(ELLICOTT, Colo.) — On Sunday, Painted Skull Ranch hosted a memorial barrel race that brought together hundreds of participants to honor the memory of the legendary rider Ardith Bruce.
Ardith Bruce, a renowned barrel race rider who earned her place in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, left an indelible mark on the rodeo world, and her legacy continues to shine brightly.
Over one year after the passing of the celebrated barrel racer, more than 200 people gathered at Painted Skull Ranch in Ellicott for the Inaugural Ardith Bruce Memorial Scholarship Barrel Race.
Organizers expressed their heartfelt appreciation for the overwhelming turnout, which was a testament to Bruce’s eminence in the rodeo community.
Bruce was more than just a rodeo icon; her granddaughter, Amber West, fondly remembered her as a trailblazer, a matriarch of barrel racing, and a beloved figure in Colorado.
People marveled at Bruce’s extraordinary skills as she expertly maneuvered her horse around the three barrels.
West continued, “She was absolutely fearless. People said in her day, if a horse could go 100 miles an hour, she could make it go 105. She used to say, ‘If you don’t pee your pants, you’re not going fast enough.'”
Bruce’s list of accomplishments was extensive. She won national and world titles – most notably in 1964 when she clinched the world title aboard a horse known as Red, registered as Shaws Kingwood Snip.
Remarkably, she continued competing until she was 85 years old. West said even at that age she was as competitive as she was when she first started 70 years ago.
Kelly Yates, a friend and competitor of Ardith Bruce, reminisced, “I’ve known Ardith since I was a very, very young child. She was a mentor to a lot of people and also mine. But she loved to run, and girls loved it from what I ever remember. She loved running barrels. And so, this would mean so much to her.”
Organizers of the memorial event were visibly emotional, understanding the significance of honoring such a revered figure.
James Bray, the owner of Painted Skull Ranch, choked back tears as he said, “I just want to make sure we get it right. I want to make sure that nothing goes wrong. I know she’s watching, and I want to do it right.”
The proceeds from this event will fund a scholarship to be awarded to a local barrel rider, furthering their education.
West expressed her grandmother’s wishes, saying, “She would want this scholarship to go to someone who would use barrel racing to help them be more well-rounded in life, have a good education, and help further what she started.”
Bruce passed away at the age of 90, on July 27, 2022. But, her memory will endure through events like these. Bray believes that the memorial barrel race will continue to grow each year, ensuring that Bruce’s legacy lives on.
Having lived in Fountain, Colorado, for over 60 years, Ardith Bruce left an indelible mark on the local rodeo community. She passed away at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, just two weeks before her induction into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, cementing her status as a true legend in the world of rodeo.