This northeastern Oklahoma cowgirl is committed to her family’s cattle operation and raising quality horses that can be used on the ranch of in the roping arena.
Whether competing at a ranch rodeo or working cattle, Becca Gagan knows the value of teamwork and surrounds herself with women who elevate her skills. This past January, she and her Vaqueras Locas teammates – Codie Brown, Whitney Hall and Kelsey Love Thomas – won the Art of the Cowgirl Women’s Ranch Rodeo. Last fall, her team took home the world championship of the Women’s Ranch Rodeo Association. The wins are a product of dedicated practice, physical and mental preparation, and choosing teammates with similar values and styles of working cattle.
At home on her family’s cattle operation, Lazy Rafter Slash of Lenapah, Oklahoma, 30-year-old Gagan works with her parents, siblings and extended family, preconditioning yearlings and tending to 700 cows. She also raises and trains a few ranch horses and rides outside horses for longtime friend and fellow rancher Ellison Carter, as well as top breakaway ropers Jackie Crawford, Lari Dee Guy and Taylor Munsell. Though she didn’t start roping competitively until she was in her early 20s, she earned the 2016 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association Rookie of the Year in heading.
She recently bought her own property where she hopes to grow her cattle and horse training businesses while helping her family’s operation prosper.
We didn’t have much when I was growing up, but my dad worked a ranch job. You could say my siblings and I were spoiled rotten, because my parents always made sure we had what we needed. When my parents started building their own cattle operation, their work ethic inspired me to work hard to be successful like them.
I started riding a horse as soon as I could walk, and I was way too independent to be [ponied] like my siblings. I tell them I was the best rider because I never had to be led.
When I was a kid, I knew the days my dad would leave early to work calves or ship cattle. I’d get up in the middle of the night, catch and saddle our horses and be ready to go when he got to the barn at 3 or 4 a.m. I got away with it a few times, but then he said I couldn’t skip any more school.
“I’ve had several mentors, but at the top of the list is my father, Burr Gagan. He taught me from a young age that horses are more than a tool. They help us make a living, but you must respect them.”
After high school, I wanted to rope competitively. I’d roped on the ranch, but not much in the arena. I was given a full-ride scholarship to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College [for horse judging], and my parents told me I needed to take that opportunity – that I could rope anytime. I wouldn’t change that decision for the world because judging taught me discipline and gave me an eye for horses.
I had a Doc O’Lena-bred mare named “Marie” that my dad gave me after college for roping, and I had so much respect for her. She taught me how to read a cow and gave 100% every time, and I could do anything on her. The day I lost her was the worst day of my life. I think about how much I wish I had her back and where I’d be today, but then I realize she got me where I am today.
There are people who say I started roping too late. I don’t think there’s a wrong time to begin something if your heart wants to do it.
I’ve never woke up in the morning and thought how much I wanted to go sit in an office. Ranching is bred into me, and it’s the only thing I’ve ever known. If I wasn’t working for my family, I’d be working on a ranch for someone else.
I get along with everyone and love meeting new people, but | can tell a lot about a person by the horse they ride.
My favorite place is a hill in the middle of the prairie on a ranch my family lived on. It’s called Blue Mound, and it was a landmark for settlers in the 1800s. I like riding my colts up there, and when you get on top, you can see for miles. There are sandstone rocks with dates carved in them – the oldest I’ve found is 1805 – and I’ve found arrowheads and other [American Indian] signs. That’s where I want to be buried.
I have so many goals I want to pursue, and I’m willing to put in the work to be successful. I want to win the [WPRA world championship] in heading, breakaway or both. I also want to win Cheyenne [Frontier Days] and Pendleton [Round-Up], and I know I have the horses and mindset to do it. Life is short, and there’s no better time than now.