By Andrea Arnold
Diquita Cardinal grew up around horses on her family’s farm in Tete Jaune, but the idea of getting into a fight wasn’t one she entertained until last summer.
The 22-year-old has been riding since before she was born.
“I think I was about 10 years old before I actually got on a horse to ride by myself,” she said.
Cardinal started training horses when he was eight years old. It started with a pony. By age 10, she had moved on to a full-sized horse. As she grew older, she knew she wanted to be her own boss, and her attraction to horses led her to start her business Diquita Cardinal Horse Training, where she buys, trains and sells horses.
As a trainer and rider who mounts colts at various stages of training, Cardinal admits he wonders what it would be like to be thrown, but he hasn’t had the chance to find out.
Last summer that changed. While attending a private rodeo show in Kananaskis, Alberta, he jumped at an unexpected opportunity to ride in the Ranch Bronc division.
Ranch Broncs differ from traditional Bronc events in that riders sit in a regular saddle and are allowed to have two grips – the reins and either a rope or a latch, a device attached to the saddle to provide a grip to help them stay seated in the saddle. Cardinal prefers the rope because that’s what she’s used to using while training her foals. Often the saddles will have larger bumps and the stirrups will be placed further forward along the horses side. Riders can also use bronze spurs. In the past, regular thoroughbred horses were used for the event, but there is a change underway and more often specific Ranch Bronc horses are used. These horses ride with less predictability and less pace.
Cardinal rode the first horse for about six to seven seconds, just short of the eight-second ride requirement, before she was sent airborne.
“I wasn’t going to go on another one,” Cardinal said. “But when I was let down at six or seven seconds, it really bothered me. I thought to myself, I can do this. I had no idea what I was getting into.”
At the Woman’s Ranch Broncs event at the Ponoka rodeo, she was persuaded by Canadian Women’s Ranch Bronc Association director Pearl Kersey to give it a try. She quickly discovered that the horses were bigger, stronger and better, and was promptly eliminated.
“I decided that if I was really going to try this, I needed to learn some skills,” she said. “I’ve signed up for a few smaller exhibition-type events.”
At another small event in Kananaskis, on her fifth attempt at the walk, she successfully completed the entire eight-second trip.
Ranch Bronc was started by small rodeos. It was an opportunity for farmers to compete with an emphasis on exploitation. This year, due to complications from COVID, many of the regulars who attend the big rodeos were unable to compete. The number of riders in both the saddle and bareback events was limited, so in many cases the empty seats were filled with Ranch Broncs.
Cardinal didn’t set out to compete, but he enjoyed it. Surprisingly, she says being thrown and even ground impact doesn’t hurt because of the amount of adrenaline coursing through a rider’s body.
“I was kicked, but I don’t actually remember any pain,” she said. “However, the next day, that’s when you feel the pain.”
The experience of riding each horse was a rush for Cardinal. She says she was never scared of what might happen. When she started her first ride, she said she wasn’t nervous at all. However, as she prepared for each consecutive ride after the first, she became more and more nervous.
“I was building a healthy respect for the power of the horse,” she said.
He may compete again next year, but has not yet decided. She has a 50% success rate on her races, completing eight seconds in 10 out of 20 attempts. She sees a lot of value in the experience as she is now more confident and relaxed as she mounts her foals during the training process.
“When the rider/trainer is more relaxed, the horse is more relaxed,” she said. “I wanted to gain the experience of being thrown from a horse in case I was thrown while training a colt, but now it seems less likely.”
Cardinal is now headed to work at a facility in Arizona for the winter, where he will continue to train and eventually sell some of the horses he started working with.
Cardinal continues to live her dream, running her own business and being able to work with her favorite pet.