Women’s Professional Rodeo Association Election Candidate Q&A, Part 2

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

Kenneth Springer Photograph Courtesy Jimmie Munroe

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

Presidential Candidate Jimmie Munroe

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?

JM: I spent my entire childhood running barrels and roping at AJRA rodeos. I always considered myself more of a roper than a barrel racer until I acquired a very special horse, Billy, who would change my life. During college in 1974, I joined the WPRA and qualified for my first NFR. In 1975, I won the World Championship in barrel racing, tie-down roping, and the all-around. From there I went on to make 11 trips to the NFR on 3 different horses and win two WPRA National Championships.

In 1976, I joined the WPRA board as the all-women’s director. I began a 16-year consecutive service as President in 1978. During my original tenure as President the board accomplished some important milestones including; obtaining equal purse money for women in professional rodeo, purchasing and distributing electric timers at all rodeos, acquiring major corporate sponsors (Coors, Ram, Resistol, Wrangler etc.), establishing the Justin Boots Best Footing Award, and creating the first All-Women’s National Finals, now the WPRA World Finals.

In 2011, I came back as President for one term. During this time we established definitive guidelines on how one could get into limited entry rodeos and created the WPRA Qualifying Tour so that members had more opportunities to qualify. The WPRA formed the first ever official agreement between the CPRA to have an established relationship with our neighbors to the north. And finally, while at the PRCA convention we hosted ground seminars that was attended by over 200 PRCA rodeo committees where we introduced them to “Safe Arena Footing” (SAF).

Last year, I was re-elected as President during a special election and will discuss some of the accomplishments that this board has made during these first 8 months below.

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

JM: Open communication is vital so that concerns are heard and addressed. Since I have returned, we have hosted four general membership meetings and plan to host one in every circuit this year. Recently we have discussed figuring out a way to bring members that can’t attend these meetings physically in virtually and will continue to look into options for doing this in a professional manner. We have also started posting the board meeting agendas before the meetings so that members would have the opportunity to contact their directors, as well as post the minutes following every meeting. Our new COO is doing a great job at getting these out in a timely manner, and we have asked her to make these minutes even more detailed. In the next few months our board will vote on whether or not the director’s votes will be listed in these meeting notes. I feel that our current board will vote to make their votes public.

The breakaway roping has made remarkable strides with the help of inspiring leadership in and outside of the board. Helping them achieve equal money and getting our ropers into rodeo’s largest stages remains a top goal of mine.

I am committed to maintaining and growing positive PRCA, rodeo committee, stock contractor and sponsor relationships. These groups are crucial to our sport. It is the President’s duty to have a healthy working relationship with them and I would continue to build on these relationships. We are looking into hiring a Marketing Director role that will help the board and myself promote the WPRA brand and its members. She will also be instrumental in helping us acquire new sponsorships and showcase our association across a variety of platforms.

Finally, I am committed to improving our relationship and communication with PRCA judges, standardizing limited entry qualifications, refining the qualifying tour, and improving ground conditions and will go into greater detail about these in the following questions.

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

JM: We have reformed the ground committee, which is steered by our Vice President, Heidi Schmidt and also includes some of our directors and three WPRA members who travel to a large portion of the rodeos throughout the year (Hailey Kinsel, Brittany Pozzi-Tonozzi, and Lisa Lockhart). They have some great ideas and are starting to implement them. For example, they have already changed our rodeo application to include a ground contact and a section where the committee fills out information about their ground. This has helped our directors have a direct line of communication to the person in charge of the ground so that they can proactively prevent any possible issues or quickly handle any potential problems should they arise. They are also compiling a list of ground experts across the country to help committees with any questions they might have when it comes to improving their ground conditions. Committees can call them for advice or even hire them to help with their ground.

I feel that the new condensed drag rule has encouraged committees that would have not previously considered dragging during their rodeo to add a drag half way through, which is very exciting! The Cowboy Channel, rodeo announcers, and our ladies have done an excellent job of calling out rodeos who drag half way through and this only continues to encourage rodeos and bring attention to good ground conditions. Finally, hand raking after every runner during the NFR was a huge step in the right direction for safety and fair competition for our top 15 ladies. This has been a long time coming and was so rewarding to see. I would personally like to thank Allen Rheinheimer and the NFRC for helping make this happen.

