Ramirez lends a ‘hand’ to help winning team
Velma Ramirez and her gelding, Bob, won “Top Hand” and “Top Horse” in the Dilley ranch rodeo event in October.
DILLEY -- Ask any cowboy or cowgirl involved in ranch rodeo what the most coveted title is, and the answer may be either the team finishing No. 1 or being named individually as the “Top Hand.” One La Vernia High School graduate, Velma Ramirez, not only captained a team that earned two first-place finishes in 2012, but also was honored with the Top Hand award. 2012 has been a great year for Velma, 21, whose team is a strong contender on the South Texas women’s ranch rodeo circuit.
Velma, captain of the Swaim A Rosa Ranchhands, and team members Bailey Swaim, Delfina Bregman, and Shannon Amber Arredondo are recognizable by the distinctive camouflage shirts they wear in competition.
Michael and Sandra Swaim are the sponsors of this team, originally called the South Texas Cowgirl Militia.
Ranch rodeos began when working cowboys held informal competitions among themselves to see which ranch had the best riders and ropers in various activities conducted on the ranch. Teams compete in events such as double mugging, milk race, calf branding, rescue race, steer loading, and hide race.
Allowing cowgirls to compete in rodeos has come gradually, and barrel racing still is the only women’s sport allowed in the professional rodeo association. See “Need a ‘hand’” for more.
The Swaim A Rosa team took first-place honors at the Dilley Women’s Ranch Rodeo Oct. 27. Also during the event, Velma was awarded “Top Hand” and her gelding, Bob, was awarded Top Horse.
The Top Hand award is given to the cowboy or cowgirl who takes care of the stock and does not roughhouse the animals while competing. The athletes are also judged on skills required on a working ranch, including horsemanship, roping, and cutting cattle. The Top Horse award recognizes the importance of a well-trained horse.
According to Velma’s sister, Bonnie Ramirez, Bob has worked in team ropings, feedlots, and now in ranch rodeos.
In the Dilley event, four teams competed in steer roping, calf branding, steer doctoring, and the rescue race. The competitors faced muddy arena conditions. According to the South Texas Ranch Rodeo Association website, “the teams showed up on Saturday morning to find a pump truck in the middle of the arena pumping out water.” This followed Friday night’s event being rained out.
The Swaim A Rosa Ranchhands’ impressive time of 38.55 seconds in the steer doctoring event helped the team accumulate enough points to tie with the Seale Ranch for the overall title. To determine the winner, organizers used the total combined times of the two teams. Swaim A Rosa Ranchhands won with a total time of 489.32, versus Seale Ranch’s 595.07.
The Dilley competition was the team’s fourth match. The first was in the premier South Texas Women’s Ranch Rodeo held June 9 in Nixon, with the Swaim A Rosa Ranchhands placing first. The team also competed Sept. 8 in Kenedy, followed by a third-place finish in Nixon in October.
Riding and roping
When Velma is not competing in a team roping or ranch rodeo event, the former Texas High School Rodeo Association finalist attends Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde on a rodeo scholarship.
The daughter of Ariel and Sonia Ramirez of La Vernia has competed in the state finals since 2008, and has ranked among the top 10 in team roping and breakaway.
Velma is no stranger to the rodeo circuit. In 2008 and 2009, she competed in the Reno Rodeo Ladies Roping Invitational in Nevada, against wives of professional team ropers.
Ariel, who also competed in team-roping events, is proud of his daughter’s accomplishments. The family is supportive of Velma’s dream of roping professionally, and with the success Velma had this year, she is well on her way to fulfilling her dream.
Need a ‘hand’
Velma Ramirez competes in a sport that is gaining popularity in South Texas -- women’s ranch rodeo.
According to the Women’s Ranch Rodeo World Finals website, the sport started in Kansas 17 years ago. The Kansas Cowgirls founded the Women’s Ranch Rodeo Association in 2005 with the first national finals held in Kansas City. Now the finals are held in Amarillo, Texas, with teams from New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arizona, and Missouri competing.
According to the website, “One day a cowgirl was asked to be part of a ranch rodeo team. This girl had been brought up being no different than a man. In her part of the country there was no segregation, no women’s liberation. She was raised and thought of as a hand. And this is what they wanted -- ‘a hand’ on their team.”
With people like Anna Cook, a Texas A&M University animal science major who is on a mission to form a South Texas Women’s Ranch Rodeo Association, and competitors like Velma Ramirez, the ladies are well on their way to prove women are indeed “a hand” on the team.