I’m going to keep this brief so y’all can get to the good stuff, but the word on the street is true, Cowgal Chatter is now doing an exclusive blog series with Dare To Be A Cowboy sharing the stories of first generation cowboys and cowgals. Kicking it off in the best way possible, one of my favorite people in the entire world who just so happens to be the founder of DTBAC, Hannah Beth Tems, is sharing her first generation story as well as some wise words of advice for not just someone who might find themselves in similar shoes, but for everyone reading this blog. I hope y’all love this new spin off of the blog and if you are or know of a first generation cowboy or cowgal that would want to share their story on this segment of the blog please reach out to HB or I, we would love to interview you!
My First Generation Cowgirl Story by Hannah Beth Virginia
I was 7 years old when my mom enrolled my brother and I into horseback riding lessons. Even though I have a horrible memory I vividly remember that day, I even remember the conversation in the car ride leading up to it. I remember asking my mom if she thought we would ride for our first lesson, to which she replied “probably not, but maybe by the next one”. I remember meeting my lesson horse, brushing her for the first time, I remember the smells, the sounds, I remember everything. I even remember the nerves and excitement I felt when my instructor said that we were actually going to ride. It’s amazing to think about the impact that this one little lesson has had on me, still 18 years later.
This lesson marked the beginning of my journey of playing in what I like to call a “giant sandbox” (aka an arena) everyday. I continued doing lessons and falling deeper and deeper in love with horses, and by the next year I was blessed enough to be gifted with a horse of my own for the very first time. As for the rest of the story, it’s as they say, “the rest is history”. I have been hooked on horses ever since.
Now, as much as I would love to go into every detail as far as how my journey within the western industry has looked since those days, there is so much else that I want to speak on when it comes to being a first generation cowgirl for this blog. Now that I have a few years within the lifestyle under my belt and have been through extremely high highs and extremely low lows throughout, I feel as though I am in a position to help other “First Gens” that are working hard to make a path for themselves in it as well.
I created Dare To Be A Cowboy to be a resource for first generation cowboys and cowgirls. I understand how difficult it can be to find a reputable coach, to find the right match for your first horse, or even to find the proper equipment that’s not only safe but also won’t break the bank. I understand how difficult it can be to make the right decisions in these instances, and I truly don’t want anyone to have to go through those alone. I am also a product of how life changing the western industry is, as I am well aware that I would not be the same person I am today if I had lived without it. My journey has taught me to take care of something other than myself, while also taking care of myself. It’s taught me how to work hard towards my dreams and that it can often be pretty lonely while doing so. It’s taught me to manage my time, to get chores done and to get up early to start working on my goals. It’s shown me that family isn’t always blood and that even strangers will lend you tack or even a horse to help you, because that’s just what genuine people do. This is all why Dare To Be A Cowboy was created and why I am so passionate about not only showing people the beauty of the western lifestyle, but also helping to provide what’s needed for those that have chosen to pursue it. The western lifestyle made my life better and made me a better person, and I want to share that with the world.
If you are reading this and you are a fellow first generation cowboy or cowgirl that is working hard to pave your own way within this industry, I have a couple of tips for you:
- Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Especially at the beginning of your journey, you are going to have to experience things you have never had to before. Entering a rodeo for the first time, saddling a horse on your own for the first time, going to a branding for the first time, riding your horse with friends for the first time, etc. Especially in the beginning, it’s going to feel like everything you do is out of your comfort zone and will likely at times be something that you need to work on pushing yourself through. In these times, remind yourself that nothing good ever comes easy. You will come out of every opportunity a stronger and more experienced person every single time, no matter how it goes & trust me, your future self will thank you.
- Don’t compare yourself to anyone else’s journey. It can be easy to watch other riders whether at rodeos, shows, or even lessons and compare yourself to them. Just don’t. Even though I started riding when I was 7, it took me a long time to really come into my own because I am not what most would consider a “natural”. It takes hours upon hours to become good at something which is why not everyone can do it. So stay patient with yourself and if you listen to nothing else I say, listen to this: other people’s success does not diminish your own. Your time will come.
- Ask all the questions. If you have a question, ask it. If you’re at an event by yourself and you’re not sure if you put the saddle on correctly, go ask someone. If you’re at a lesson and you’re not sure if you’re holding your hands correctly, don’t be afraid to ask your coach. It is not embarrassing in the SLIGHTEST to want to do better for yourself and it can honestly make your journey a lot harder if you don’t get into the habit of asking for help when you need it. The western industry is full of incredible people so don’t be afraid to seek someone out for assistance (even if it’s online).
- Embrace the suck & don’t worry about what others might think about you. Just as with any sport, there can be people that may make you feel like you’re “less than” or make you feel like you “don’t belong”. I am not saying that anyone will ever even say this to you, but I do think it’s common for us to think that others are thinking that about us. Get that all out of your head right now. When I started rodeo, I would always tell myself “I may be bad and something crazy to watch now, but in two years everyone will be eating their words”. Was anyone directly coming up to me and telling me I sucked? No. But my intrusive thoughts were telling me differently. But no matter what, I told myself at every single rodeo, “I will get better”, “this too shall pass”, and “a year from now they’re not even going to remember this bad run”. I don’t think I really even believed myself then, but it turns out it was all so true. Sure I remember when I got last place in the barrel racing at junior rodeos but does anyone else? Nope. So, my advice is to embrace the suck because this phase only lasts so long before things start to click, and you’ll be so thankful of the hard work you put in to get there.
- Never stop learning. After 18 years of being involved within the western industry, I am still learning something new every single day. There is so much to digest and learn when it comes to horses, cowboy heritage, rodeo, agriculture, and everything in between. A quote that I stand by, especially as a first generation cowgirl, is “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”. You may not have grown up within a western family, you may not have gotten on your first horse when you were in the womb, or entered your first rodeo when you were 4, but guess what? None of that is in your control. The only thing in your control is your actions towards becoming better. Your hunger to learn and be better will be the vessel to success.
I could write a book with all of my thoughts surrounding being a first generation cowboy or cowgirl, and maybe someday I just might. But for now, I want to end it short and sweet, and get you excited for what’s to come. Dare To Be A Cowboy and Cowgal Chatter will be bringing a first generation cowboy or cowgirl on the blog each month to tell us about their story navigating through the western industry, and the life lessons that they have learned along the way. There is no better time to be “First Gen” than now and we are thrilled to be launching this passion project to inspire, motivate, and empower you along the way.
Blogs will be released on the 3rd Thursday of each month. Go to https://cowgalchatter.blog/blog-posts/ or https://dtbac.com/pages/first-generation-cowboys?ref=powr-io to keep up to date!