Women of the West

Jimmie Gibbs-Munroe

Jimmie Gibbs-Munroe smiling

World champion cowgirl Jimmie Gibbs-Munroe continues her quest to improve the sport of barrel racing.

Jimmie Gibbs-Munroe, whose Western culture roots are deep in the heritage of the 101 Ranch and Wild West Show, served 14 years as president of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (formerly the Girls Rodeo Association). Under her leadership, women achieved prize money equal to that won by men, rodeo committees and stock contractors began using electronic timers, and corporate and national sponsorships increased. Today, the cowgirl has landed on the board of Professional Womens Barrel Racing, a subsidiary of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, and is helping shape the future of her sport.

Jimmie Gibbs-Munroe standing with buckle case

I ENTERED MY FIRST HORSE SHOW at age 3, and competed in my first junior rodeo at age 10. Roping took priority over barrel racing. In fact, I ran barrels on my roping horses until I was in college.

“BILLY” [ROBIN FLIT BAR] WAS THE REASON I joined the GRA in 1974. I purchased him as a 2-year-old. He had tremendous speed and athletic ability, but the most important quality he had was a big heart. His abilities encouraged me to want to learn more about barrel racing, and he’ll always have a special place in my heart.

IN THE BEGINNING, BARREL RACING was an added attraction to rodeo, but through the years, the event increased in popularity and earned the respect it deserved. Becoming a part of the National Finals Rodeo in 1967 was a milestone for the sport.

WHEN I WAS ELECTED GRA PRESIDENT in 1978, I was young and didn’t have any experience heading a women’s rodeo organization, but I matured on the job. Promoting all-women’s rodeos was one of our main goals, because it was an important part of our organization’s history. We also wanted to further good working relationships with the committees, stock contractors and the PRCA, and increase barrel racing’s purse money.

WOMEN ACHIEVING EQUAL PRIZE MONEY to men was a board effort. I’m proud of how we went about reaching that goal. We didn’t threaten the committees; instead, we developed a feasible three-year plan and worked closely with the committees to help them meet our requests. If we’d just drawn a line in the sand and demanded equal money, we wouldn’t have been as successful as we were.

GOOD, BASIC HORSEMANSHIP applies to any discipline—it and a good foundation on your horse are the most important ingredients in accomplishing your goals.

WATCHING MY DAUGHTER, TASSIE, learn and grow as a horsewoman has been rewarding. My hopes for her are that she’ll always have a desire to increase her horsemanship knowledge, try to give every horse she rides the opportunity to perform to the best of its ability, and enjoy her horses.

I’M VERY PROUD OF MY 101 RANCH HERITAGE. My grandfather, Zack Miller, was the last living brother of the 101 Ranch. The ranch was lost during the Depression, but I heard stories about it my entire life from my mother and uncle, who traveled two seasons with the show. My mother rode elephants, and my uncle rode a steer at Madison Square Garden. My mother loved everything about the ranch and show, and Bill Pickett taught her to ride.

WANDA BUSH WAS THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSON in my barrel racing career. When I was young, I set up coffee cans in the backyard, ran around them on a stick horse and had my mom announce me as Wanda Bush. Wanda epitomizes a cowgirl. I admire the way she’s always conducted herself, which has earned her respect in the rodeo and horse worlds. I’m fortunate to have her as a friend and role model.

LIFE ON THE ROAD STRENGTHENED MY MARRIAGE TO BUD. We were together 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I’m happy Bud is being inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame this year; we’re all very proud of him.

I’LL ALWAYS CHERISH BEING INDUCTED into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. It’s an honor to be included among a group of strong, independent women from so many backgrounds, who have made a difference and encompass the spirit of the West.

MANY CHARACTERISTICS CONTRIBUTE to the cowgirl spirit. The most important are strength independence and resilience. I’d like to think I embody some of that spirit.

I’VE REALLY COME TO ADMIRE SHERRY CERVI as a contemporary cowgirl. She’s an impressive young lady who wants to make a difference for the professional barrel racer. I’ve always admired her riding ability, and now, since I’ve come to know her from my involvement on the PWBR board, I have a lot of respect for her as a person.

THE REASON I SERVED ON THE WPRA BOARD so many years, and the reason I chose to be involved with the PWBR, is because I’ve always wanted to help promote women in professional rodeo and to give something back to a sport that has given us so much.

THE FORMATION OF THE PWBR BY THE PRCA is a positive move for professional barrel racing. If I didn’t believe this, I wouldn’t be serving on the PWBR board.

This article was originally published in the July 2007 issue of Western Horseman.

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