The year 2020 was undoubtably a difficult one for many. With the challenges of COVID-19 and the uncertainties of business opportunities for young up-and-comers, we all somehow persevered.
When COWGIRL put out the word that it was accepting applications for its 30 UNDER 30 class of 2021, it wasn’t long before more than 100 entrees where awaiting evaluation. It was no easy task for the committee to systematically go over every application, but when the dust settled, an impressive new crop of candidates was ready to be announced.
COWGIRL’s mission is to seek out and publicly recognize young women who are making a name for themselves in the Western industry. Whether they be corporate executives, professional athletes, media professionals, or working cowgirls, we aim to bring them to light to show the industry just how vital these young and talented women are to our industry. We also aim create and grow a network of individuals who can serve as role models and mentors for the future leaders of our industry.
We are extremely proud of all of the young women who applied for this class of 2021 and commend you all on your outstanding contribution to this Western workforce. We are proud to introduce the COWGIRL 30 Under 30 class of 2021 presented by The Cowboy Channel.
Actress in the TV Series Heartland, Age 20
Watching Alisha Newton grow up on the critically acclaimed series Heartland, in which she has starred for nine seasons, fans are treated to Newton’s character, Georgie Flemming, blossoming from a young scrappy preteen into a grounded 20-year-old. Alisha started riding Western when she was four on her grandma’s Vancouver ranch and added the English discipline at age 11, upon learning that Georgie was going to be riding jumpers on Heartland. She now owns, trains, and rides two horses: Aflame, a Dutch Warmblood Pinto gelding, and Diva, an Oldenburg mare. Alisha has spent 15 of her 20 years around horses. She strongly believes they are a great learning experience, whether she’s sitting and observing their habits and personalities, or watching her friends ride. “No matter how long you are around them, or what style you are riding, you are always learning new things and always evolving.”
Photographer and Horsewoman, Age 27
Alex Callaghan grew up in Alberta, Canada, immersed in everything horses. She is now settled in Washington State with her cowboy, professional cutting horse trainer, Tim Johnson. Alex now balances life between riding with Tim, running the barn, working on the ranch, going down the road competing, and her Western art print and photography business “Alex Callaghan Photography.”
Future for women: “The future of Women in the Western Industry is brighter than ever! The possibilities of what you can do or create in this industry right now are endless. I’m amazed and inspired everyday by what I’m seeing my peers accomplish, and am excited to see what’s next for all of us.”
Packer/Wrangler, Age 28
“I have always marched to the beat of my own drum. I’ve never exactly fit into a mold or been “pageant material.” The grit and hard work that’s part of growing up on a ranch in California’s Central Valley is what molded me the most. I began packing when I was 16 years old and instantly fell in love with it. The mountains, the mules and the wilderness can humble any human. This way of life has set me up for success in all my endeavors, and it’s my passion to share it with others.”
Future for women: “I envision a Western industry that represents women of all backgrounds. An industry that is always encouraging young women to be themselves and find their passion and community among Western professionals, wherever that may be.”
Photographer, Marketer, Horsewoman, Age 27
From the cattle industry, to rodeo, and art, the Western way of life has always been the only way of life for Alexis O’Boyle. It was at the American Quarter Horse Association that she found her true calling in life: photography, journalism, and design work. She worked at AQHA for over 5 years, both in-house and as contract work. Alexis also spent 3 years with the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma, where she managed any and all things marketing.
Future for women: “My vision for the future of women in the Western industry is to blur the line. What does that mean you may ask? I believe that women must be strong, yet forgiving. Positive, yet realistic. Knowledgeable, yet open-minded, hardworking, and willing to pause and listen to a story from “back in the day.” You never know when you might learn a bit of history that will come in handy for the future.”
Sponsorship & Events Specialist for Boot Barn, Age 28
Brittney Phillips began barrel racing at eight years old, and at the age of 14, found another passion: being a representative for the sport of professional rodeo. Brittney has represented various rodeo committees around San Diego County. She went on to be crowned Miss Rodeo California 2017, and then had the privilege of competing for Miss Rodeo America, where she placed among the top ten. Since 2015, she has worked for Boot Barn, handling sponsorships and partnerships for nearly 260 nationwide stores.
Future for women: “There’s no shortage of women within this industry that care about it, while promoting the success of each other. There is an unmatched level of grit and finesse within the heart of every woman who represents our Western culture. I encourage girls from all backgrounds, fashion, rodeo, ranching, to just use your voice.”
