Women’s Professional Rodeo Association Election Candidate Q&A, Part 1

Election Q&A Part 1: Becky Nix and Jymmy Kay Cox weighed in with their thoughts on election-related issues. Part 2 with Munroe and Schmidt posted separately.

Photograph Courtesy Becky Nix

Election Q&A Part 1: Becky Nix and Jymmy Kay Cox weighed in with their thoughts on election-related issues. Part 2 with Munroe and Schmidt posted separately.

WPRA Presidential candidates Jimmie Munroe and Becky Nix, as well as Vice Presidential candidates Heidi Schmidt and Jymmy Kay Cox field questions relating to hot-button issues leading up to the WPRA election.

Barrel Racing Magazine reached out to each presidential and vice presidential candidate with a list of industry-related questions. We sincerely appreciate each of these ladies for answering our queries—we learned a lot about each candidate’s stance on some of the most pressing issues facing the industry, and hope the insights offered herein will help inform members.  

[edited 2/24/22] Per the WPRA website: The new deadline to return your ballot to the WPRA Auditor is Thursday, March 3rd 5:00pm MT. The certification of election will follow on Friday, March 4th.

Becky Nix – Candidate for WPRA President

BRM: Can you tell readers a bit about your background with the WPRA and history of involvement in the sport of rodeo and barrel racing?

BN: I started barrel racing at the age of 6 competing in local horse shows and joining the Little Britches Rodeo of Wisconsin Association at the age of 11.  I was a multi-event competitor in high school rodeo (breakaway roping and team roping) and with the recent addition of breakaway, I have picked up a rope again and started competing locally. I have been a WPRA Card holder since 1999, and competed mostly in the Great Lakes Circuit with some entries outside my circuit as well. I joined the Board of Directors as the Great Lakes Circuit Director in 2019, on special appointment, and then elected in 2020. 

BRM: What initiatives is your ticket advocating for that you feel will appeal most to ALL members of the WPRA, from the permit holders to the top 15 NFR qualifiers?

BN: Improving ground conditions is a top priority. Dragging more frequently appears to be an obvious solution, but there are some instances where that is not the case. Educating committees and giving them access to expert ground staff is a better solution than a carte blanche rule that may or may not improve the ground for the competitors.

Strengthen our relationships with judges. Our rules change every year, and I feel it is imperative to keep an open line of communication with the judges to get their feedback on how the new rules will impact the rodeo; meeting with them about how we envision the rule being applied, and determining the success of our changes in the arena. I have had individual conversations with judges in my circuit, but I want a more formal approach to bring consistency to our rodeos across the country.

Facilitate communications with our committees. Currently, the communication with our committees is limited to approvals and casual conversations between directors and their committees. I’d like to host monthly zoom calls for any committee to join and learn about any new rules that may impact them (dragging halfway) and be available to answer questions. These calls would include our Breakaway Director as committees are uncertain about what this event entails for them and fearful of the number of entries. Many of our committees are comprised of volunteers and businessmen and these calls would be beneficial for them. 

PESI – We need to revamp PESI, and improve our futurity and derby events. This program compliments our mission by providing our members with additional competition opportunities, while developing rodeo horses and growing our stallion program. Adding the breakaway roping to our PESI program further strengthens the WPRA brand and offers stallion owners a new source of revenue.  Crowning an all-around stallion showcases the talent of the stallions enrolled, celebrating their achievements on a national stage. The stallion owners have invested in the WPRA and PESI, it is time to expand and provide a mutually beneficial return on their investment.   

Mentor program – currently the Great Lakes Circuit partners each new permit holder with a card holder that lives near them. This relationship is created to help them with entering, traveling, and answering any questions a newcomer may have. I was the benefactor of traveling with a seasoned card holder my first year, and her expertise and experience helped me a great deal. I would encourage all circuits to consider a similar program for their permit holders.  

BRM: For many WPRA members, safe and fair ground conditions remain the number one area of concern. Do you have an actionable plan to address this issue in all circuits and regions of the country?

