly under the radar. Sporting a hot pink hat, the exuberant contestant was all smiles, in and out of the show pen. The pair held their own against 96 hard-riding women. They earned the high-score win in the steer stopping and a spot in the 10-rider finals.

Patty Ralls rides Solano Cat.
Patty proudly showed Solano Cat in the championship round of the World’s Greatest Horsewoman competition held last January during Art of the Cowgirl in Queen Creek, Arizona.
Photo by Jennifer Denison

 “It’s like [the horse] tells me to get back because he has got this,” Patty says. “I laugh and say he thinks that if I just get out of his way, he will show me how to do it and take care of me. I felt the most emotion I’ve felt in years.”

Patty won an entry to the 2021 NRCHA World’s Greatest Horseman competition in Fort Worth, Texas. With her fellow Western women boosting her up with sponsorship, Patty reached for her dream and achieved it.

Read more about Patty and Solano Cat’s partnership in the April 2021 issue of Western Horseman.

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