Back When They Bucked with Joleen Hurst Steiner
Written by: Courtesy< Back to Articles
story by Gail Woerner
Joleen Hurst Steiner is a petite ‘tells it like she see’s it’ cowgirl who was born in Woodward, Oklahoma in 1952. She grew up in Fort Supply, Oklahoma, which she said was “in the middle of nowhere”. She had two sisters and a brother. Joleen was the third child. Her biggest desire as a youngster was to have a horse. Her sister felt the same way. Joleen remembered getting a pony when she was nine. Then her folks bought her and her sister full-sized horses. The girls both trained their own horses.
At first Joleen competed in Little Britches rodeos and Junior Rodeos. She entered the pole bending, breakaway calf roping, goat tying, and barrel racing events. She broke a breakaway calf roping record at the age of 13 at the Little Britches Finals Rodeo in Littleton, Colorado.
Joleen admits her horse was a good horse for barrel racing, but not National Finals quality. When her sister married she gave her horse, Hot Shot, to Joleen. In 1970, she joined the Girl’s Rodeo Association (GRA) and with her mother at her side she made all the Oklahoma rodeos, and ventured even farther to Colorado, Kansas, all the Texas rodeos, New Mexico, Arizona and even the West Coast. She loved the California rodeos because the weather was always so good.
Joleen admits when asked ‘what was the hardest part of barrel racing’ she thought nothing was hard. She was young, life was good and she had a good horse. She would read the GRA News to decide which rodeos to go to. She picked the rodeos that added the most money and that is the direction she and her mother headed.
When asked how much she practiced her answer was, “Never!” She laughingly admitted, “I just hung on to Hot Shot, and we were in the money a good deal of the time.” We know she worked harder at it than she admits, but she truly enjoyed every minute of it. She felt the rules in barrel racing were fair for everyone when she was competing.
As we discussed, the changes that have occurred since her era she immediately mentioned “No one complained about the ground in my era. Whether it was sandy, too hard, or whatever, we just dealt with it.” Joleen also said there are a lot more quality horses bred to barrel race today than she saw in her days in the arena.
Concerning the barrel racing horses, she feels that often trainers expect the horses they train to turn a barrel a certain way. “I feel they should allow the horses to decide how they choose to make the turn. The horse knows best what fits them.” She also said you can tell which horses love it as much as their rider – it shows.
In 1970, Joleen was having a good year and her dad told her if she won the barrel racing at the Cow Palace he would buy her a trailer with living quarters. That win qualified her for the National Finals Rodeo, in Oklahoma City, as one of the top fifteen barrel racers in the world. There were nine rounds of barrel racing and she won three second places and two first places. “If I didn’t knock over a barrel I placed,” she admitted and laughed. That first year she finished 7th for the year.
“When I hit the road in 1971, I was in heaven. My mom cooked wonderful meals, and we stayed on the rodeo grounds in my new gooseneck trailer. It wasn’t as common to stay on the rodeo grounds as it is today, but it was much easier, Hot Shot was with us, and it was fun.”
The following year, 1971, she qualified for the National Finals Rodeo again, finishing in third place in the world, and third in the Average. There were ten rounds of barrel racing and Joleen had three second places, and three third place wins, but this year something happened that changed her life forever. She met Bobby Steiner, a bull rider.
Her mother didn’t think much of bull riders. Mrs. Hurst was much more interested in Joleen finding a nice calf roper to marry. “Mom thought bull riders were lazy. All they had to do is bring their bull riding equipment in a bag to a rodeo. Mrs. Hurst felt a roper that had the responsibility of hauling his horse and keeping him sound would make a better husband for her.” Joleen was determined. She saw something in Bobby she hadn’t found before. He was very confident. They had their first date at Belton, Texas on the 4th of July. He picked her up in his big Oldsmobile 98 and she was impressed. She asked him if it was his dad’s car. She thought the car was way to fancy for a bull rider. After all, she was driving a little Ford pickup. Bobby informed her it was his car. Their first date was a drive-in movie in Temple where they saw “Bandolero” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”.
After that they ran into each other at various rodeos and continued to date. The following year after the Houston rodeo Bobby asked Joleen to marry him. They married in June, 1972. Their family eventually expanded to three with the birth of Shane. Sid was born fourteen months later. Joleen had her hands full with two little boys, and a husband, so the barrel racing stopped.
The following year Joleen began to help Bobby with his bull riding career. She entered him in all the rodeos and helped him plan to get to all of them. She said, “You might call me Bobby’s navigator. I made sure his entry fees and turn out fines were paid and took care of the business end of the sport.” (This was all before PROCOM).” She traveled with him until the doctor told her, when she was 7 months pregnant, that she needed to stay at home. Bobby won the World Championship in Bull Riding in 1973, and was 2nd in the Average. He retired from bull riding shortly after that.
Bobby began helping his dad, Tommy, with the Steiner Rodeo Company at that time. The legacy of Steiner Rodeo Company began with Buck Steiner, Tommy’s dad running it with Tommy. Then Tommy and Bobby ran it together. Joleen carried the American flag and helped in many other ways. She helped Mildred Farris, the secretary for Steiner Rodeo Company, keep time. “When we had rodeos overlap, liked Belton and Pecos, I would secretary the smaller one,” explained Joleen. When they sold the rodeo company in 1982, Bobby and Joleen spent their time raising their sons and ranching.
The Steiner family has always been tremendously benevolent to many groups and totally supportive of rodeo and the rodeo family. Some of the innovative things started in rodeo was done by Steiner Rodeo Company, including the electric eye for timing the barrel races, and instead of having the barrel racing event next to last they had it as their third event in each performance.
Son Sid became a steer wrestler and went to the National Finals in 2000. In 2001, he was absent from those top fifteen in steer wrestling. But in 2002 he came back with a vengeance and won the Steer Wresting Championship and the Average. He followed in his dad’s footsteps and retired from steer wrestling shortly after winning the World title. This family is totally family-first and admit they don’t like being away from home. Son, Shane, is a musician and although he has played in numerous venues he enjoys his life performing at Steiner Ranch Steakhouse down the road from his home. Now the grandchildren are making their marks in bareback riding, barrel racing and wake-boarding sports.
When doing this interview with Joleen, Bobby stuck his head in, and made this statement, “I may not have been the best bull rider, but I sure got the best looking barrel racer!”
By the way, Joleen’s mom became a major fan of Professional Bullriders and knew all the cowboys competing as well as the bulls. I guess she decided bull riders weren’t so bad, after all.