As a tough competitor on the International Gay Rodeo Circuit, Teeny Buckingham proves that you can participate in rodeo even when you’re not on the back of a horse.
Buckingham, 52, has done gay rodeos for more than 15 years, and she prefers to compete in the non-horse events, even though she is an avid horseback rider and owns her beloved horse, Beemer. She rides Beemer, who is not a rodeo horse, on trails.
Buckingham has been competing in Chute Dogging, Calf Roping on Foot, Wild Drag, and Steer Deco.
“I usually travel by myself,” she said, “but in Kansas City, I’m going with B.J. Stokes and Kevin Euser. They’re my drag team, and Kevin I do steer deco with.”
Back when I first interviewed Teeny Buckingham – for the September 2009 MGRA rodeo issue of Camp – I was impressed at the way she juggled her full-time job in law enforcement with competing in regional rodeos around the country. She said that although she was not raised with horses and was a “city girl,” she was raised in an athletic family and was doing competitive events such as swimming and softball for years.
In that interview, Buckingham said that she enjoyed not only the competition of the rodeo, but also the opportunity to see her many friends. So traveling to regional rodeos has never been a problem for her.
Several things have changed for Buckingham since that first interview. In January 2010, just a few months after we talked, she retired from her law enforcement job after more than 23 years and moved from her home in Omaha to a ranch southeast of Denver.
“I didn’t plan on it,” she said. “It was a contract thing.”
She said that she wanted a horse in her backyard and that her grandparents were from Colorado.
“I was familiar with the city,” she said, “and it was just a change of scenery.”
Buckingham said she enjoys the weather on her Colorado ranch, compared to Nebraska
“Colorado is the sunniest state, didn’t you know that?” she said with a laugh. “It has more sunny days than any other state.”
Buckingham said there are all kinds of trails on her four-acre ranch and outside her ranch.
“I can just go on my horse and go,” she said. “I don’t have to trailer her.”
Buckingham said she thought that more women are now participating in rodeos.
“It’s getting higher,” she said. “I did Palm Springs, Denver and Santa Fe rodeos so far this year. Santa Fe usually has a higher number of women, but even Denver had, I want to say, almost 40-45 percent women, if not even higher.
“It’s better than it used to be. Usually you show up to a rodeo and the guys are looking for a girl for drag because there are not enough girls even in the rodeo. But we’ve gotten a lot of barrel racers and the speed events – girls are showing up. The percentage is a lot higher than it used to be. For most of the rodeos, it’s almost 40 percent, at least ones that I’ve seen.”
Buckingham acknowledges that cost is a big factor in participation.
“Hauling a horse, you know you have your stalls and your food for the weekend [to pay for]. I pull my horse trailer because it has a little living quarters in it. I don’t have a horse in it, but it doubles your gas because of the weight of the trailer. … It’s just hard to make ends meet there.”
Buckingham said many LGBT people still don’t know much about the gay rodeos.
“I think in our community, it is like people don’t even know about it. We have to get the word out. Kevin and BJ are younger. Kevin is around 30, and BJ is 35. We need that younger blood.”
Buckingham said “With the gay rodeo, there are so many events where you don’t need a horse. There are eight events where you don’t need a horse to compete. Most people in the rodeo start with camp events first, and then they get bit by the bug and want to get into all the other stuff. Our association is nice when they say you don’t need that horse. You can do all the categories of All Around without a horse.”
The International Gay Rodeo Association lists 29 “belt buckle” awards, including best All Around Cowboy and Cowgirl and 27 for the various other events.
Buckingham said that without a horse, “the only category you can’t compete in are the speed events. You only need three of the four to compete for the winner of All Around.
“I was up for All Around in Denver and can’t believe that. And I wasn’t riding. It can happen.”
In addition to her horse, Buckingham said, she still has two of her three rescue dogs from when we last interviewed her.
“I should say my ex is living with me. It’s my house,” she said with a laugh.
As far as how the rodeos have been going for her lately, she said, “I haven’t won any this year. That’s the luck of the draw. I’ve been up in the numbers before. Last year at finals, Kevin Euser and I and another different drag won the Wild Drag buckle and we’ve never partnered together. And we won the Wild Drag buckle at finals. They are good people to be partners with.”