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

JM: To be clear, the condensed drag rule is in fact a rule that has been passed recently by our board. The rule states that should a rodeo committee choose to drag half way through (5 or 6 depending on the rodeo) that they can move athletes up to condense their drags during their slack. Without a doubt the commitment of rodeo committees choosing to add a drag has been outstanding and we feel that implementing this rule has only aided in this. If you are asking if I am in favor of forcing a rodeo committee to drag half way through, then I am not. We will continue to ask committees to drag at half or hand rake throughout the performance. I believe that if we would have passed a rule that forced committees to drag we could have potentially lost a great number of rodeos this year and we have seen from Covid what a financial blow that this could be to our members. By passing rules like the condensed drag, we will continue to think of creative ways that incentivize these rodeos committees to take the very best care of their ground in order to ensure safe and fair competition.

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?

JM: A common misconception is that Procom can simply add breakaway as another event. Unfortunately, the way that the system was created only allows for seven events. This is why steer tripping and breakaway are entered as separate rodeos. This is a band-aid as the PRCA invests millions of dollars into their new system. The board and myself are in constant communication with the PRCA about this issue. A good working relationship with Tom Glause and others at the PRCA is and always will be of the utmost importance to me. They know that we invest in a Procom fee and they understand what an inconvenience this is to our breakaway members who are wanting to buddy with themselves or other PRCA members. This is not the answer that many are wanting to hear, but the current answer is that we will have to wait for this upgrade to be complete.

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?

JM: The amount of growth that the breakaway has had in the last few years has been absolutely phenomenal. Being able to watch our ladies compete at stages like Fort Worth and San Antonio is incredible. I met with the executive committee at San Antonio last week and they could not be more excited about the breakaway and impressed with the class and professionalism of our women ropers. Last week I also attended an NFRC (National Finals Rodeo Committee) meeting where we submitted a proposal to LVE and the PRCA for breakaway to be included in the 2022 Wrangler NFR. We proactively presented solutions for almost every concern and logistical barrier that might present itself with the addition of another event. They are considering the proposal and we will discuss it further in the spring meeting. I am hopeful that it will be included in Thomas and Mack this year, but if not, we will continue to work toward this goal over the coming years.

Much like we did with the barrel racing, we must develop a solid foundation with the breakaway roping. We are striving to get breakaway added to every approved rodeo and then work toward equal money. Once we achieve both of these goals, the sky is the limit for our event.

We appreciate the directors, especially our roping director Jolee, who work hard to support this rapid growth, however we know that there must be more representation for breakaway ropers on our BOD. In the coming months I would look for a special election that will add support for our ropers on our board.

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?

JM: Let’s first discuss this very specific and unique example of Kelletville and then we will go into our judging efforts as a whole. On the first day of Kellettville, the ground conditions were terrible. Typically, when conditions appear this way, a judge will watch a horse or two attempt the pattern and then make the decision to call the barrel race or not. However, my understanding is that our ladies that were up all got together decided to all turnout and not run. It should be noted again that not one horse ran. Due to this collective decision made by our members, the judge was then not able to gauge the situation based on attempts and could not call the barrel race. The board, with the recommendation of the two directors whose members were most impacted, made the decision to not only waive the turnout fees but also refund their entries as if the barrel race had been called. I’m not sure that I would have voted this way, but as we all know, the President does not have a vote. Regardless, upon reflection, I do agree that this rule leaves a few holes for interpretation and might need to be edited based on some feedback from both judging seminars and the membership. I’m not sure in what context “they are PRCA judges, not WPRA judges” was stated but I know for a fact that neither myself nor our current Vice President would ever say this as we know that the WPRA in fact contributes to our judge’s salaries and that they follow our WPRA rule book and interpret it to the best of their abilities.

For the first time in quite some time, we will go back to having a representative at each of the PRCA judging seminars this year. The representative will be there to answer any questions, make the judges aware of any new rules or rule changes and aid with the interpretation of our rule book. I believe that these efforts will eliminate certain instances like Kellettville in the future. Finally, should I be re-elected I am looking forward to working with Rick Smith, the new head of the judging program. I have had a long-standing relationship with Rick and feel strongly that he will be a great advocate for both of our events.

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?

