story by Lori O’Harver GLEN ROSE, Texas – “We’re thrilled to have the bronc riders back in town, but honestly? It’s the TBRA lady ranch […]
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Meet the Member Billi Halverson: Living on the Edge
story by Lori O’Harver
Some women are born to fly. Billi Halverson is one of those. Her small North Dakota hometown of Hazen couldn’t hold her. They miss her smile and genuine enthusiasm every day.
Now she calls Fort Worth, Texas, home for a variety of reasons. Years ago, the access to bucking bulls and Professional Women’s Rodeo Association sanctioned bull rides drew her like a moth to the flame. She was serious, rode like it and has the hardware in her right forearm to prove it. She’s won Mesquite, been 6th in the PWRA standings.
In fact, during her bull riding career, she broke her riding arm five time and lives the usual chronic, daily pain all roughstock riders accept. What she finally couldn’t do was put the kind of grip and arm strength together that it takes to win in the bull riding. When that happened, Billi was looking for a new challenge and has found it nodding for ranch broncs, but not before she fell in love with roller derby.
“Just for fun, a friend invited me to go watch a derby with her. Sure, why not? I’m forever grateful because I was so impressed with those ladies. They were amazing skaters who put everything into the game, banged on each other hard and walked away smiling, as friends,” Billi remembers.
She wanted to be part of that kind of a fully physical, bonded team of athletes and started to apply herself to the goal.
Billi Halverson had never laced on a pair of roller skates. She signed up for lessons, learned alongside first graders. She hung onto the walls while they skated circles around her. She persisted. Today, she’s one of the top scoring jammers in the league, beloved by her team mates, the fans and respected by the opposition.
“Women’s sports have always been treated differently. Stories about us always talk about our age and our weight. I’ve rarely seen a male athlete written about in quite the same way,” Halverson said. “I don’t tell reporters my age because the conversation ought to be somewhere else. In fact, I believe that talking is meaningless. Proving what you do is what it’s about.”
“One of the coolest things about the derby revival is these women in Fort Worth made it happen. They got this league together, manage the tour, the venues and promotion. Now men want to put leagues together and play. For the first time in sporting history that I’m aware of, they’re coming to us to find out how. We blazed this trail and love that they want to be involved.”
The RIDE TV TBRA Ranch Bronc Riding was about the same kind of introduction. When promos started appearing on the social networks, Billi’s friends encouraged her to give it a shot. Some thought they were teasing her. Most knew better.
“It had nothing to do with the TV show. In fact, that was one of the negatives for me at first. I’d seen a few girls who’d come out and enter the bull riding for the attention, not because they were serious about the competition, bettering themselves, or challenging themselves. The kind of girls who’d buck off then lay there,” said Billi. “I’d also been disappointed in reality shows that focused on women in rodeo.”
“Actually, drama is minimal on the women’s rodeo trail. It’s very positive between competitors. We lift each other, laugh with each other, we don’t cry because cowgirls don’t,” Billi said. “The RIDE TV production crew gets that and treats our sport, our horses and us respectfully. We’ve become friends and grown as competitors while the cameras roll.”
Halverson has a way to go to learn the craft of the ranch bronc rider and that’s part of what she loves. The other part is the horses. She broke her spine earlier this season when she had one of those ‘hit just wrong’ buck offs and fractured her spine in several places. She’s on the sidelines at the rink and the arena wearing a lot of fiberglass and steel exoskeleton until that heals but expects to be ready to ride at the Texas Bronc Riders Association Finals in Fort Worth in November.