Ardith Bruce

2022 Inductee
AT HOME IN THE HALL

Venerated Horsewoman Bruce Takes Rightful Place in ProRodeo Hall of Fame

By Neal Reid



Ardith Bruce couldn’t hold back the shriek.

According to her granddaughter, Amber Bruce West, the venerated horsewoman who won the 1964 Girls Rodeo Association (GRA) barrel racing world championship yelled with elation on the morning she got the call that she had been selected as a member of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame Class of 2022. Bruce — a Fountain, Colorado, resident for more than 60 years — was thrilled to finally know, at age 90, that her legacy would forever live on just up the road in the hallowed halls of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Ardith Bruce

West accepted on Bruce’s behalf, relaying to the crowd the emotions that emerged upon getting the news she was a Hall of Famer.

“She was a very stoic, old-school gal, but the morning she got the call that she was going in with this class, she actually let out a blood-curdling shriek,” said West, a former Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) Board member. “It was quite a big deal for her. It’s something she looked forward to for a long time, and it’s kind of like being immortalized for her.”

Ardith Bruce

Bruce was one of 11 legends selected for enshrinement, and she relished that knowledge for more than two months before she passed away on June 27. Her ashes were carried in a cloverleaf pattern one last time on July 15 at the horse arena at Metcalfe Park in Fountain, one day before she officially became part of the Hall with this year’s class.

Ardith Bruce

“It means the world to our family,” said Bruce’s daughter, Deb Thompson. “It’s an accomplishment we feel is very deserved and one that she will always have.”

West also shared part of the acceptance speech that Bruce wrote, but never finished prior to her passing.

“As a backwoods hillbilly child of a poor farm family, dreams were not dreamed of an honor such as I have arrived at today,” Bruce wrote in the speech.

Accomplished horsewoman
Born in Clay Center, Kansas, on July 22, 1931, Bruce grew up enamored with the Western way of life thanks to the films of movie cowboys like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.

Ardith Bruce

“When I possessed a nickel and an afternoon in town, it was spent worshipping Gene Autry and Champion, his horse, at the picture show,” Bruce wrote. “They were the first love of my life, and they were probably the stimulus that directed my future career toward a diversifying horse world.”

She honed her skills in the saddle riding horses on her father’s farm.

“Little did I realize until 50 years later, the horses I spent riding and directing as a tiny girl, my father’s work horses, up and down row after row in his potato and corn fields while he maneuvered the planters and cultivators that these experiences would provide the expertise needed to maneuver gated show horses, racehorses, cow ponies and barrel horses in their competitions,” Bruce wrote. “Thank you, Daddy for these opportunities, even though you never believed horses would be a career opportunity and that I should become a schoolteacher. I am privileged that my horsemanship and barrel racing skills have allowed me to do both of these things.”

Bruce joined the GRA in 1960 after being encouraged to try running barrels by her husband, World War II Navy veteran Jim Bruce. She married Jim on March 19, 1949, and they enjoyed wedded bliss for nearly 60 years until his death in 2008.

He was the catalyst who suggested she give the sport a try, and she won the first event she ever entered, in Muleshoe, Texas. She was off and running and would qualify for seven consecutive National Finals Rodeos from 1963-69 on her beloved horse, Red, whose registered name was Shaws Kingwood Snip. Bruce won the 1964 title by just $400 over Sissy Thurman that year, and Red—which she bought for just $1,600 in 1960—was named reserve AQHA Horse of the Year.

Bruce and Red won six Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo titles, as well as the 1967 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo the first year it was held at the Astrodome. In 1965, Red was the first GRA/WPRA barrel horse to ever appear on the cover of Quarter Horse Journal in color, and Bruce would retire him in 1969 after the National Finals. Bruce, the first world champion to go to the left barrel first, was inducted into the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1997.

Ardith Bruce

Giving back to the sport
Bruce was committed to helping others learn the craft of barrel racing, becoming one of the first professionals to conduct clinics and horsemanship schools. She taught them in 20 states, including Hawaii, and was quick to offer any competitor advice, whether it was requested or not.

“She helped grow the sport with her knowledge with anyone wanting to learn, and all you had to do was ask and maybe not even ask,” said West, who wore a buckle commemorating her grandmother’s 1964 world title. “She might just walk up and say, ‘Hey, I saw this. Would you like to try this to maybe get better?’ Nine times out of 10, she was right, and it helped.”