BN: Ground conditions are always at the forefront of our conversations with committees and competitors. In my circuit, I have been successful in reaching out to those rodeos who have had ground concerns in the past and partnering with them to improve their ground (Bellevue, Iowa and Sikeston, Missouri come to mind). Kim Thomas and I have implemented the expertise of a ground professional to work with committees to improve their ground (Burwell, Nebraska was an example of Kim’s ability to reach out and hire this expert to improve the ground). I’d like to build on that program and make these experts regional and available to any committee seeking their expertise and guidance to improve the ground. I would fund this program through the WPRA. 

I feel it is imperative the WPRA participate in the PRCA Committee Convention held each year before the NFR to reach out and educate committees. We do not get enough time with the committees. In 2022, the Great Lakes WPRA Circuit Finals luncheon will include an invitation to any committee that wants to join the barrel racers and breakaway ropers. It will allow them a chance to get to know one another outside of the arena, and help honor these women for qualifying to their Circuit Finals. I would encourage other circuits to do the same.

BRM: What is your stance on making the new condensed drag a rule versus an option for rodeo committees?

BN: A committee may only condense the drag after agreeing to drag at the halfway point. With an increase in turn outs and the abuse of ghost cards, a committee should be able to roll contestants up. If we could figure out a walk-up replacement rule that worked for everyone, we could alleviate empty spots in a performance. Committees agree to put on a rodeo, when competitors do not arrive and compete, rolling up the girls is a viable solution. 

BRM: How do you plan to work toward ensuring that breakaway ropers can buddy with themselves in the barrel racing? It has been said that this is a Procom issue, however, is it not also true that WPRA members pay Procom fees and thus contribute to the investment needed to resolve this software/programming issue?

BN: I would continue to work with PRCA to fix this PROCOM issue to the point of hand drawing those girls that enter both events until a better solution is in place. I will also research other entry systems available to us, however, our current contract requires the ladies to enter through PROCOM. That contract expires 12/31/2025. I want all members to know I voted NO on the contract as I do not feel it is a fair contract for the WPRA.   

BRM: Do you perceive there being an issue with PRCA judges enforcing different rules than what the WPRA has in place? For context: there was a situation in Kellettville, PA this year where the judges made one call and the WPRA board overturned it saying ‘they are PRCA judges, not WPRA judges.’ Is this a concerning precedent?

BN: I am not familiar with that comment, but I am very familiar with what happened at Kellettville, PA this past year. The inability of the committee to properly work the ground due to heavy rainstorms that moved through the area, created very unsafe conditions. This rodeo was an extreme situation, and occasionally the Board finds it necessary to step in and protect the competitors. The WPRA partners with the PRCA to judge our event. The judges are employees of the PRCA and while we have a working relationship with them, I feel it can certainly be improved upon with more frequent communication and the reinstatement of our judges committee.    

BRM: Could walk-up replacements be something that could ever be considered in the WPRA, like they are in the PRCA? Also, could reentries be considered now that breakaway is available at professional rodeos?

BN: We have reviewed this in the past, and Jolee Jordan worked on a solution that would potentially work. It has not been a priority for this board, but with the addition of breakaway, I believe it needs to be revisited and a viable solution be made available to our competitors for their sake as well as the committees. 

BRM: What are your thoughts on Qualifier races as an avenue to address the issue of Limited Entry Rodeos like Denver, Fort Worth and the prevalence of other rodeos across the country adopting tournament-style formats?

BN: I am frustrated by the recent increase in limited entry rodeos. I believe WPRA members would benefit from more qualifiers giving everyone an equal opportunity to participate in a Limited Entry rodeo. In addition, we could live-stream those events and offer sponsorship opportunities. The tournament format is not beneficial for WPRA Members; it dilutes the payout and can have unintended results. In Fort Worth, two competitors hit a barrel and won a check. I don’t believe this format is advancing our sport but restricting it.

BRM: Speaking of Breakaway Roping, if elected how big of a priority would you make seeing the Top 15 Breakaway Ropers get to compete at the Thomas & Mack? And, in what sort of time frame?

