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Tricks of the Trade (7)

When the rodeo ended that night, the two women cried. They understood that their evaluation would be judged on form and technical execution, and neither had gone as planned. They were convinced they’d failed a chance to earn a professional rodeo card.

The evaluator saw it differently. “Compared to what could have happened, you girls really rocked out there,” he told them.

“The crowd was blown away. First of all, that you even tried it. Second, you held your composure, and you looked great!”

Professionals have to be ready for anything, he reminded them, even poor arena conditions. The Petersen sisters had proved that they were.

“Nobody handed trick riding to us on a silver platter,” says Abigail. “For six years we’ve worked hard for everything we’ve gained.”


“Ninety percent of rodeo trick riding is getting ourselves and our horses ready,” says Meishja. “It means big hair, lots of glitter, and flashy costumes.”

Trick-riding outfits aren’t easy to find, so dance costumes are their best alternative. Meishja and Abigail select matching arm wraps or long white gloves to accent graceful limbs and death-defying tricks.

They add matching sequins and trim from the fabric store to embellish necklines, bodices, and hemlines. They pick out fleece fabric to make saddle blanket covers and polo wraps for their horses’ legs.

Belly dancing scarves decorate breast collars, and glitter gussies up horses’ tails and manes. All the items for horse and rider are color-coordinated, creating one glamorous package.

As showtime at the Wapello Rodeo approaches, the sisters begin readying their horses.

Each one’s entire body is brushed, including mane and tail. Puffy dirt clouds float away on the wind.

Horses and riders head to an outdoor hose and faucet for a final rinse. Back at the campsite each horse stands in the shady breeze to dry.

(Read more Tricks of the Trade)

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