Executive Director, National Dude Ranchers Association, Age 25
Raised between Wyoming and Montana, Bryce Albright spent many years growing up and working on a dude ranch in a small town. She developed a strong passion for horses, agriculture, people, and the Western way of life. Involved throughout high school in FFA, she graduated from Montana State University Billings with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management before landing the position as Executive Director for the DRA.
Future for women: “My vision is to see more women move into leadership roles and establish a level of influence and confidence reminiscent in female historical figures. In the Western world, cowgirls are known for strength and resilience, and it’s my hope young girls and women will seek role models and feel empowered by their actions.”
Silversmith, Kershner Custom Silver, Age 30
Growing up a rancher’s daughter in rural Southeastern Oregon, Catie Kershner turned her passion for ranching traditions into a business when she started working with silver over 10 years ago. Primarily focusing on jewelry, Kershner creates pieces with working ranches, rodeo, farms, and agriculture in mind. Kershner loves to make jewelry that’s “meant to be worn” and stand as a family heirloom representative of ranching lifestyles in the West.
Future for women: “Women of the West are running their own ranches, starting successful businesses, raising kids, and collaborating with each other. It’s truly exciting to see the camaraderie among women in the Western industry because we all know it takes a village.”
Professional Barrel Racer, Age 29
Emily grew up in a non-rodeo family in Southwest Kansas, but always had a deep love for horses and other animals. Her babysitter had horses and let Emily be her “shadow” for several years. She competed in 4-H, NLBRA, NJHSRA, NHSRA, the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, and now competes professionally, most recently at the 2020 NFR in Texas. Emily has a Bachelor’s Degree in Dental Hygiene, which she practices when she’s not rodeoing.
Future for women: “Women of the Western industry are strong, confident, and essential to our world. It is our job to portray the Western heritage and valuable traits to younger generations and show them leadership skills, and encourage strength and kindness in their lives.”
Marketing Manager, Durango Boots, Age 30
Erin DeLong grew up in small rural community in Southeastern Ohio and graduated from Mount Vernon Nazarene University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing and Public Relations. Erin works at Rocky Brands, Inc. and has been the Marketing Manager for the Western division, Durango Boots, for over five years. She manages the brand’s voice, image, and persona in the Western industry.
Future for women: “The women I’ve been privileged to work with in the Western industry are self-determined, passionate, ambitious, and are taking the world by storm. They exemplify that if you put your mind to something and put in the hard work, that you can achieve anything.”
TV Host/Reporter, The Cowboy Channel, Age 27
Janie Johnson has deep roots in the Western lifestyle. With rodeo parents and a continued passion to compete as a cardholder in the WPRA, Janie has made a career for herself in TV. She is a host of Western Sports Round-Up on The Cowboy Channel, and also travels as a field reporter at PRCA rodeos and events, including RFD-TV’s The American, and the Wrangler NFR. Janie earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Texas in Radio/TV/Film. While she continues to barrel race, she also enjoys working on her family ranch in Canyon, Texas.
Future for women: “My vision is for women from all different walks of life to come together to support one another, and even more importantly to support this sport and Western way of life that we all share and love. The common goal is to better the industry, and women have the opportunity to be a part of every step.”
Entrepreneur, Business Owner, Age 30
Katie Schrock is Jill-of-all-trades whose participation in the Western industry is as diverse as they come. A former basketball player at Oregon State University, Katie worked with baseball teams and farm store media departments before taking her career to the state capitol of Oregon. She worked as the communications director and events management coordinator for the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. In 2018, she started her own company, Western Insights Media, a communications and marketing agency for the Western lifestyle community. She also has a podcast that empowers rodeo contestants and Western lifestyle advocates.
Future for women: “I believe that women are the driving force behind the Western industry. It is my goal to share these stories, learn from the best, and mentor those coming through the ranks.”
Western Fashion Content Creator, Age 25
“On the surface I’m a Communication Studies graduate student with four dogs and an obsession with coffee. On the inside I’m a wanderlust-struck, vintage-jeans obsessed, iPhone camera junkie. Being a content creator on Instagram is a huge part of my identity and fills my heart with so much passion. It allows me to take the Texan Western fashion loving half of me and mesh it with my mums ‘no rules’ British half. It’s really important to me to use the platform I’ve built to be a place of inclusion and positivity.”
