Jo Ann Merritt
The 2009 winner of Reno’s Perry 'i oreto begins 2018 in the top spot on the USTRC Cinch Ladies Standings with a $13,000 check at the 18th Annual Lucky 777 in Fort Mohave, Arizona.
For the Win
I was roping with Zane Williams. We were second high call and we just made a nice little run. High call went out and boom, we were happy. That was in the #11. I was a 4-elite through the summer, but after that, I’m up to a 5.
Everybody Loves a Brown Horse
I was riding Slider, a horse that my husband, Lory, and I kind of share. He heels on him and I head on him.
We’ve had Slider for every bit of four years. He’s cowhorse bred. We bought him off a ranch in Texas. He’s not NFR-quality or nothing, but he’s just real dependable and scores awesome, and you don’t have to practice on him. You just keep him in shape. He’s just a real, nice quality bay horse. Everybody loves a brown horse.
Growing Up WYO
I grew up on a ranch in Wyoming. We ran a lot of cows and leased a lot of ground. We calved a lot of heifers.
Actually, until sixth grade, I went to a rural school in the mountains around Laramie Peak. It was just my brother and me and then another brother and sister that went to this one-room schoolhouse with an outhouse until I was in sixth grade.
My dad leased a ranch up there for about five years until my brother was in eighth grade, so we had to move to Wheatland.
Ranch Gender Roles
I was never told, “Oh, you can’t do that because you’re a girl.” Everybody joined in. You drove a tractor. You bucked bales. You fixed fence. You broke colts. It just didn’t matter. My mom’s a wicked hand. My dad was just an unbelievable horseman. It was a great way of life. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I started roping when I was pretty lit- tle and my dad needed help. He handed us kids ropes and he said, “Learn to rope stuff. Heel these calves when we’re trailing them, and rope brush, and drag logs, and get to where you can catch something, and we’ll go doctor stuff.”
I was never given any kind of training, no rules, no roping dummies, no none of that. I mean, we didn’t have any of it. It was just, everybody had a couple of ropes tied on and we went out, and you just learned to catch. You had to catch. And so that’s what we did.
My dad—he died this past October— was a real good hand in and out of the arena. My brother wasn’t really interested in it, so it was just me and Dad. We got to team roping a little bit, and we got to a barrel race every once in a while. He built an arena a couple places we lived at and we’d go out there in the evenings if we had time, and we’d rope stuff and run some barrels and set up some poles. Then we’d slip off a little bit around Wyoming in the summertime and rodeo.
Then, when I was a freshman, my dad said, “When we can, we’ll high school rodeo.” I started high school rodeoing more steadily after that and got a college rodeo scholarship.
I went to Eastern Wyoming College for two years, then I went to University of Wyoming after that and met Lory.
He grew up ranching around Chey-
enne, so we kind of grew up the same way.
We started our life off right about that time, so I didn’t graduate from
UW, but kind of took classes all over once Lory and I got together and got married.
I married way over my head. That was the first right thing I did, being smart enough to marry Lory. We’ve really had a charmed life. We’ve been really blessed.
Training Kids and Colts
I’ve got three boys. My oldest is about to be 27, and I’ve got identical twins that are 24. All the time when they were young, I trained and broke horses. We had a little ranch, and we had our cows and did all that stuff, but my favorite thing to do was always 0–60 days. We always had a round pen and that was what I always did when the kids were little. Actually, that’s what I always did until I was about 43.
A survivor's perspective
I got breast cancer in 2011. That was a pretty long year, so I went to calming down a little bit on all the horse breaking.
It was stage 2. There were four tumors. My doctor caught it at an exam. I had a bilateral mastectomy, and I had chemo. I found it January 12, 2011, so I’m a seven-year survivor. It puts things in perspective and you just appreciate every day.