EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in the June 2014 issue of Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the WPRA. It is republished on this site with the approval of the WPRN.
Erin Ricotti is credited on more than a dozen movies, from Grumpier Old Men to Pursuit of Happyness.
She’s a stunt woman, and her list of on-film accomplishments goes back two decades. She also is a horsewoman, which comes in quite handy in front of the camera and inside the arena. She’s spending her 2014 campaign seasoning two young horses, and she’s finding a way to the winner’s circle.
The first weekend in May, the Escalon, Calif., cowgirl wontheKern County Sheriff Reserve Stampede Days Rodeo, a WPRA Qualifying Tour event in Bakersfield, Calif. She and Royal Star Commander rounded the pattern in 17.27 seconds to take the title.
“This is his first year of rodeoing,” Ricotti said of the 7-year-old sorrel gelding out of Go Royal Scarlett by AR Star. “He was bred to run barrels on both sides.”
So is Commander’s sister, Jewel, a 5-year-old mare who shares time in the arena with her big brother. Together they make up the power that fuels Ricotti’s run.
“It’s such a luxury to be able to pick and choose,” she said. “At Oakdale (Calif.), I had to run Jewel because Commander abscessed. I’m seasoning them both and trying to decide who runs where. I don’t think there will be a bad arena for Commander, because he likes all sizes of pens.
“But right now, he’s not that great when there are things waving around him.”
She’ll continue to work on that, and having Jewel in the mix makes that type of seasoning a little easier. In addition to winning the title in Bakersfield, Ricotti topped the field in Springville, Calif., bettering the second-place cowgirl by half a second.
“We would have won Stoneyford (Calif.), but I hit the second barrel leaving it on the back side,” she said. “Commander’s odds are pretty good when he decides he’s not afraid.”
There isn’t much fear coming from Ricotti. She’s been around rodeo all her life and sometimes travels the trail with her children, who also compete. In fact, son Dylan Vick Hice was the seventh-ranked bull rider in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in mid-May.
Her grandfather was a member of the Cowboy Turtle Association, and her grandparents performed trick riding acts for the queen of England during the Calgary (Alberta) Stampede.
Now Ricotti is chasing rodeo titles all across California, and Bakersfield was an appropriate setting. Just four hours from her home, the arena turned out to be quite comfortable for her and Commander, who ran during slack and watched the time hold up for the victory.
The ground just seemed to stay pretty darn even,” she said. “I’ve seen Linda Vick win that rodeo in a perf., and I’ve won in slack, so it’s been that way for a long time. That committee does an amazing job.”
So how does she keep her horses ready to go when she’s on the road?
“I don’t go that much, but when I do, I’ll drive for eight or nine hours then get them out,” Ricotti said. “I long trot them a lot, but for the most part, I just let them look around and be horses. I just get them out of the trailer. I try to find grass somewhere and take them on walks.
“They’re pretty good about going and are good about drinking. Having the two of them the last five years, I think they comfort each other also. I think it’s important that they are together.”
While Ricotti has a pair of great partners, Alicia Stockton leans primarily on one, Zivi Shot The Moon, a 12-year-old bay gelding she calls Junior. They were definitely in sync the first weekend in May by winning the Pioneer Days Rodeo title at the tour stop in Guymon, Okla.
“My horse really likes that pen,” she said of Junior, out of Ginin Zevi by Lunar Shot. “The first year I ran him there, I placed in the second round. Last year I placed in the first round and the average. He seems do alright there.”
Yes, he does. During slack on the morning of May 2, Stockton split the first-round victory with Shelby Herrmann with times of 17.43 seconds. The next day, Stockton and Junior posted a 17.18, which held up to split second in the second round with Toni Hardin. The 34.61-second cumulative time allowed Stockton the average title.
“It’s great, especially now that they’ve changed slack to Friday and have the perfs Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” said Stockton, 24, of Stephenville, Texas. “You used to run on Monday, then you were there almost all week to run your second one. This is much better.”
Raised in Ballston Spa, N.Y., Stockton’s parents are heavily involved in rodeo. Her dad, Roger, has been a regular at the First Frontier Circuit Finals Rodeo in both tie-down roping and team roping, and her mother won the region’s barrel racing title in 2012. In fact, Jody Stockton rode Junior to the circuit championship, then handed the gelding down to her daughter last spring.
Alicia Stockton has followed her family’s lead, just like her three brothers and two sisters. In fact, roping has been a big part of her life, and it’s what she carried with her when she first arrived in Texas to attend Hill College.
“My first year in college, I won the all-around in our region and didn’t run barrels at a rodeo all season,” she said. “I just competed in breakaway roping and goat-tying. I knew if I wanted to do anything like rodeo, I knew I needed to run barrels.”
It’s a good thing. Stockton will make the summer run with a couple of Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifiers: Kaley Bass and Taylor Jacob. When she can, she’ll pack her roping bags and test her skills with others.
“I’ll probably enter some of the all-girl ropings, but roping is on the sidelines from running barrels,” Stockton said. “Hopefully I’ll do good enough to qualify for the winter rodeos this next year and see how it goes.”
Of course, that means taking quality care of Junior.
“I try to ride him at least four or five times a week when we’re not going,” she said. “He’s been off for a while, and Guymon was just my second rodeo. I’ll long trot quite a bit, and I’ll lope him for 15 to 20 minutes in each direction. I don’t work on the barrels a whole lot.
“If he gets a bunch of runs over the weekend, I’ll give him a day or two off depending on how busy we are.”
If the outcome in the Oklahoma Panhandle is any indication, that plan of attack is working quite well.