JM: I think that both of these could be considered by the board, but the implementation of them would have to be very thorough. I know from talking to many secretaries that there are quite a few uncertain and frustrating variables that present themselves with walk-up replacements. We would want to make sure that from an association standpoint, we could help the secretaries with some of these problems before enacting the policy. I also do not remember this coming up in general membership meetings as a big topic of interest. I would love to hear from more members if this is something of great interest for them before we go down this road.

In regards to the reentries, my understanding is that this would only take place when the event perfs do not fill when initial entries are taken. We could certainly look into adding this policy into our rule book, even though I feel we would use it maybe a handful of times throughout the entire year if less. I would not recommend adding this only for the breakaway and excluding the barrel racers from the same opportunity.

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 growing prevalence of other rodeos across the country adopting tournament-style formats?

JM: Every member of our board will always ask the rodeo committee and recommend a qualifier when it comes to the limited entry rodeos, as all of them want to give the membership every opportunity to qualify that they can. Unfortunately, these options are not always available. Fort Worth for example, wants every event to follow the same qualifying procedure and was very pleased with being able to pull winners from small surrounding rodeos to be their qualifiers. Fort Worth continued to moved down to contestants that placed at these rodeos if the winner was already qualified through other avenues. San Angelo and Waco are great examples of progressive two-round rodeos, but they are not technically a qualifier either. All that we can do is to continue to work with these rodeos and ask them to consider a qualifier. I have heard several suggestions that include the WPRA hosting their own qualifier, but if the rodeo committee does not want to accept this qualifier, it does not benefit the members or the association to host one.

I think there is also a common misconception that the number of limited rodeos has grown significantly when in fact it decreased by 2 (from 20 to 18) rodeos over the last decade until Covid-19. The board is continuing to work with committees that were allowed to have limited entry rodeos during the pandemic and because of their efforts many of these rodeos have removed or plan to remove their limits.

I believe one of the most important factors when dealing with limited entry rodeos is for the members to know well in advance how they can qualify. This way they can make an informed and well thought out plan on how they rodeo the year before. A new rule has been passed which states that a limited entry rodeo has to have their qualifications approved a year in advance if they are making any changes in the qualifications from the previous year.

Some of our directors have made suggestions on how to improve the format of the WPRA tour. We will be looking at these proposals in the next two months and if approved, they would go into effect in 2023.

Most importantly I feel that it is extremely important that qualifications into limited rodeos be standardized. Two of our directors are working on a rule proposal that would address this and solidify exactly how each position in a limited entry rodeo be filled as well as increase the limits and ensure the 30-hour replacement rule. These are a few of the ways that we are always working to give our members more quality opportunities to qualify into these prestigious rodeos.

Vice Presidential Candidate Heidi Schmidt

Heidi Schmidt.

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?

HS: I bought my card in 2002 while in college. I traveled with multiple-time NFR qualifier Gale Beebe for the better part of a decade. The wealth of knowledge I gained during those years is immeasurable. During those years, and following, I qualified for the CNFR in the breakaway, and the Badlands Circuit Finals in the barrel race. I am a current active competitor in both the barrel race and breakaway.

I was elected Badlands Circuit Director in 2014. I ran for this position to help the sport and make improvements to our great circuit. I assumed the duties of Vice President in the late fall of 2019 and have served in that role since. As Vice President, I am very proud of being a part of the team who got the first-ever tractor drag at the NFR in Texas and continued with our new team to get a hand rake following every girl at the NFR in Vegas in 2021. As an avid advocate for the breakaway roping, in my time as Badlands Director, I was able to help secure the FIRST EVER breakaway roping circuit finals (with the help of great members and an incredible committee). Working for positive change that can actually be implemented has been, and always will be my top priority.

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

HS: I believe I will elaborate on all of these in the following questions, but ground improvement; open and clear communication with members; limited entry rodeos – more qualifying opportunities for all members including permits, limits taken off those who had to implement them due to covid; working with ProCom and the PRCA to find workarounds to current issues until their tech development is done; permit education – programs, videos, question and answers; working closely with our judges to ensure our rules are known and understood.

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

HS: We actually have a plan in place that is already making great progress. I recently helped reinstate the “ground committee.” We took this committee a little outside of the box and asked for the help of some of our members who are traveling heavily (Lisa Lockhart, Brittany Pozzi-Tonozzi, and Hailey Kinsel). They have been a great asset!

