IF YOU thought rodeo queen pageants were about tiaras, sashes, sequins and belt buckles you would be right to a point.
But while presentation and polish is important, rodeo royalty like the reigning Miss Rodeo Canada Nicole Briggs are using their intellect and public speaking skills to change our perception.
The Rural Weekly caught up with Ms Briggs during her recent trip to Australia.
The 22-year-old university student from Edmonton, Alberta, is at the end of a year-long reign that has seen her make more than 500 professional appearances and compete in 100 rodeos.
"It's definitely been busy, but it's been worthwhile. I am passionate about promoting rodeo so I've truly enjoyed the experience," she said.
Yet accepting the title wasn't a decision she made lightly, because it meant putting her university studies on hold.
She has spent four years studying animal health science and production at the University of Alberta, and now plans a further four years studying vet science so she can specialise in equine medicine.
"I rope and barrel race so I love horses and I would ideally like to make a career out of working with them," she said.
The articulate young ambassador has juggled competing with rodeo "queening" since 2008 when she won the Alberta rodeo title.
"Rodeo is very strong in Canada and my family has been involved for a long time," she said.
"I started riding when I was three and competing when I was six.
"My dad and I did team roping together for a while and my brother is involved now too.
"My family also breed longhorn cattle, specifically for rodeo so we've grown up with it very much a part of our lives."
Since claiming her first tiara six years ago she has had her sights firmly set on the national title, Miss Rodeo Canada.
"It's definitely about a lot more than wearing a sash," Ms Briggs said.
"It is about having the knowledge and public speaking skills to be an articulate ambassador for one of our country's fastest growing sports.
"There can be anywhere from 400 to 1000 candidates trying out for a title like this and it is part of a process: you need to win regionally to qualify to compete in the rodeo queen pageant at the Canadian Rodeo Finals."
From there she said there was a written exam, public speaking, a face-to-face interview along with presentation appraisal to determine the eventual winner.
"Being selected means so much more than an opportunity to wear a sash and look good," she said.
"The travel and the networking opportunities are incredible and you learn a lot about yourself along the way because you are literally in the public spotlight for 12 months."
So what's the next goal in rodeo terms for this well spoken young woman?
"Finish my degree then try my hand as a professional barrel racer. For if there is one thing this experience has taught me it is to confidently embrace the opportunities that come your way."
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