This blog was written by guest blog contributor and former Miss Rodeo Colorado, Kellsie Purdy Simons
“Try to learn something about everything and everything about something” -Thomas Huxley
The time is here. You have prepared your speech, ridden countless hours, studied many books, perfected your wardrobe and arrived to give the best performance of your life. During your interview, the conversation is flowing and you are letting your personality shine. Then one judge asks a question you do not know the answer to. What do you do? Panicking is not an option and there is no pause button. Even the most prepared young women are asked a question they may not know the answer to.
The key to a successful interview and pageant is preparation. Having an extensive knowledge bank of the sport of rodeo, its history, equine science, and current events will help you immensely. When you know a little about everything, making connections in conversation becomes so much easier.
It all begins with gaining hands on training and experience. How much easier is it to describe a horses diet when you are the one actively researching and collecting information on what is best for the horse? The one thing that truly helped me with my confidence and knowledge base was shadowing many different people in the rodeo and equine community. I followed my vet and asked about everything (my favorite word/question is “Why?”). During interviews and impromptu interviews, I could give examples of when I saw horses with these different ailments. Farriers are a great resource to show you the different parts of the hoof, procedures for different corrective shoeing, and regular maintenance. Take riding lessons with different trainers and disciplines. As a rodeo queen, you represent the agricultural lifestyle, so being involved in many different ways is important.
When it comes to the rodeo side, not every queen grew up in a rodeo family. It is extremely important to understand the rodeo industry when running for a rodeo queen title. The sport of professional rodeo has four pillars; the contestants/stock contractors, committees, the PRCA and sponsors. Knowing the needs and concerns of each pillar will allow you to form opinions and be able to hold conversations rather than just answering questions.
After gaining these experiences in the field, studying will become even easier. The PRCA Media Guide and Rulebook are wonderful resources to learn from. Highlight, sticky note, make flash cards and create study sheets from these books (I still have mine in my home office!). Equine science books and articles published by universities are another place to continue to build your knowledge bank. Read and be current of events happening locally, nationally and around the world from a variety of sources.
Once the bulk of your studying is done, begin asking friends and family to ask you questions. Being able to verbalize the information you have learned is harder than most think. This practice will allow you to become more comfortable with the content of your answers. Practice how you are going to answer questions you do not know the answers to. Ask them for help on phrasing and making connections.
So what does happen when you are asked a tough question?
First, breath and take a moment to compose your thoughts. A lot of rodeo queens I know, myself included, are perfectionists and have a hard time not being prepared for every question. It is okay not to know EVERYTHING. Be honest with the judges and add other information that is relevant to the topic. “I do not know all of the circuits for the PRCA, but they were introduced to allow cowboys and cowgirls who don’t rodeo full time to still earn points toward a year end finals.” By giving other information and staying calm, you keep the interview moving smoothly. You could also add where on the PRCA website you can find more information on the topic. Some girls will say, “I do not know the answer, but I will find it and get back to you.” Only do this if you are going to follow through. After you have answered that question, move on. Do not dwell on not knowing the answer. Put a big smile on your face, keep a strong voice and continue with the interview.
Being prepared during an interview comes down to the work you put in before. Practicing and studying will help you to stay engaged and allow you to bridge any topic you do not know the answer to. Stay calm. Smile. Move forward.
“Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming” -John Wooden