By Andrew Glover
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Having success in professional sports is something most college athletes dream of. Former Oklahoma State barrel racer Gretchen Benbenek is doing just that as she is experiencing success riding in ProRodeo.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Benbenek said. “I’ve been working on achieving it for a lot of years. It’s encouraging to see.”
Benbenek, originally from Missoula, Mont., won the year-end Prairie Circuit barrel racing title last October after finishing on top of the standings. She finished third at the Prairie Circuit rodeo. Winning the year-end title qualifies Benbenek for the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, which is in April 2014. One of the keys to Benbenek’s success is her 10-year-old horse Maverick.
“I raised him from a baby,” Benbenek said. “I hope he continues to do well.”
At Oklahoma State, Benbenek helped the Cowgirls win national championships in 2001 and 2004. In college, she rode Maverick’s mother, who she still owns.
“She is retired,” Benbenek said. “Getting to ride a second generation horse is really special.”
Benbenek said it took a lot of time and patience to train Maverick to compete in rodeo events.
“Having the drive and to want to train it is what you need,” Benbenek said. “You just have to have the drive and motivation.”
Benbenek said she rides in competitions throughout the year but June through September is her busy season.
“I’m on the road more than not during that time,” Benbenek said. “I like going on the road — it’s worth it.”
Benbenek said her favorite trip was going back to her hometown during the summer and competing.
“I got to spend a couple weeks at home,” Benbenek said. “I rode in Rodeo Wyoming and one in Livingston, Mont. It was the best summer getting to go to some of the big rodeos.”
Winning the year-end Prairie Circuit title has opened up the opportunity for Benbenek to compete in the limited entry rodeos.
“I’m really excited because I can go after some of the big rodeos,” Benbenek said. “All those girls are going to be tough but it will be fun to see where I am among them.”
When she is not barrel racing, Benbenek works as a realtor in Gainesville, Texas. Benbenek is ready to get back out in the rodeo arena.
“I enjoy my time off but I’m ready to do rodeo non-stop,” Benbenek said.