Bruce, who ran barrels into her 80s, helped set up the WPRA headquarters in Colorado Springs and helped celebrate the Hall of Fame inductions of Charmayne James’ famed horse, Scamper, and the first WPRA members who were inducted in 2017. She was a charter member of the Fountain Riding and Roping Club and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board, and the south entrance to the city of Fountain still is adorned with a sign that reads “Home to Ardith Bruce.”

West remarked that Bruce kept her WPRA Gold Card current every year and would routinely critique barrel racers’ runs after watching them on The Cowboy Channel. And she remained a big fan of her beloved movie cowboys.

“Sixty-plus years later, I am still enamored with Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Rex Allen, Hopalong Cassidy and all the rest of the movie and TV cowboys and their horses,” Bruce wrote in her speech. “They have and are still providing excitement and entertainment and are emphasizing clean living as good guys to children who, like myself, dreamed but never expected to be a part of that world.”

But Bruce, the first female licensed outrider in the state of Colorado, became a huge part of that world. West summed up her grandmother’s legacy succinctly and powerfully during her speech.

“I know how honored she was to be included in these hallowed halls with her friends and her fellow competitors. I know because I heard the stories,” West said. “She was a legend, a trend-setter and a matriarch of barrel racing, and we are all better for the path that she helped pave for women in rodeo.”

INDUCTEE VIDEO

PHOTO GALLERY

WPRA INDUCTEES

2022 ProRodeo Hall of Fame Class Announced

2022 ProRodeo Hall of Fame Class Announced

2022 ProRodeo Hall of Fame Class Announced By Ann Bleiker COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Class of 2022 ProRodeo Hall of Fame inductees were announced on Tuesday, April 12 and will mark the 43rd annual induction. A total of 11 will be inducted including two...

ProRodeo Hall of Fame Nomination Form

ProRodeo Hall of Fame Nomination Form

Nomination FormNomination FormNominate Your Rodeo Hero By WPRA Office The colorful history and equally colorful legends of professional rodeo live on at the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy in Colorado Springs, Colo. In 2017, WPRA members and...

Cindy Rosser Joins Father, Cotton, in ProRodeo Hall of Fame

Cindy Rosser Joins Father, Cotton, in ProRodeo Hall of Fame

Cindy Rosser2022 InducteeLIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER Cindy Rosser Joins Father, Cotton, in ProRodeo Hall of Fame By Neal Reid Cindy Rosser was too busy to take the call of a lifetime. The Yuba City, California, native was standing atop a gooseneck trailer, unloading...

Wanda Harper Bush a True Leader

Wanda Harper Bush a True Leader

Wanda HarperBush2017 InducteeWanda Harper Bush a True Leader By Jolee Jordan If a fiction writer had invented the character of Wanda Harper Bush the critics may have condemned the figure as unbelievable. Thankfully, for thousands of professional barrel racers, Bush...

Billie McBride Among 2018 ProRodeo Hall of Fame Inductees

Billie McBride Among 2018 ProRodeo Hall of Fame Inductees

Billie McBride2018 InducteeBillie McBride Among 2018 ProRodeo Hall of Fame Inductees By Ann Bleiker Billie McBride was fearless. Whether in the saddle aboard her favorite mare Zombie or guiding the budding Girls Rodeo Association (GRA) as its President, McBride had...

Jimmie Munroe to be Enshrined in ProRodeo Hall of Fame

Jimmie Munroe to be Enshrined in ProRodeo Hall of Fame

Jimmie Munroe2019 InducteeJimmie Munroe to be Enshrined in ProRodeo Hall of Fame By Jolee Jordan In August of 1979, a young cowgirl attended the very first induction ceremony for the brand new ProRodeo Hall of Fame. She came to represent the Girls Rodeo Association...

Florence Youree to be Enshrined in ProRodeo Hall of Fame

Florence Youree to be Enshrined in ProRodeo Hall of Fame

Florence Youree2019 InducteeFlorence Youree to be Enshrined in ProRodeo Hall of Fame By Jolee Jordan With grace, humility and more than a fair share of humor, Florence Youree led the Girls Rodeo Association (GRA) from struggling beginnings all the way to the National...

431 South Cascade
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

(719) 447-4627
(719) 447-4631 (fax)

431 South Cascade
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
DIRECTIONS

(719) 447-4627   |   (719) 447-4631 (fax)

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP BARREL RACING — Where the Elite Compete®

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
BARREL RACING
Where the Elite Compete®

WPRA

main-menu-mobile