Kathy Branco at Salinas Rodeo riding Mystic Firewater. Picture credit is Richard Levine.
By Noel Cosca
For the past thirty years Kathy Branco has lived in Chowchilla, California. She bought her permit at the age of 21 years old and now has her Gold Card. Today Kathy mainly concentrates on the futurity part of the WPRA. Kathy admits that, “it has been awhile since I had a horse that I felt was good enough to go rodeo on. I get them to that point then it seems health issues have side lined them.” Kathy says that, “the first horse that she made was a piece of cake. I was young and I was dumb and I didn’t realize what I had. I just jumped out and he was placing at all the rodeos. I was pretty clueless as to what I had.” Kathy’s background growing up was in the working cow horse world. Her horses were all really broke and therefore she says they were easy to train. When her first horse was so easy to train for barrels she just assumed that this was easy and thought that she could sell this one and just make another, so she sold him. Now admitting, it was the biggest mistake she ever made. At that time her husband Steve Branco was roping and he made it to the NFR. Kathy was the driver pretty much of the time. When her husband had an empty hole in the trailer, Kathy was able to throw her horse in and also compete. Today Kathy is producing one of the largest and very successful WPRA approved Open 4D barrel race with WPRA Futurity and Derby in the state. Kathy feels that the colts and the people who make them should be showcased. She says, “After you train a few you realize how hard it is to make one. Kathy works closely with the Chowchilla Stampede committee to grow her now very well attended Futurity and Derby. This 2016 year there race total payout this year of $ were 287 riders with a one day 30,835.00. The race is growing each year to 42 futurity colts and 42 derby. Kathy auctions off some of her Branco Ranch furniture at the Stampede fund raiser dinner to make the added money for the Futurity and Derby. 2017 will be the 60th Stampede. Kathy’s father-in-law was one of the founding Chowchilla Stampede committee members who started the Stampede and Kathy’s husband is also a committee member today. Traditionally the Chowchilla Stampede began years ago as a straight up open barrel race and roping. With Kathy’s help the Stampede committee who has now increased the added money to $5,000.00 with 3500.00 added in the futurity and 1000.00 added in the derby. This race which is WPRA approved has turned into one of the largest races in California and also includes the WPRA program in its payout.
Kathy always dedicates the Chowchilla Stampede barrel race to Dean Flanigan. Posters are hung which describe Dean’s contribution to futurity horses. Also memento and photos of Dean running her horses are displayed near the entry office. Kathy says, “Dean was a dear friend and a kick in the pants. She was the first gal to put futurity barrel races out here in California.” Kathy felt that when she lost Dean she would honor Dean’s passion for futurity horses.
When Kathy is training her young horses she is a big fan of the Marilyn Camarillo’s bits and she often comes back to Ed Wright bits. Kathy says that we all have to bounce around to find what works with our colts. Kathy has a futurity colt for next year that is the last colt out of her good mare she fondly refers to as Treasure, which she bred to Cathy Cagliari good stallion Stirrin up the Fame. As of right now Kathy’s filly is still really green, but has a feel that makes Kathy think that her mare saved the best for last. She is excited about the prospect. Kathy also has the Branco Ranch western furniture business. Visit Brancoranch.com
The picture is one of Kathy’s favorite pictures at Salinas Rodeo riding Mystic Firewater. Photo credit is Richard Levine.