Forever in the Saddle


The passionate pursuit of learning new tricks with Hall of Fame horsewoman Pam Minick.

Written by Constance Dunn

In 1973, Pam Minick won the title of Miss Rodeo America. It was the first of many chapters for the young horsewoman, who two years earlier had cinched the Nevada State Barrel Racing Championship. In her future, careers as a marketing and PR whiz, honky tonk owner, network broadcaster and producer would follow. Throughout it all, however, she would remain true to her rodeo roots, competitively roping and barrel racing while her accolades stacked higher. “I think I was born competitive by nature,” says Minick from her Texas ranch. “When I indulge in something I just bail in with both feet, and serendipitously, sometimes the stars align.” 

So they do. Among Minick’s many wins is the 1982 Women’s World Championship Calf Roping title, and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s prestigious Tad Lucas Award—recognizing extraordinary women in rodeo—from 1998. A couple of years later she was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, and in 2016 she received the Western Horseman Award. “In order to win you’ve got to enter,” Minick points out, “and I’ve never been afraid to enter.”

All of this was a far cry from her start as a child, growing up on a 5-acre property in Las Vegas where she and her sister first caught the horse bug. “Our parents indulged our whim and bought us our first horses,” says Minick. They were matching palominos named Rebel and Rio, purchased for $300 dollars apiece. “That horse,” she recounts, “became the foundation of the rest of my life.”

When I indulge in something I just bail in with both feet, and serendipitously, sometimes the stars align.

Pam with her husband Billy Minick. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Cruz

Decades later, horses remain at the center of her work and lifestyle. Days on the Minick ranch, which she shares with husband of 39 years Billy Minick (another rodeo heavyweight), revolve around her latest passion—showing American Quarter Horses. She also hosts shows like “Gentle Giants,” dedicated to draft horses and found on cable channel RFD-TV. Despite a whirlwind-like schedule, there is no hint of modern frenzy in her manner. That’s because her various projects are not really work. “They’re about pride and accomplishment more so than the ribbons, trophies, buckles or the money you win,” she explains. 

Shaped by an encouraging mother who didn’t abide the word “can’t” by her children, Minick is not rattled by setbacks. “Not every entry is a winning entry,” she says with a laugh. “But it’s not just about winning or losing, it’s about making myself better and proving that you’re never too old to learn.” Last year for instance, Minick, then a newcomer to the America Quarter Horse show world, entered the World Championship Show in Oklahoma City. It was her first outing and she won Reserve World Champion in a class of over 40 competitors. One gets the idea, however, that even if she had placed dead last, Minick would have counted it a valuable experience for having put her hat in the ring in the first place.

Just like in her Miss Rodeo days, when despite a limited budget, there were costumes and Western suits and accessories that Minick needed to acquire, and they needed to look good. “My mom and I both sat down at sewing machines and made the clothes for the pageant,” she relays. Not surprisingly, she won the crown, her victory no doubt made sweeter by the knowledge it was extra hand-forged. That was nearly 50 years ago—but with the same principles still at work, guiding her life today, one gets the idea this Western Renaissance woman might be just getting started.

Photographs courtesy of Pam Minick