The life of a rodeo queen

Published 10:58 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wesleigh Whittle

Wesleigh Whittle was crowned the Southeastern Livestock Rodeo Queen and received a $2,000 scholarship at the SLE Rodeo in Montgomery in March.

Wesleigh Whittle’s friends call her “Rodeo Barbie,” but don’t let the nickname fool you. This rodeo queen works as hard as anyone in the arena, and in many cases harder.

Whittle, 20, a Verbena High School graduate, was crowned the Southeastern Livestock Rodeo Queen and received a $2,000 scholarship at the SLE Rodeo in Montgomery in March. She since was named the 2010 Miss Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo Queen First Runner-Up.

Whittle has a roomful of awards from other titles she has won since age 5. She has been riding even longer.

“It’s kind of a family tradition. It’s just kind of born into you,” she said.

Whittle’s mother, Michelle, was the Alabama High School Rodeo Queen in 1982, and she followed in her mother’s footsteps by earning the title in 2007.

Her brother, Chance, was named Alabama High School Bareback Champion in 2005.

So it’s not hard to understand why the rodeo life comes natural to Whittle. It has been part of her world since age 2. She vividly remembers her first horse, a pony named Spanky.

“My brother and I used to fight over him all the time,” she said.

Whittle now has nearly 20 horses. Her favorite is “Rose,” also known as “Peppy’s Peeping Rose.” She rides every day and participates in events about every other weekend.

In addition to competing in events like barrel racing and breakaway roping, one of Whittle’s roles as a Rodeo Queen is to promote rodeo events, which requires her to interact with people all over the country. This, she says, is one of her favorite things because it has yielded so many friendships.

“She’s been hard to shut up since she was 2 years old,” joked her grandmother, Dorothy Turnbow. “She meets no strangers.”

The traditional rodeo wear — cowgirl hat, jeans, boots and spurs — draws a lot of attention in public places, but it can be a hot job during the summer, Whittle admitted.

Contestants in rodeo pageants are judged in many different categories — modeling, horsemanship, appearance, personality, a speech, an interview, a written test and an impromptu question.

“You have to be pretty sure of yourself,” Turnbow said.

Now, Whittle sets her sights on the Miss Rodeo USA competition in Oklahoma City in January. Winning the competition would require her to move to Oklahoma City for a year and represent the International Professional Rodeo Association.

“I’ve already been preparing for it for about two months now,” she said. “I have to stay up to date with current events and the ins and outs of the association.”

Whittle is currently pursuing a degree in business marketing and accounting at Jeff State Community College. She plans to transfer to Troy University at the end of her sophomore year.