The Barnes Sisters: Raised For The Rodeo

Micah Barnes Competing
(Photo courtesy of Micah Barnes)

Micah Barnes Competing (Photo courtesy of Micah Barnes)

Ella Wiebusch, Editor In Chief

A lot of people are taught to ride a bike when they’re young, but others, well… they’re taught to ride a horse. Sometimes, even before they can walk.  

For two sisters from the small town of Peterson, IA, that’s what they grew up doing. Riding horses has developed into a passion. Micah, a senior Biology major, and her younger sister Mary, a sophomore Business major and Educational Studies minor, are a part of the Buena Vista University BVU rodeo team.  

We were raised in it. Our grandpa started the Barnes Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) in the fifties,” said Micah. “And he put on rodeos all over the continental US. And then our dad has since taken it over and we’ve just grown up doing it. 

With a long family history of rodeo involvement, both sisters recall their first time on a horse vividly. Mary was an itty-bitty girl when her dad lifted her up on a horse named Butch. He didn’t like kids, so Butch shook and she slid off. As for Micah, her grandma’s horse Austin kicked her. Both memories left their mark, and now the Barnes sisters hope to share their love of rodeo with others.  

 I think like with our dad, he’s very passionate about this,” said Mary. “And he’s done this since he was born, he never forced it upon us, but it’s just his love. We’ve adapted that into our passion and love for it all. 

Barnes Family                                                (Photo courtesy of Micah Barnes)

At the same time, their mom wanted to give them the opportunity to do other things.   

“In the summertime, it used to be chaotic when we played softball and then we’d have to rodeo on the weekends, but I think we had it pretty nice growing up,” said Micah. “We had a little bit of everything, a foot in every door.” 

 From New Jersey to Nevada, to Florida, and back to Iowa, they’ve been everywhere. Even though it’s like a full-time job, competing in rodeos is a Barnes family tradition. After getting their first barrel horses at about age 10 for racing in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, both sisters were able to exhibition run at the end. They then started rodeoing for the Iowa Junior High Rodeo Association, and eventually the Iowa High School Rodeo Association. 

 “In Junior High, I did pole bending, barrel racing, goat tying and then an event called ribbon roping. Ribbon roping is where a guy and a girl are on team and the guy ropes the calf and the girl must grab the ribbon off the calfs tail,” said Micah. “And then you get into high school and you don’t have as many opportunities, so you have to be more serious about what events you’re in. That’s when we started roping.”  

Not long after that, Mary and Micah entered college. They are part of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, which is considered the NCAA of rodeo. Micah competes in breakaway ropinggoat tying and barrel racing. Mary specializes in barrel racing. 

“I went to the University of Iowa before this year and I transferred to BV mainly because I was looking to be able to rodeo,” said Mary. “I really missed it when I was at Iowa. And BV, the opportunities and the people here, the staff and the faculty, everyone, they’re super, super excited about this because we’re making it a competitive club.” 

Both are grateful for all the support they have received, and proudly wear Buena Vista University on the back of their vests during competition to show who they are.  

“When we rodeoed at Fort Dodge couple weeks ago, Dr. Maas came, Professor Landon came, Miss Suzette Radke came, and there’s just a lot of support,” said Micah. “They’re always checking in, because they want to be a part of it and I think that’s really the best part about it. 

With the mental aspect of the sport being so demanding, sometimes it can be hard to keep going. Even though they butt heads like any other siblings do, the Barnes sisters lean on each other for motivation. Ultimately they want each other to do the best that they can. One thing about rodeo that’s different than every other sport: your competitors want you to succeed.    

For Mary, having stepped away from the sport for a full year, she feels that getting back into rodeo made her value it more.  

I really realized how much I truly do love it and that when I was around it before that I was taking it for grantedI didn’t really understand how unique this opportunity is and how blessed I am to have grown up with this. And so that experience of me being gone from it makes me appreciate it a lot more and keeps me going.” 

Mary Barnes Competing (Photo courtesy of Mary Barnes)

These sisters are competitive. If they weren’t, they said, they would be in the wrong place.  

“We know what we’re capable of,” said Micah. “But sometimes, I get very down about myself. I’ll say, maybe this is as far as I’m going. But Mary’s always like no, I’ve seen you do it. I know this isn’t itwe need to keep pushing.” 

Ultimately, the goal of anyone in rodeo is to make Casper. Casper, Wis the host place of the College National Finals Rodeo. At thend of every rodeo, points are given to the Top 10 and at the end of the year, the top three in each event qualify for Casper. It’s like the Super Bowl of college rodeo. If they achieve that, they’ll feel on top of the world.

There are so many opportunities within rodeo to meet different people, and so at the end of the day, the atmosphere of rodeo and the support it gives Micah and Mary makes it all worth it.  

For Micah, rodeo brings her a sense of purpose and family.  

“Even though it is what we’ve done, and that’s what our family businesses is, it’s so much more than that, you meet people who become family, you have a great environment around you that you think of as a family. We tend to put so much negativity on everyday life, but then we go and practice, and you’re forced to focus on one thing and then once all that’s done, it’s like a release.” 

For Mary, it’s an escape.  

“No matter what I’m going through, with school, with my personal life, with whatever’s going on with me, going and being with my horse or going for a weekend to a rodeo is just a complete escape. It’s almost like I’m living another life. It is able to put me in the best mood and just remind me of the good in life.

Rodeo is their life, it’s what they grew up doing, and it would be weird to have it any other way. Rodeo has taught the Barnes sisters to be selfless, to put their animals first, have humility, and be grateful for things.  

It’s definitely not all glory all the time. It’s hard. There are days when I want to quit, but I wouldn’t change it for anything,” said Micah.  

While they are done with the fall season, this spring the sisters will travel to Lincoln, NE, Brookings, SD, Spearfish, SD, and Dickinson, ND.  

Both sisters are happy to talk to anyone who is interested in learning more about the sport and the club they are creating.