Future for women: “Women in the Western industry are only becoming more and more powerful. I see the Western fashion industry expanding further beyond this genre of clothing and becoming more inclusive. For me personally, my goal is to change the way people look at Western fashion.”
Specialty Beef Program Manager, Age 28
Kim is the Specialty Beef Program Manager and Social Media Manager for Five Rivers Cattle Feeding, LLC. Originally, Kim hails from northern California where her family runs pairs and yearlings. Kim earned a Bachelor’s of Science from Colorado State University and served as a National Beef Ambassador. Her role at Five Rivers oversees the entire Aspen Ridge natural beef and the international export programs. Kim is also an active competitor in the National Reined Cow Horse Association, and was 3rd in the world at the 2020 NRCHA Celebration of Champions.
Future for women: “Women are constantly proving that we bring unique and outstanding talents to the table. We are raising a fearless, ambitious generation who truly realize there is no limit to what you can accomplish. The idea of seeing more high-level female executives, breakaway roping at the NFR, and more positive, impactful female role models than ever truly excites me as a woman in this industry.”
Kallie Jo Bearden
Designer/Owner/Operations Manager, Age 29
As a child of the Western way of life, Kallie was raised in a family where work ethic and respect came first. In West & Company, a business her mom started 18 years ago, Kallie has stepped into an ownership role, running every aspect from design, to sales and marketing. She began designing in high school and has always had a hand in the business, whether it be pricing jewelry, pulling orders, or modeling. “Coming from a long line of Texas farmers and ranchers at a young age working cattle, rodeoing, and ranching was a way of life for me and still is.”
Future for women: “For many years creative, and hardworking women have evolved the Western industry from a man’s world to a more women-dominate industry. Those women have paved the way for future generations to leave their mark with innovative ideas to keep the industry fresh and new.”
Agricultural Attorney, PRCA Timer, and Entrepreneur, Age 31
Katherine Merck is an entrepreneur, cowgirl, and attorney dedicated to uplifting others with her motto #KindnessMatters. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Gonzaga University School of Law, Katherine is an advocate for the Western industry. Licensed in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, she practices with Falen Law Offices and focuses on laws affecting ranchers, farmers, and landowners. Raised in Spokane, Washington, Katherine chose the Western way of life and proudly calls herself a first-generation cowgirl. After competing in the American Quarter Horse Association and National Reining Horse Association, Katherine became the first Miss Rodeo America from Washington State.
Future for women: “My vision for women in the Western industry is to build on the legacy of those that came before us, women like Sandra Day O’Connor, Bonnie McCarroll, Sharon Camarillo, and Pam Minick. These women never let society dictate the constraints of their capabilities and achieved so much for women in our industry, proving that women in the Western industry really can do anything.”
Sales Operations Manager/Marketing Manager, Twisted X, Age 28
Growing up in a military family, Julia grew accustomed to moving all across the country while developing a love for the Western culture. She always believed this lifestyle was something she was determined to accomplish, and after graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Equine Sciences from Colorado State University, she started her career in the Western industry. Currently, as Sales Operations Manager at Twisted X, her goal is to constantly advocate for this industry by developing relationships through brand support and valuable promotional endeavors.
Future for women: “By setting our standards high and honoring each other as women, we elevate our common passion: the Western way of life. While our industry encourages healthy competition, we as women must become a stronghold for each other while pushing boundaries and questioning the status quo as we continue to shape the future of the West.”
Fashion Designer, Entrepreneur, Age 30
Kaitlin Lorman is the creator of Sundial Show Clothing, designing luxury rodeo/riding apparel. “Growing up I was always tall and had many fit issues with clothing, which persisted into the show pen.” Seeing the need for a different kind of equestrian apparel while competing in the IHSA collegiate circuit, she found a niche providing fun and modern designs for the discerning rider. Kaitlin earned a Bachelor’s in Business/Equine Studies from Lake Erie College, and after working for an equestrian and resort wear atelier company for several years, she launched Sundial Show Clothing.
Future for women: “I hope that 100 years from now, we end up in the history books as pioneers of our own equality movement! It is our job to teach honor, dedication, hard work, and empowerment to the next generation of women in all of America.”
Stock Contractor/Barrel Racer, Age 26
Katie Perschbacher attended Connors State College on a rodeo scholarship and after graduating with a degree in Agricultural Communications, she moved back to Southern Oklahoma, and became involved with her family’s bucking bulls. Fast forward to 2020, she has her own set of cows and bulls and is one of the Stock contractors of the ABBI. “It has been a huge blessing to get to haul and compete with bulls we have raised!”
