6 Over 60: Vicki Christensen O’Shieles
Since day one, Vicki Christensen O’Shieles’s life has been immersed in rodeo, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. From growing up helping her […]
Rodeo’s opportunities for many athletes, and women in particular, wouldn’t be the same without Jimmie Munroe. Today’s professional barrel racers owe a tip of the hat to the 11-time WNFR qualifier as their horses dig into the well-groomed ground of a rodeo and run for home past precision timers. A trip to the pay window especially has Jimmie’s touch on it, as she advocated alongside her WPRA Board of Directors to increase purse money for barrel racers starting in the 1970s.
Born in 1952, Jimmie’s love of horses knew no bounds, and she started riding at three and competing in local Central Texas horse shows at four. Her grandfather, Zach Miller, was one of the brothers of the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch and Wild West Show, and both her parents ranched and rode. “My dad taught me to rope and I roped dummies on the ground. Then we got calves and I just loved to rope,” says Jimmie. At 10, she joined the AJRA and competed in all of the girl’s events on a little bay gelding named Bill. Together they won the barrel racing and the tie-down roping in the 12 and Under, with many more titles to follow. Jimmie’s parents, Jim and Blevins Gibbs, were her greatest supporters, and she also looked up to Texas cowgirl Wanda Bush, who was one of the first members of the GRA in 1948 and won more than 30 world titles in 5 events. “I went down and spent a week or two with Wanda when I was ten. She helped me and was such a role model to me, not only in the things she accomplished, but the person that she was. I was very blessed to have her as a mentor, and she was very instrumental in the GRA back then.”
Jimmie ran barrels on her roping horse, but her senior year of high school, she and her parents went in search of a barrel horse for her to ride when she joined the Sam Houston State University rodeo team on her rodeo scholarship. Several of Jimmie’s friends were running fast times on horses by Flit Bar, and she and her parents went to look at a five-year-old Flit Bar gelding. By the time the deal was closed, the family purchased two Flit Bar geldings for $1,400, including a three-year-old, Robin Flit Bar “Billy”, that caught her mom’s eye and would eventually carry Jimmie to the NFR.
“Billy is the reason I got into professional rodeo,” says Jimmie, who bought her GRA (now WPRA) card in 1974. “In college, I didn’t plan to rodeo professionally—that wasn’t my goal until I got him. He was talented and such a nice horse.” Her last two years in college, Billy and Jimmie won the NIRA barrel racing title in 1974 and 1975, and she capped off her senior year by winning three world titles in the GRA: barrel racing, tie-down roping, and the all-around. Jimmie also served on the NIRA student board as one of two women’s directors, and there she met her future husband, Dan “Bud” Munroe, a saddle bronc rider who rodeoed for Montana State University.
In the 1970s, there were roughly 30 all-women’s rodeos around the country that Jimmie competed in, while also entering PRCA rodeos. The barrel racing had just been added to the NFR in 1967. Billy carried Jimmie to the NFR six times, but his career was cut short when he developed a viral infection in early July of 1980 and passed away. At the time, Jimmie was sitting second in the world. “Billy was running at his peak then, and that’s how I’ll always remember him. I wound up 16th that year. I came home and had a couple young horses that I seasoned.” Jimmie took one of those horses on the road in 1981, but when her friend Lynn Flynn broke her leg at Red Lodge, Montana, she insisted Jimmie ride Lynn’s barrel horse Leroy the rest of the season. “He was a great horse, and I went on to make the Finals on him that year. That was also the first time Bud and I made the Finals together,” says Jimmie, who married in 1980. The following season of 1982, another barrel horse, Smooth Cadet “Cat” came to Jimmie through Pauline Haller. Jimmie seasoned Cat in 1982 and made the NFR on him four times, starting in 1983. “In 1984, I won the first five rounds of the Finals on him. No one had ever done that before and it hasn’t been done since. Pauline owned him the whole time, and she gave me quite the opportunity.”
Alongside her barrel racing achievements, Jimmie and the GRA Board were making advancements for women in rodeo every season. Jimmie, who was first on the board in 1976 as the All-Women’s Rodeo Director, was voted in as president in 1978 at 26 years old. “At the time, I’d said I don’t think I have enough experience, but I was very fortunate with the directors on the board. A lot of people were very helpful to me stepping into that position.” In 1982, Jimmie and the Board started on a three-year plan to bring women’s purse money up to equal that of the men’s PRCA events, including at the NFR. “I don’t believe it would’ve worked if we’d just said we want equal money. These ladies worked with the committees and stayed in such close contact with them in their circuits. When 1985 came, we lost very few rodeos, and the few that we did lose came back within a year or so when they could come up to the equal purse money.”
Ground conditions also improved when Jimmie and the GRA had the idea to incentivize rodeos to improve their ground. Justin Boots had recently started their Justin Sports Medicine program. “We said the wellbeing of the cowboy tied in with the safety and wellbeing of the equine athletes, and ground is important for all other events and livestock,” says Jimmie. “Justin came in with the Best Footing Award, and it was really a good start to encourage the committees.” The GRA also incentivized the use of electric timers for the barrel racing starting in the late 1970s.
Jimmie and Bud continued to rodeo together through the 1980s, Jimmie qualifying for the NFR a total of 11 times and Bud 12 times. He won the world in saddle bronc riding in 1986, and retired from competition when their daughter Tassie was born in 1989. He and Jimmie, who finished her WPRA presidency term in 1993, ran a cattle brokerage company with Jimmie’s dad in their hometown of Valley Mills, Texas. But the adventures didn’t stop there. Jimmie began hosting 20 or more barrel racing clinics a year, and was invited to teach in Australia, Canada, and Brazil. She and Bud also adventured into the world of English riding when Tassie began showing hunter jumpers all over the country and competing in Nationals. She later attended Texas Christian University on an NCAA equestrian scholarship. “We thoroughly enjoyed it. I always said whatever she wanted to do we would support it, and that’s the way my parents were.”
Jimmie and Bud were happily married through April of 2022 when Bud passed away. Both were inducted into numerous rodeo halls of fame, including their induction into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame together in 2016. They were also inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame—Bud in 2007 and Jimmie in 2019—one of few husband-and-wife competitors to have that honor. Jimmie continues to make her home in Valley Mills and ride horses, along with picking up the reins as the WPRA president again in 2021. “There have been a lot of milestones since the WPRA started in 1948. The barrel racing developed into a major event in rodeo, and now the breakaway roping is growing phenomenally and also developing into one of the major events. The sport of professional rodeo was very good to me through the people I’ve met and friends that I made, and places I was able to travel to. I’m very blessed that the things in my life fell into place the way they have, and I wouldn’t go back and change anything.”
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