Recently advancing to the Contender Round at The American Rodeo, Kathleen Mérnard-Perron has gotten where she is with blood, sweat and Seven Saddles.
Forty-two-year-old Kathleen Ménard-Perron moved from Quebec, Canada, to Ocala, Florida four years ago to take advantage of the year-round barrel racing opportunities in the United States.
Speaking French Canadian and picking up English as a second language throughout her life, Ménard-Perron has now competed alongside the sport’s biggest stars at The American Rodeo. Winning 2023 The American Rodeo Contender Tournament East Regional Finals in Lexington, Kentucky, and earning $10,000, Ménard-Perron advanced to the Contender Finals at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
“I was super proud to be racing with Sherry Cervi and Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi,” Ménard-Perron said.
While a downed second barrel kept Ménard-Perron from qualifying for The American Rodeo Championship, she praised her mare Charmin N Rockin (by CCS Last Warrior out of the Firewaterontherocks mare Kab Possum On Fire) qualifying and carrying her to the same site where the 2020 National Finals Rodeo was held.
Next on the docket for Ménard-Perron is the WCRA’s Rodeo Corpus Christi, May 10–13. With 1,066.25 points on the Corpus Christi leaderboard, Ménard-Perron is sitting 17th in the field of 48 racers that will qualify for the event.
She does it all while managing her self-started saddle company called Seven Saddles. Seven Saddles specializes in lightweight, custom barrel racing and roping saddles that ship to three countries. Between managing inventory, fitting horses and creating the newest saddle designs, Ménard-Perron stays busy.
Growing Up North of the Border
Ménard-Perron grew up in the Quebec province of Eastern Canada.
“I started barrel racing when I was 3 years old with a little pony,” Ménard-Perron said. “My dad Gaston Perron was barrel racing on the weekends, and then we started rodeoing. The biggest rodeo in the area was (The Festival Western De St-Tite) in St-Tite, and my brothers and I grew up competing.”
Ménard-Perron practiced in brutal winters for more than three decades to succeed in Quebec’s relatively short rodeo season.
“In Quebec, you only barrel race for five months because of the weather and the snow,” Ménard-Perron explained. “Otherwise, you’re in a small indoor arena practicing. When you love something, you find a way.”
Quebec’s rodeo season runs from March to September, with the outdoor rodeos starting up in June.
“Quebec rodeos are a party,” Ménard-Perron said. “There are lights, music and people dancing in the stands. I’ve rodeoed everywhere in the U.S. and there is nothing like it. I think rodeoing in Quebec gave me the chance to ride with the best of the industry up there.”
Moving Somewhere Warmer
Ménard-Perron moved to Ocala, Florida, in 2019 after spending some time in Texas and Florida and seeing first-hand the friendly weather and plentiful barrel races in the United States. The ability to race every weekend helps keep her skills sharp, she said
“Last year I bought a little farm, and I really love this area,” Ménard-Perron said. “But when I moved to Florida, I had no friends, I had nothing. I was staying in my trailer and going to races. The first winter was hard because I was alone, and I didn’t know anybody. But I decided to stay and in the years after, I started to make friends. Now I feel at home here.”
Now established in Florida, Ménard-Perron’s facility in Ocala has become a hub for other Canadian barrel racers looking for sunshine and opportunities to compete at barrel racing events in Florida and beyond.
Making the Most with WCRA
A businesswoman at heart, Ménard-Perron is always looking for opportunities to make the most out of her barrel racing runs. She was turned on to the money-earning opportunities in the WCRA by a friend in 2022 and has been nominating to the WCRA’s Rodeo Corpus Christi and the Women’s Rodeo World Championship ever since.
“I nominated Lexington and The American to the WCRA,” Ménard-Perron said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to go to bigger rodeos. It’s good money, and we don’t have a lot of chances to go to big events like The American.”
With her WCRA Rodeo Corpus Christi Leaderboard qualification secured, Ménard-Perron has started pushing for a Women’s Rodeo World Championship qualification.
About the WCRA
The WCRA’s Virtual Rodeo Qualifier system changed the game for barrel racers and other rodeo athletes. The system operates by letting athletes nominate and garner points in races they were already competing in, creating a “double dip,” effect. Competitors can simply select the event they wish to compete at and pay a small nomination fee proportionate to the size and payout of the event. Points build up and allow competitors to qualify for the WCRA’s Triple Crown of Rodeo Events, where hundreds of thousands of dollars are paid out every year.