Objective number one was to ensure our directors had a direct line of communication to the ground person for each rodeo. We did this by changing our rodeo application to allow for a specific ground contact, as well as added a third page for committees to tell us about their ground, ground type, equipment available, and let us know if they would like help with their ground. This also enables our directors to recommend and ask for drags at 5 or 6.

Objective two, was to compile a list of experts in the field of ground across the country. This list has been compiled, and we are in the process of contacting them, and asking them if they would like to be a part of helping our ground reform. By providing committees with expert resources or even the possibility to hire them to prepare the ground for their rodeo, we make huge advances.

We are also currently working on a grant program to provide committees with funds to finance their change.

A few years ago, we did a Safe Arena Footing ground grant. In theory, it was a good idea. However, practically it did not benefit enough rodeos. It was too much to ask a committee to spend $10,000-$40,000 on additives to change their ground composition. We are now taking

another approach through practical application to provide SAFE footing everywhere. It may not be perfect, but SAFE is the goal across the board, and across the country.

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

HS: Let’s talk about why the condensed drag rule was added first. It was added to encourage committees who were hesitant to drag at half, by offering them an incentive. Helping them run large slacks and handle large numbers efficiently. However, we already have rodeos agreeing to drag at half, without condensing their drags. In other words, the contestants’ original draw positions do not change. Ultimately, across the country this is what we would love to see, and I do not feel making all condense is a good solution. Since we have occasional resistance though, offering something to committees in return for that drag is beneficial, hence the condensed drag option.

Now, let’s talk about the heart of this matter, a hard and fast rule for a drag at 5 or 6. This is where my opponent and I differ. We are already getting huge buy-in to the drags at half. Instituting a hard and fast rule would cause us to lose from 150-200 rodeos right off the bat. Not 10, up to 200! That is a terrible number for all members and the Association. If you want opportunity for all members, we cannot make a 200-rodeo sacrifice. Rather than do that, we are pushing from within, with director and officer communication. This process is already taking off, so I feel it is better to advocate for our human and animal athletes without alienating committees and contractors, by showing them how beneficial a rake is, not only for our athletes, but potentially for them (selling the tractor to a sponsor). I see this being common practice at all rodeos, without losing them, within two years through communication, education, and incentives.

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?

HS: This is a question that has been asked to the PRCA by the WPRA for over 2 years. I do not profess to be a code writer, but the current ProCom system operates in DOS (that’s right, the old green and black screen) which is why both the breakaway and the steer tripping have to be set up as a separate rodeo. The PRCA has indicated there is no way to add them to the system as another event. Therefore, until their new 5.14 million dollar (which with anything tech is likely to double) upgrade is done, the breakaway ropers who barrel race cannot buddy with themselves. No amount of “force” on our end can make this change. The PRCA is invested in this new system, and they are tapped out of options with the old. While I realize this is not a “popular” or “campaign promise” type answer, it is the true answer. Yes, we pay a $21 ProCom charge, of which $3 goes to the circuit. The rest goes into the PRCA general fund, it is not allocated like it once was after the PRCA/WPRA lawsuit. They use this for staff, systems, replacement fills, and where they feel ProCom as it operates today needs it. Is it perfect? We can all agree that it isn’t, but it is what we have till this tech development is done. Once the new system is done, we should not have manual or systems errors, we should have the ability to extend trade deadlines, and we should operate much more efficiently with our partners.

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?

HS: It is a top priority, and as a matter of fact, Jimmie Munroe met with the National Finals Rodeo Committee last week and made an excellent proposal. I don’t want to speak for her, but she did propose a solutions and concerns based proposal that would allow for all 15 all 10 nights. Do we have an answer yet? No, but we did the right thing, and started early. There will likely be negotiation, but that proposal is on the table.

As with any business, you need build it on a strong foundation. The foundation of the breakaway needs to be getting it in every rodeo with equal numbers of contestants (not a side show) and getting equal added money. They say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” but I can say I am very optimistic as a roper myself, to see the growth we have already had in just a few short years. In 2021, we finished the year with 271 pro rodeo breakaway cards, as of a week ago for 2022, we already have 288. This is not the largest membership time of year, so seeing this number so high already is excellent! This is taking off due to great effort by directors, officers, office staff, and our partners at the PRCA.

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?

