All she ever wanted to be was a cowgirl.
Yet quite young, just watch her on horseback living proof Heather Patry is a real cowgirl heartfelt lifestyle still developing.
“I’ve been riding ever since I can remember – even as a baby – it’s just part of me. I’m a cowgirl. I love it,” the Dwight teenager said.
Riding in Eastern Kansas Horseman’s Association (EKHA) circuit horseshows in lead line, Heather remembered, “My first horse was Buster. He really taught me a lot that I still use in riding.”
Before long, she was competing in other performance and speed classes.
“I continued learning more about horses and am still learning every day. I still ride in horse shows, but it’s evolved into ranch work, rodeos and training,” said Heather, 18. “I love everything about all of the aspects of the cowgirl lifestyle.”
Active in school and community, Heather served leadership roles in 4-H and FFA this spring completing term as FFA president. She was recipient of a Council Grove FFA Scholarship. Successful participation in judging events has been among her diverse repertoire as well.
A spring graduate of Council Grove High School, Heather has been busy this summer. She helps look after cattle in our family’s Patry Cattle Co. backgrounding operation.
“That’s a lot of riding pens checking for sick cattle sorting and doctoring whatever needs done,” she said.
Experience doing ranch work prepares the cowgirl to be a major asset to the Patry Cattle Co. team competing in ranch rodeos.
“We’ve entered several competitions this summer and had success,” Heather said. “Our team was second at Herington and fourth at Canton. My dad Josh is the team captain and I must credit him with helping develop my ranching abilities.”
Other team members are her boyfriend Casey Hayes of Harveyville and the ranch neighbor cowboy Jason Brown.
Heather quickly acknowledged the rest of her family: “All of my family is involved in horses. My mom is a true inspiration. She’s had horses all of her life, with endless knowledge in helping me and my siblings.
“All of us compete in horse shows. My older sister Nicole and my younger sister Michelle both ride in many events. Our little brother Jayden does it all too and is also really getting into roping and rodeo events,” Heather said.
Collecting many EKHA awards, likely proudest of the ranch horse titles, Heather was crowned EKHA Queen at the yearend show. Qualifying for state fair several years, she placed high at the district show to enter next month’s fair at Hutchinson.
As if that doesn’t sound like keeping a cowgirl busy, Heather has outside employment working in the hay field.
“I’ve been helping Scott Hoch put up prairie at Fort Riley, raking, hauling, about everything that needs done,” she said. “It’s been long days when the weather cooperates, which sadly takes away from my time in the saddle.”
Like with many last week school has restarted for Heather, too.
“I’m taking online college courses in the vet tech program so I can continue working on the ranch,” she said.
Uncertain how long it’ll take to complete degree requirements, Heather said, “I intend to work as a veterinarian’s assistant, but really don’t know where that’ll be. I would like to travel.”
While education will be broad scale, the cowgirl’s interests logically tend toward a large animal practice. “I already have diverse experience working with ailments in horses, in the background operation and with our family cowherd,” she noted.
A horse is the essential tool for a cowgirl. Heather is especially proud of her most unique mount.
“Goober is a mustang I adopted from the Bureau of Land Management through the Hutchinson Correctional Center,” she said. “He had been broke to ride when I got him three years ago as a 5-year-old. I’ve made him into an all-around using horse.”
That’s no misnomer. The big sorrel gelding said to have originated from a wild horse range at Adobe Town, Wyoming, does it all.
“I started introducing Goober to horseshow events, barrel racing and pleasure events and now rope and do everything on him. He just took to it all and does whatever I ask him. No buck, meanness, or anything,” Heather said. “You couldn’t tell he was a mustang except for the government tattoo brand on his neck.
“Goober is really tough too. We never shoe him and he’s never been lame,” the cowgirl added. “However, Goober does take over the pen when he’s out with any other horses. He’s the dominant one for sure.”
Besides readily winning horseshow events from pleasure classes to working ranch horses to every speed event, Goober’s forte is roping.
“I rope on the ranch, in the rodeos and at jackpots. I head on him, but Casey has also done a lot of heeling on Goober at jackpots, too. I’ve also entered the breakaway roping successfully at amateur rodeos,” she said.
Scooter is her backup horse called into action when there’s an extra heavy day’s work agenda.
Cowgirl abilities are quite apparent around the area such Heather has been called to train other’s horses.
“I’ve started one colt and plan to do more of that. I’ve also been riding horses for neighbors to help get more seasoning on them,” she said.
It’s a somewhat dangerous profession for a cowgirl.
“I’ve been bucked off a couple of times, but I get right back on,” Heather said. “I sure want to start young horses and develop ranch horses. I take it slow so horses don’t get any bad habits and keep progressing.
“I’ve done some day work for other ranchers, and I hope to do more of that, too,” Heather said.
When cowgirl is in the genes, work on horseback gets done. Heather Patry is the proof.