Williams Lake Tribune file photo The Wild Cowgirl Race has become one of the most popular attractions during rodeo time at the Williams Lake Stampede.

CASUAL COUNTRY 2019: The girl behind the race

Monica Sellars started an event just for women in the male-dominated sport of rodeo

At just 29, Deep Creek’s Monica Sellars is much wiser and mature than her years would suggest.

An accomplished rider and fiercely independent woman who has built up her own successful farrier business over the past several years, Sellars is a straight-shooting, curse word-using cowgirl who is the genius behind the popular Wild Cowgirls Race at the Williams Lake Stampede.

Sellars came up with the idea for the 3/8 of a mile flat race as a way to shine the spotlight back on women in the male-dominated sport of rodeo.

“If you’re not a barrel racer, there’s no place for women to compete in professional rodeos,” Sellars said.

“So for [the wild cowgirl race] to be available to all women is really big,” she said, noting racers’ backgrounds include everything from ranching, to jumping to dressage. “Any discipline can enter.”

Read More: Wild Cowgirls Race set to dazzle crowd at 2019 Stampede

Sellars admits her love of horses and independent nature can be attributed to her upbringing at Deep Creek, north of Williams Lake, where she was raised by her mom Donnella Sellars, and also heavily influenced by her grandmother who lives next door, Nan.

Sellars’ summers as a girl were spent on horseback, exploring every side trail and back road from Deep Creek to Forest Lake. She owned three horses, then six, provided by Nan and supported by her mom.

“She worked hard when we were kids to try and give us something to keep us out of trouble,” said Sellars, who is now married to her husband Cole Byrd and has a son Garry, 6. “I wouldn’t be who I am without my mom and grandmother.”

Sellars also credits her success as a farrier and in life, to her mentor Tom Alphonse who taught her everything he knew about being a farrier.

“It was the opportunity I needed in life. I needed some direction, and he gave it to me.”

Read More: CASUAL COUNTRY: 150 Mile couple give bison a home on the range

Sellars even attended the same farrier school in California as Alphonse when she was just in her late teens and has provided for herself and her horses since moving out of her family’s home at 16.

She credits horses with keeping herself grounded.

“I couldn’t imagine my life without them. They’re very therapeutic. Horses are very in the moment, and you have to keep your emotions in check or you can’t work with them,” she said of working with horses everyday.

“They always make me feel better no matter what — there’s no better antidepressant than the smell of a horse.”

This summer will mark the sixth annual Wild Cowgirl Race. On April 28 entries were opened for the 2019 race, and filled up in under two hours with 24 riders.

“Every year we’ve just gotten bigger and bigger,” said Sellars, noting Stampede director Janice Sapp also came on board in 2015 to help shape and evolve the race.

“It feels great. I’m very happy where it’s went, it’s where I wanted it to be when I first started it.”

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Monica Sellars is the driving force behind the Stampede’s Wild Cowgirl Race. Angie Mindus Photo

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