HS: Let’s talk judges! One of my favorite topics. First, I am thankful for every judge across the country. I am very happy to be attending JAC calls to help explain and interpret rules that may be misunderstood, and to clarify how and why our rules read the way they do and what they are trying to accomplish. I have also recently been invited to attend judging seminars via phone to reach more judges with clarification. So far this has been very well received and is something I will continue if elected. Rick Smith has taken over as head of the judging program, and he has shown his great willingness to work with the WPRA.

The fact of the matter is those judges are hired to judge our event. Strong communication and clarification of our rules is what we are working on. How one judge reads something versus another could be different. That is where the WPRA steps in and partakes in these judging activities to clarify. That being said, there are outliers, things that have not happened prior, or things that the rule book does not specifically address. Kellettville would be one of those.

Per my recollection, the first perf and same day slack at Kellettville was treacherous. We received pictures of the tractor in fact buried in the arena. It should be noted, that particular rodeo does not have their own equipment. Following the rodeo, the Board met and discussed our options, as no one ran in those sections. The First Frontier Director, with strong backing from the Great Lakes Director (she said she had many members entered too), suggested a solution. That solution had really nothing to do with the judges. However, it was the solution the Board felt was proper for members who were ultimately fouled and unable to run. The Board agreed with their recommendation, and the rodeo was paid off based on that recommendation, with fines and fees waved for those unable to run.

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?

HS: Yes, and Yes. There have been recommendations in the past that have ultimately failed due to implementation constraints. We do always use the 30-hour replacement rule for all limited entry rodeos which differs from what you are referring to.

Regarding the walk-up replacement rule, being married to a PRCA calf roper, I do know how this works. The walk-up rule, per the PRCA, is for members who did not originally enter the

rodeo. They can walk up having not entered. It is first come first serve. This creates issues for the secretary. They do not know if they are actual members, or eligible or not (owe fines), and they have to sort out who walked up first. I am not saying it’s not doable, I am saying it is an implementation process with our partners, the PRCA, their secretaries, and the secretary system. It is not a snap your fingers solution. I do think the main issue lies with perfs not being filled. A commonsense solution could be allowing those entered to move from slack to open perf positions to fill those perfs based on the priority list. I think this is something the WPRA needs to explore with the secretaries, and work toward a commonsense approach for walk-ups that works for not only our members, but the secretaries who are ultimately responsible for implementing this process.

Re-entries are another animal within the PRCA. What I can tell you from personal experience with my calf roper husband, is they are largely unsuccessful. The current re-entry policy that the PRCA uses allows for re-entries for positions that were not filled in the perfs during the original entries. The reason I say they are unsuccessful, is because it is not very often the perfs do not fill, and those would be the only positions filled on re-entry. We could use this yes, but it may need to be looked and revamped to fit our needs.

The Board is currently discussing proposals and their implementation process for options similar to walk-up replacements that would fit our specific events better.

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 growing prevalence of other rodeos across the country adopting tournament-style formats?

HS: First and foremost, I can say there is not one member of this Board who does not agree with qualifiers for limited entry rodeos, and ALL directors ask, but are often shot down. That is actually not the question. The real question should be, what do we do when the rodeo says no to a qualifier??? Before we go there, I want to say, Covid-19 caused some smaller rodeos to implement limits that no longer have a place. Our directors are working hard to get those limits removed, and we expect nearly all of them to be off this year.

Now, back to the main point. In 2010, there were 20 LER, in 2019 there were 18. Those are actual numbers. It is great to say, if a rodeo is limited to 100, we will give you 20 or 30 from world standings, and the other 70-80 come from a WPRA qualifier. That is in fact what most members want to hear. In a perfect world, this is an easy fix. However, the fact is Fort Worth likes their qualifying rodeos as qualifiers, as others like their specific qualifications. So, the big question is, what do we do when these rodeos say no to that type of proposal, which the majority will. Short answer, we have standards and metrics they must follow. There is already a proposal of just that, proposed by Megan McCleod-Sprague and Katie Pascoe. This proposal not only raises the number of entries limited entry rodeo committees have to take, but also ensures they use the 30-hour replacement rule, drag at half, among several other things they must do in order to be limited. If they cannot comply with these standards, they must have a qualifier for a certain number of positions based on their added money. All of the details are not completely worked out, but this is another thing that is in fact already in progress and will go to the Board for approval in the next few weeks. We are actively working RIGHT NOW to create standards that ensure higher entries and larger payouts across the board.