Future for women: “I believe the women before us have paved a way. We just have to take the first step in our journey and go for it. There are women that work in an office, and some on the ranch everyday, but there is a place and need for both. The future of women in the Western industry is so bright!”
PRCA and WPRA Contestant and Equine Trainer, Age 25
Loni Lester is an all-around hand who has been very competitive in the college, amateur, and PRCA rodeos. She received a full rodeo scholarship from Sam Houston State University, where she earned an Animal Science Degree. She competed on the rodeo team for 4 years, and won the College National Finals breakaway title in 2017. In 2018, she was the WPRA Finals Breakaway Champion and continues to compete in the PRCA and CPRA.
Future for women: “It hasn’t been an easy transition but the WPRA has taken tremendous strides to introduce breakaway roping for women. With roping becoming more available to women, I hope we can teach the young up-and-comers about dedication and commitment, along with how to win and lose graciously.”
Owner and CEO of Grit & Grace Boutique, Age 19
Madalynn Newman is a 19-year-old student and all around cowgirl from Greenville, KY. Growing up as a rodeo competitor, she developed a strong passion for Western fashion and in 2018, at the age of 16, launched her own business, Grit & Grace Online/Mobile Boutique. Her boutique is a full of the newest trends in the Western industry, and having a mobile boutique has allowed her to travel to rodeos and combine her love for competing and Western fashion.
Future for women: “I think that the future of women in the Western industry is brighter than ever, especially with how fast the popularity of breakaway roping and Western fashion is growing. The industry is full of so many boss babes who are so powerful, self-motivated, and inspirational. As a young successful business owner, I hope that I can inspire and encourage women that, no matter your age, the sky is the limit.”
Event Manager, The Cowboy Channel, Age 29
After attending Southern Utah University, her passion for the Western industry has lead Sarah to achieve impressive roles such as PR Director of BioMane Equine Products, Bob Feist Invitational Sponsorship Manager, 2020 NFR Flag Girl Tryout Winner, and now Event Manager at The Cowboy Channel. Having a seat at the table with industry leaders and coordinating rodeo and Western lifestyle’s top events is a dream come true.
Future for women: “Because of the cowgirls who have come before us and lead the way, there is a firm foundation for the future of women in the Western industry. I believe women have always played a vital role in the West, and whether you’re raising crops or babies, training horses or employees, branding calves or your own company, there is a seat for you at the table.”
Sarah Brown Armstrong
TV Talent, Horse Trainer, Bronc Rider, Age 23
Sarah Brown-Armstrong learned to start colts in 2013 and it has been a passion of hers ever since. Competitive in HS rodeo, she worked hard independently to train horses and haul herself to rope. In 2017, Sarah was introduced to bronc riding and immediately fell for the sport. It wasn’t long before RIDE TV approached her for a new reality show called Cowgirls. Sarah rode for the TBRA for 2 years and has been riding for and starring in RIDE TV’s Cowgirls for 3 seasons.
Future for women: “Working professionally in the Western industry can be very empowering. As a women in a male-dominated sport, I found out quickly that you needed to prove yourself to be accepted. Once I got past that, you’d be surprised how uplifting and welcoming most people in the community are to letting women step in to different roles.”
Owner/Producer, HORSEpro.tv, Age 28
Pendleton, Oregon, native and lifelong Round Up volunteer, Shaina Zollman has brought HORSEpro.tv to life. As owner and producer, she operates all aspects of the business from filming and editing videos, to maintaining social media, and planning outreach. The video-on-demand website sets the standard in raw, honest information from top trainers who specialize in young horses. Every episode is unedited and shows how trainers overcome obstacles and train top level horses.
Future for women: “Women in the Western industry continue to push boundaries and break molds. Women have the power to keep the Western way of life alive and relevant through media and events and sharing their lifestyle. I see nothing but opportunity for anyone who wants to take it.”
Rodeo Specialist, YETI, Age 27
After graduating from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Animal Science Production, Peyton became an Ag Science Teacher to share her passion with younger generations. Now, and for the past 3 years, she finds herself in the role of Rodeo Specialist for YETI. Born into a ranching family, her passion for the Western way of life runs deep, and her hands-on experience in the family commercial cattle operation, stock contracting business, and family owned sale barn, has much to do with her success.
Future for women: “My hope for the future women in the Western industry is to never lose sight of what makes this industry so special: the people. Always work hard, be honest, and never allow limitations to keep you from doing what you have a passion for.”
