Profile: Clark & Brown Families
Related by Rodeo: How the Cowboy Sport Passes Down Family Values & Traditions In the last century and a half, what started as rough and […]
Breakaway roper Ronda Skinner is the co-owner of The Bar R Ranch in Idaho Falls, Idaho, a boarding and training facility she first envisioned while driving to school years earlier. Established in the late 1990s, The Bar R Ranch was many years in the making, starting with Ronda saving money as a child to buy her first horse. “My family lived in town in Shelly (Idaho), so I wasn’t able to get my own horse until I had a way to pay for it, and then I rode, rode, rode,” says Ronda, 50. “When I was eighteen years old, I was driving to school, where I was studying to be a legal secretary. I remember very clearly telling myself that I was going to buy at least five acres of ground, and I was going to have horses and an arena and a house. It’s since grown and changed in direction, but that was the original idea.”
Roughly seven years later, Ronda’s opportunity came when her sister and brother-in-law were purchasing 20 acres of ground near Idaho Falls. “They only wanted twelve acres, so they asked me about buying the other ground and helping make payments. It was just a hay field, but I got it paid for, and we found a really ugly mobile home in a potato field. A good friend remodeled the inside and we moved it up here around 1997. That’s when I really started giving lessons, and then starting colts.”
Embarking with her on the business venture was Ronda’s new husband, Bill Skinner. They had met in college, where Bill was Ronda’s biology professor, and they later hit it off when Ronda attended one of Bill’s safety classes. “When Bill asked me to marry him, he said he’d give me a really nice house, a really nice horse trailer with living quarters, or a really nice barn. I chose the barn,” Ronda says with a laugh. “We built it in 1999, and I also finished out my master’s degree in health education.”
Along with horses, Ronda and Bill were also the first of their families to break ground in the rodeo world. Bill was team roping when he met Ronda, and after teaching her to rope, they started team roping together. “That lasted about ten minutes until I saw breakaway, which looked like a whole lot more fun. Bill wanted to be a tie-down roper more than a team roper anyway,” says Ronda. The husband and wife started buying calves, and since they were without a chute, they fashioned one out of two large fence panels and took turns opening the gate. “Bill found me a really good coach and we found some other good coaches along the way. Then we started buying a few rope horses and training our current horses to rope. I greatly benefited from those years leading up to roping because I spent those training horses under the mentorship of Pat Wyse. Putting a basic handle on a horse makes a person a much better horseman, and basic horsemanship makes for better ropers.”
Today, Ronda breakaway ropes in the IMPRA and RMPRA, along with a local association, the GVGRA. “I also do the Jackson Open season, and in the past, I’ve been a part of the ICA and associations in Wyoming and Montana. It helped a great deal that I was already a proficient rider, but learning to get my rope on took a little while. It takes about five hundred calves down the arena before a person figures out how to get their rope on. It’s a constant journey, and I’m still learning.”
Ronda is equally passionate about teaching others of all ages to rope and ride, and she also teaches the foundations of barrel racing. “My early experiences training horses taught me love of molding and channeling horses into their greatest potential, and making them safe companions that are competitive if they have the athletic ability. I like to pass that on to others so they can enjoy their horses, and teach them how to communicate with and listen to their horses.”
Ronda takes in outside horses for training, and occasionally shops for roping prospects. Her own rope horses include a 13-year-old buckskin, Jack. “He’s incredibly fast, and I started him as a two-year-old. A friend owned him at the time, and later I bought him and trained him to be a breakaway and tie-down horse for Bill. I have Roxy, an eight-year-old mare that’s cutting bred. She’s very quick and has quite a personality – she squeals at the calf when she’s coming out of the box. My golden oldie is Boy. I learned to rope on him twenty-six years ago, and I’m still competing on him. I won some money on Boy in Tremonton (Utah) last October, and I’ve given over a hundred riding lessons on him.”
Within the last few weeks, Ronda has returned to her horses and business full time, after working three years in safety oversight for a small environmental group. She originally came across the job opening for Bill, who is a certified safety specialist, but took it instead after doing the job interview on horseback. She and Bill also lived in Kuwait for several years and worked in safety oversight before moving back to Idaho. Bill’s son, David, looked after the ranch, while several of their horses stayed with Bill’s dad in eastern Idaho. Presently, Bill is working overseas at the US Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia, in the British Indian Ocean Territory.
When Bill is away, Ronda finds a variety of people willing to open roping chutes for her; she says she now understands why Trevor Brazile famously said, “I wear out a lot of chute help.” Her latest goal is learning to heel. “A client who purchased one of my horses, Pearl, wants to start competing,” she adds. “My goal is to get him rolling, and my breakaway goal is to go as often as I can to as many rodeos as I can.”
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