As a fifth grader participating in her first rodeo at Oskie Rice Arena in Makawao, Gabrielle Berce recalls seeing girls her age compete in the barrel competition.
“They were fast and furious”, she said. âI wanted to be like them. “
When it was her turn, she and her horse were at the gate posting a time of 25 seconds, “Which is actually quite slow”, compared to other contestants’ scores of 20 and 21 seconds, Berce said.
“But it was a turning point for me” said the Maui native. âIt was a huge wake-up call that if I wanted to be serious I had to improve myself as a rider and a rider. It made me get serious.
So serious that she was crowned Miss Rodeo Hawaii 2021 at the Makawao Stampede on July 3.
She will be in contention for the title of Miss Rodeo America from November 28 in Las Vegas.
The eight-day competition is sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Contest includes riding and horseback riding skills, written exam, daily interviews, state chaps design, Justin Boots design, scrapbooking contest, Wrangler and Western fashion shows, and Wrangler appearances National Finals Rodeo.
“I’m excited, nervous” said Berce, a 26-year-old speech therapist who grew up in Makawao. âI’m especially delighted that Hawaii has a representative for the first time in about three years. I feel the pressure, but I will represent Hawaii as best I can. “
Over the years, only a handful of Maui residents have been selected as Miss Rodeo Hawaii by the Miss Rodeo Hawaii Association.
Berce said she aspired from childhood to look like the women selected before her.
“In my mind, they’ve always been the type of person and rider I wanted to be – someone who is an avid rider, who knew their horse, could ride anyone else’s horse and be successful. . “ she said.
Berce was a child when she started attending horse shows with her parents, Glenn Berce and Linda Uradomo-Berce, who attended the events. she would have “harassment and whining” to her parents to be allowed to compete before, at the age of 5, she competed in a lead line competition, which involves a child on a horse which is held and guided by an adult.
As she improved her skills after her first rodeo, Berce got faster in barrel racing to the point where she and her horse were competing at 19 seconds or less. She was in the top 10 of the annual July 4th rodeo competitions in Maui.
She had competed on her versatile mare, Anela, before having to be shot a week after Hogweed was crowned Miss Rodeo Hawaii. She lost her gelding, Gucci, a little over a year ago.
“It is so heartwarming that the community offers me its horses to ride, practice or compete” she said.
His favorite competition is the working horse cutting horse event, where a rider takes the horse into a herd of cattle to separate a cow from the group and maneuver the horse away from the cow from the herd.
“It is not only focused on speed and time, but also on finesse and the ability to work consistently with a horse” said BercÃ©.
The event incorporates a horse’s ability to read cattle and has practical applications on a working ranch when a calf needs to be separated from its mother, she said.
Berce holds a BA from Chico State University in California and an MA from the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii.
As Miss Rodeo Hawaii, she is an ambassador promoting rodeo, breeding, agriculture and paniolo heritage. Building on his mother’s agricultural heritage within the Uradomo de Kula family, Berce’s mission is to raise awareness to support local farmers, ranchers and businesses and to educate keiki on farming skills. basic, including gardening and animal husbandry.
âBeing in the health care field, I had such a unique position to see how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people medically, financially, as many are losing their homes, their jobsâ she said. âIt has been absolutely devastating to see many of our farmers and ranchers losing their land or having to abandon animals because they can no longer afford to feed them.
âMy goal is to continue to educate the public about buying and supporting local produce, finding these labels in the store that say ‘locally produced, locally grown’ and trying to give back to our farmers and the farming community. “
She spoke with students from the Waihee School about the planting cycles “So they can go home and start growing their own plants.” “
“Mahalo to my community” said BercÃ©. âThank you to all the members of the Upcountry community who have supported me. From day one, they stepped up to the plate. The wave of support has been incredible. “
* Lila Fujimoto can be contacted at [email protected]