Product Designer, Justin Brands, Age 29
Shelbi Tidwell grew up in Texas and knew from the young age of 12 that she wanted to design cowboy boots. She went on to graduate from Tarleton State University with a degree in Fashion Design. After an internship with Justin Brands, Inc. in the Product Development department, she was hired on full-time later that same year. Since then, her passion for the Western industry continues to grow and she has gotten to design boots for politicians, the families of fallen officers, notable names in the Western industry, and even some of the most legendary names in country music, such as George Strait and Blake Shelton.
Future for women: “I feel a sense of hope when I think about the future of the Western industry. The women who are currently paving the way are setting great examples for the next generation of young cowgirls. I believe we work for the greatest industry in the world, and I feel honored that I’m able to contribute to the future of women in the Western industry.”
Digital Media and Marketing Specialist, Age 25
Sierra Rae Lewis is a Western industry influencer and digital media and marketing specialist. No stranger to the industry, her dad is PRCA cowboy Brent Lewis, an 11 time NFR-qualifying tie down roper and average champion. Sierra started writing, blogging, modeling, and selling jewelry online, while working with industry brands and joining the popular influencer group, Bleacher Babes Squad. After managing social media profiles for Pro Fantasy Rodeo, Rodeo Vegas, and Team Hesston, she launched “Computer Cowgirl By Sierra,” a social media management company, all while earning an Agricultural Media & Communications Degree from West Texas A&M University.
Future for women: “My vision for the future of women in the Western industry? Simple. In the next 10 years I see women involved in and sitting at the head of any and all big Western companies, brands and associations.”
Athletic Trainer & JST Manager, Justin Sportsmedicine Team, Age 30
Shayla Foster grew up in a rodeo family in Colorado. Her mom was Girl of the West for the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo and her dad was an athletic trainer for Justin Sportsmedicine. Following in her dad’s footsteps, Shayla became a certified athletic trainer in 2013 at the age of 22, and volunteered at rodeos across the Western states. She was promoted to an associate for the team, and then officially became a manager for Justin Sportsmedicine in 2017.
Future for women: “Always remember, even the most sound and broke of horses can buck you off. Don’t be afraid of those setbacks because you will have to face them, and it will make you stronger.”
Marketing Manager, Justin Brands, Age 27
Taylor Morton is the Marketing Manager at Justin Brands, Inc. She grew up in Fort Worth, and always had an appreciation for the Western industry. She graduated from the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor’s of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications. Taylor began working at Justin Brands four days after she graduated. She has had the opportunity to work a variety of jobs within the marketing department and has grown into her current role. Taylor plans and executes lifestyle photoshoots, creates and manages brand campaigns, works with retail partners, and even gets to work with the greatest legends in country music: Reba McEntire and George Strait
Future for women: “There’s already a group of women in the industry who have worked so hard to break barriers for the next generation. I hope that young women who are in the Western industry or who want to be in the Western industry will apply the cowgirl attitude and spirit to everything they take on.”
Agriculture Science Teacher/Marketing & Design, Age 25
Siobhan Hilliard is a small town girl who grew up on a working cattle ranch in East Texas. Her childhood was filled with dirt, tractors, and horse hair…”I loved every minute of it.” Her first dream was to attend Texas A&M and pursue a degree in Agriculture Communications while competing on the Texas Aggie Rodeo team. It was during college she signed with a modeling agency and fell in love with it as well. Now her path has taken her to a high school classroom where she gets to teach some rowdy kiddos about her passion for the agriculture industry.
Future for women: “The future of our world lies in the hands of today’s Western women and I can’t wait to teach them all I’ve learned and push them to go even further.”
Equine Science Instructor and Head Rodeo Coach, Age 29
Shelby Winchell knew at an early age she wanted to share her passion for education and the Western industry. Coming from an agriculture and rodeo based family in Scottsbluff, NE, Winchell understands the importance of the industries and how they shape the world today. Her dedication led her to earn the 2016 National Intercollegiate Rodeo Goat Tying Championship and land her dream job, at the age of 24, as an educator and rodeo coach at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, CO. Every day she strives to bridge the gap of knowledge in the Western Industry by educating and sharing her knowledge with the younger generations.
Future for women: “Women in the Western industry are as passionate as ever, with doors of opportunity opening every day. With this in mind, we need to be conscious of being a good example of character and hold strong to our roots for the younger generations.”