Pretty Ladies, Painted Horses and American RodeoJuly 12, 2021
Contributed by Michaela Dunn, Photography Courtesy of The Catalena Family
When I think of the Catalena Cowgirls . . . I think of a group that is bonded with perfection, love for each other, and love for their horses. It’s a “bond that’s almost indescribable,” said Joanna Spencer in an interview with Women’s Pro Rodeo in 2005.
Watching these women perform when I was young was more than exciting! It was the greatest way to start a rodeo. Pretty ladies, pretty horses, and American Rodeo. The glitter, the music, the fast horses, and the emotion just made you want to get on your horse and rodeo.
Like many other girls, that led to a dream of my own to one day be on a world-famous team like the Catalena Cowgirls. That dream grew closer as I joined the Brazos County Faith Riders 4-H drill team and began to learn exactly what it took to ride drills.
It’s not as easy as it looks! Running these drills at full speed is dangerous. If someone lets their guard down, you’re gonna run into each other. Everything you do is within inches of getting your ankle crushed–fans want that excitement and speed!
While the Cowgirls originated along the lines of a traditional equestrian drill team, over time their performances became more complex and the venues more diverse, making this team truly unique—and famous.
The Catalena Cowgirls started in 1994 and consists of about 30 girls who travel with the group, ranging from age 18 to 40+.
The team was founded by two very special gentlemen, Sammy and Pete Catalena. They were a part of rodeo for many years and along the way they put together this group of ladies to open the rodeos.
Pete Catalena once explained, “We were on the PRCA rodeo circuit and we have 6 or 8 sponsor flags to carry and it became really a hassle to go out and find girls to carry ’em. The hassle got so great that we found some friends and I said, ‘Sammy, let’s start taking and inviting some girls to the rodeo just to do that.’”
Little did they know these girls would go on to appear on the covers of the American Quarter Horse Journal, Texas Horse Talk magazine, and numerous newspapers across the country, including the Houston Chronicle. They have been featured in the American Paint Horse Journal and Western Horseman, and on Cowboy Sports and Entertainment, the Debra Duncan Show, and Good Morning America.
“Sadly, after the death of both [my uncle] Sammy Catalena and then my dad, Pete Catalena in 2020, the family decided that we should make this year the final season of the World Famous Catalena Cowgirls,” shares Brent Catalena, who has taken over preparing the girls for their last booked performances.
“Sammy’s goal was for the Bryan Breakfast Lions Club PRCA Rodeo to make it to its 50th anniversary,” he says. “We felt the Bryan PRCA Rodeo, which is our hometown rodeo and also where the Catalena Cowgirls started would be the best place for the Catalena Cowgirls to say goodbye and wow the crowd one last time.”
Be sure to come out to see their final performances at the annual Bryan Breakfast Lions Club PRCA Rodeo, which will be held for the 50th and final time on July 16-17 at the Brazos County Expo Complex! 🎠