BN: Our current PRCA contract does not provide for that and does not expire until the end of 2025. The WPRA does not hold a seat on the NFRC (National Finals Rodeo Committee). We bring two events to this venue yet do not hold a voting seat. That is a problem that needs to be addressed. I believe our breakaway ropers add a tremendous value to any rodeo that hosts this event. It is a crowd pleaser, easy to understand and animal friendly. These ladies deserve equal added money, and deserve a spot at the main show, not a side show. The breakaway ropers were part of the Great Lakes Circuit finals this year, competed in all three performances and were a huge fan favorite. We are one association and having them excluded from the NFR event at the Thomas and Mack is an injustice. I will work hard to rectify that by advocating for a voting seat on the NFRC, and working with Las Vegas Events to impress upon them the importance of including our breakaway ropers.

Jymmy Kay Cox.

Jymmy Kay Cox – Candidate for WPRA Vice President

BRM: Can you tell readers a bit about your background with the WPRA and history of involvement in the sport of rodeo and barrel racing?

JKC: I grew up in the ranching, racehorse and rodeo industry. My grandmother was the secretary of the GRA (Girls Rodeo Association) before it was the WPRA. I bought my permit in 1985 after winning the NHSRA (National High School Rodeo Association) barrel racing title. I’ve served as the Texas Director, the Vice President, and the President of the WPRA. There’s a little more to it, but the bottom line is that I love this association. 

BRM: What initiatives is your ticket advocating that you feel will appeal most to ALL members of the WPRA, from the permit holders to the top 15 National Finals Rodeo qualifiers? 

JKC: I’m tired of ALL members not benefitting from our association. We should be the umbrella for women in all aspects of rodeo. You cannot charge everyone the same cost, hold them to the same standards and rules and then limit their opportunities. I also think we need more communication – getting information to our members and listening to them.

BRM: For many WPRA members, safe and fair ground conditions remain the number one area of concern. Do you have an actionable plan to address this issue in all circuits and regions of the country?

JKC: Communication! Marion, Texas was a new rodeo last year, when any rodeo was scarce. They added $5,000 – they had no guidance from anyone other than contestants that entered. It was literally treacherous. Horses fell, members turned out, the judges didn’t call it, no entry fees were refunded, and the committee was horrified. They simply didn’t know. A new $5,000-added rodeo during a pandemic and they had no help. Inexcusable. I understand a director cannot be everywhere, but each director can name as many spokeswomen as she needs to assist her. They are supposed to be an extension of her. We have smart, savvy women ready to roll up their sleeves, and we’re not using them. We live in a world where nothing is a darn secret anymore, yet the WPRA is failing to communicate with members, judges, committees and even their own board members like we should. It can be so much better. I will never be perfect, but it can be so much better. 

BRM: What is your stance on making the new condensed drag a rule versus an option for rodeo committees?

JKC: I think it should be a rule. The entire rodeo industry has seen in the past year how much safer, faster, and entertaining the barrel race is with a drag. We are supposed to be the elite association in barrel racing, yet we have been in the dark ages with tractor drags. Even amateur associations have been dragging at five. College and high school associations defer to our rulebook – let’s set the best guidelines for us and them. With the scrutiny placed on rodeo and animal rights issues, it’s time to show the world we care about the footing of our equine athletes. It’s a win for everyone!   

BRM: How do you plan to work toward ensuring that breakaway ropers can buddy with themselves in the barrel racing? It has been said that this is a Procom issue, however, is it not also true that WPRA members pay Procom fees, and thus contribute to the investment needed to resolve this software/programming issue?  

JKC: I am pretty passionate about this one. I’m also at a bit of a disadvantage because I am the only one of the four candidates answering these questions, who has not seen a copy of the current contract with the PRCA. I can only speak as a businesswoman. A couple of years ago, the WPRA Board gave the PRCA $100,000.00 to help with the updating of PROCOM. Here is the breakdown of current Procom fees:

WPRA                                                PRCA

$21 EACH EVENT                            $21 ONE TIME ENTRY

$3 GOES TO CIRCUIT                     $3 GOES TO CIRCUIT

We pay insurance with dues               $10 GOES TO INSURANCE

WPRA $18 goes to Procom              PRCA $8 goes to Procom

Understand that a cowboy is charged a one-time entry charge regardless of the number of events that he enters at a rodeo; the ladies are charged for each event they enter at a rodeo.

