Whether 14-year-old Raven Gentry was born into rodeo, or rodeo was bred into her is a matter of opinion, but either way, the Lone Butte cowgirl walks, talks, lives and breathes the sport.
She likes to get all dolled up when competing, but don’t be fooled by the pink make-up and glitter because she rides with the best of them, whether on the back of a bucking steer or charging around a barrel-racing pattern on her trusted horse Drum.
“I don’t let myself look like a threat, but I go out and kick butt and it really sends the boys for a loop. I love it.”
In July, she was named all-around cowgirl at the 2011 Bridge Lake Stampede after a first-place showing in junior steer riding and a second-place finish in junior barrel racing. She says her proudest accomplishment to date is being a two-time junior all-around season winner of the annual 100 Mile & District Outriders Club gymkhana series.
Most weekends in spring, summer and fall will find the raven-haired girl at a rodeo or gymkhana somewhere in British Columbia. She has a collection of ribbons, buckles, saddles and all kinds of horse gear that attests to her success.
Travelling with her, always, are her mom, Tracy Gentry, and dad, Lorne Gentry, who are her biggest fans and most trusted coaches. She looks to mom and dad for advice because they teach from experience. Each competed in rodeos when they were younger and continue to be serious contenders at any gymkhana they participate in.
Tracy once made it to the High School Rodeo national championships and Lorne was a pony chariot racer who went to that sport’s national championships in the 1960s.
Her family’s love affair with horses goes back to Raven’s grandfather on her mom’s side, Fred Vedan, who used to chase wild horses near Clinton on horseback. She heeds his advice when it comes to horses and rodeo.
“Grandpa says that practice makes perfect and to never let your horse have green grass on rodeo day.”
Her other grandfather, Walter Gentry, cowboyed for both Hat Creek Ranch and Bridge Creek Estates at different times.
Even her three brothers, Chad and Kyle Frizzi, and Colton Gentry, have tried their hand at rodeo, with Kyle being the 2010 Williams Lake Stampede steer riding champion, as well as a serious contender on the Professional Bull Riding circuit.
When it came down to learning how to steer ride, Raven went to Kyle for tips. He drew from his bull-riding experience to show her the ropes and give her encouragement. When she turned his advice into that first-place finish at the Bridge Lake Stampede, it was also the first time she ever rode a steer in competition, or anywhere for that matter.
Prior to that day, all of her training had come while sitting on top of a rolling barrel out in the yard.
There’s nothing about rodeo or horses that makes Raven nervous because she’s been around them all her life. As a baby, she could usually be found strapped to her mom’s back, while Tracy tended to the horses and worked with them in the ring.
Raven was sitting on the back of her own horse before the age of two, and at four, she competed in her first Little Britches Rodeo in 100 Mile House. Events where she had to dismount, such as goat tail tying, presented their own challenges, as the tiny cowgirl couldn’t climb back up onto her big horse unless there was a fence nearby to clamber up and ease herself over.
At the age of eight and as a member of the 100 Mile & District Outriders Club, Raven earned the honour of serving as the Little Britches Princess.
When she was 10, Raven received a big black Cinch brand cowboy hat for Christmas and it has since become her signature piece.
“I love it and it goes everywhere with me.”
Another item that travels with her to every horse event is a native medicine bag that has been blessed by her Grandpa Vedan. It’s tied to her saddle, and at every rodeo, a few grains of sand from the arena are placed inside before she rides, she notes.
“It keeps me safe. My horse never falls.”
On rodeo day, everyone gets involved, with her younger brother, Colton, handling much of the packing and most of the filming. Her dad’s post is in the chutes with her during the steer riding event and her mom is at her side right up to the gate during barrel racing, giving her pointers to the last second before she goes out.
Raven’s goal is to compete in barrel racing at the Calgary Stampede one day, but it’s an ambition that won’t come without a lot of hard work and devotion on her part.
In order to concentrate more fully on her riding, in Grade 7, Raven switched to home schooling. She had been an honour student to that point and continues to keep her grades high through distance education.
Time that was once spent riding back and forth on the school bus is now used for riding trails throughout the South Cariboo daily with her mom.
A typical day starts at 6:30 a.m. with feeding and caring for their eight horses, and then schooling is tended to before they both saddle up to ride, rain or shine.
Raven says she couldn’t imagine living any other kind of life.
“Being part of a rodeo family is fun, but you’ve got to be tough. I get banged up a lot and my brothers like to torture me, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”