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Meet the Member Desi Dotson
story by Ruth Nicolaus
The 2021 Western States Ranch Rodeo Association world champion steer roper and all-around winner loves cooking, gardening and riding colts.
In fact, besides ranch rodeo, those are her favorite things to do.
Desi Dotson, who lives on the Oregon Canyon Ranch north of McDermitt, Ore., but whose address is Nevada, says, “there’s nothing better to do out here but cook, garden and ride colts,” and that’s what she’s doing when she’s not at ranch rodeos.
She grew up in rodeo, competing in junior high and high school rodeo in the team roping and breakaway. She got her first taste of ranch rodeo in 2015, when someone asked her to fill in on a women’s ranch rodeo team. The team she subbed on won the WSSRA women’s finals that year. “I didn’t know anything about (ranch rodeo) but now it’s my new fave,” she said.
This year, she not only won the steer stopping, but she was part of the women’s team that finished as reserve WSSRA champions. On the team, the women don’t necessarily choose who is doing which role, but Desi often ropes. “They usually tell me, you take the first head shot,” Desi said. She likes ranch rodeos because there is plenty of opportunity to rope. “You get to rope a lot more.
Desi’s mount played a big part in her steer stopping win and women’s ranch team reserve win.
She purchased Seven, a bay roan gelding, off Craigslist, with no picture except for his registration papers. He wasn’t visually appealing when she first saw him, either. “His ears were big and he was an ugly little thing. I went to catch him and he stomped my toe and snorted and ran away.”
But when he moved around the round pen, it was a different story. “He moved so pretty and put his head down,” she said. “I didn’t have to ride him. I was like, yep, I’ll have him.”
He’s very intelligent, Desi said. “He’s so smart, he just knows. I didn’t have to teach him anything.” She’s headed, heeled, and breakaway roped on him, and shown him at ranch rodeos as well.
But Seven isn’t without his quirks. On the ground, he’s touchy, and he’ll buck, too; he bucked her off at a breakaway jackpot last year. He’s not friendly and doesn’t want to be petted, but she won’t sell him. People have offered to buy him, “for a lot of money,” she said. “I always tell them, you’ll hate this horse.”
He’s her “best boy,” she said. “When you’re on his back, he does his job really good.”
For her “real” job, she works on the Oregon Canyon ranch, a division of the Tree Top Ranch, in the summers and spends the winters in Wickenburg, Ariz., training breakaway horses.
She’s far from civilization: McDermitt, the nearest town, has a casino, two gas stations, and a Subway fast food restaurant. It’s two hours to a grocery store with variety, but Desi’s okay with that.
“I like to do some gardening in the summer so I’m self-sufficient,” she said. Last summer, she had so many cucumbers, she canned dill pickles and gave away twenty jars.
She also loves to cook. “I’m Italian, so I’m all about pastas and stuff that has tomato sauce,” she said. But enchiladas and carmelized pork tacos with mango salsa are also some of her favorites to make.
This summer, when ranch work allows, she plans on loading up the horses and dogs and breakaway roping at the bigger rodeos and the all girls ropings. She’ll travel with her “childhood cowgal pal” Dixie Barry. Dixie, a farm and ranch broker for Fay Ranches, sponsors Desi so Desi can “live out my West life.”