From a business perspective, Procom makes more money on a WPRA member than a PRCA member. Plus, the barrel race usually has more entries than any other event. The breakaway is now up there in numbers as well. If the PRCA and the WPRA are truly business partners, with mutual appreciation and respect for what the other brings to the table, the PRCA should be more than willing to fix this problem. If the existing contract allowed, the WPRA could take their own entries (or use another system), make a lot of money doing it and take better care of their contestants. I doubt very seriously that would be allowed under the current agreement, so I say again, if we are truly business partners, this shouldn’t be a problem. 

BRM: Speaking of Breakaway Roping, if elected how big of a priority would you make seeing the Top 15 Breakaway Ropers get to compete at the Thomas & Mack? And, in what sort of time frame?

JKC: Are you kidding, I would have loved to seen it there last year! Again, having not seen the current PRCA/WPRA agreement, I can’t speak as to a realistic time frame concerning the existing contract. I know we give the PRCA 85 percent of our roping dues. We’ve addressed above that our ropers can’t buddy with themselves through Procom. I know that the Texas breakaway members had to raise their own money for the Texas Circuit Finals this past year. They were required to raise their own added money up to the amount equal to the other events but were not allowed to raise for themselves more than the other events (even though they could have gotten it done). No, I have not seen the current contract, but I can tell you I would have voted against it. I believe these ladies have more than paid their dues, earned their place, and now provide one of the most popular events. Viva Las Vegas!

BRM: Do you perceive there being an issue with PRCA judges enforcing different rules than what the WPRA has in place? For context: there was a situation in Kellettville, Pennsylvania, this year where the judges made one call and the WPRA board overturned it saying, ‘they are PRCA judges, not WPRA judges.’ Is this a concerning precedent?

JKC: Is anyone tired of me saying, “Communication?!” When I was WPRA President, the judges would ask me to attend their judging seminars. I learned so much from their perspective and was able to answer and clarify issues from them. The judges are our only allies in the arena! Years after I left the board, I still had judges call me if they had a question about our rulebook. They have a job to do for both associations and all of rodeo. If we do not have a rule in our rulebook concerning an issue, the judges have to look at the rule in the PRCA rulebook. Whatever that overturned ruling was, let’s address that in our own rulebook, communicate with the judges and avoid that problem in the future.

BRM: Could walk-up replacements be something that could ever be considered in the WPRA, like they are in the PRCA? Also, could reentries be considered now that breakaway is available at professional rodeos?

JKC: I think both could be considered; especially the re-entries. Entries on some rodeos are so early that turnouts are often unavoidable. It’s certainly unavoidable as discussed above with breakaway ropers trying to buddy with themselves when they run barrels.  Committees want a full performance and members want a chance to participate. In my opinion, the walk-up option in the barrel race would require more discussion due to positions on the ground. I’m not sure how we would best implement that, but again, communication. Consideration and communication are good things!

BRM: What are your thoughts on Qualifier races as an avenue to address the issue of Limited Entry Rodeos like Denver, Fort Worth and the prevalence of other rodeos across the country adopting tournament-style formats?

JKC: I am a total advocate of the qualifiers! As Texas Director I used to hold the qualifier for the rodeo in San Antonio. I also had a five horse drag there – and that was 20 years ago. The BBR has proven that they can make money on qualifiers, provide all contestants an opportunity to run at more money, and showcase the “best of the best” for a committee and the audience. Let’s say a committee wants 100 barrel racers and they want the top 15. We hold a qualifier for the membership and send from there the remaining 85 contestants. We have got to go back to giving all of our contestants a shot – or we will lose their membership. It’s that simple. We can be a member-based association and make wise business choices. Actually, we have to, our future depends on it. We are the past, the present and the future of rodeo.