BOISE — Boise native Sydney Butler has never missed a single Snake River Stampede rodeo in her 22 years of life. She spent many of these rodeos both in the stands and behind the chutes.

Butler grew up loving horses and dreamed about one day becoming a rodeo queen. After years of participating in 4-H, volunteering at rodeos and taking detailed notes at the Miss Rodeo Idaho pageant, Butler will now be representing Idaho as Miss Rodeo Idaho at the Miss Rodeo America Pageant in Las Vegas.

Butler graduated from Boise State University in May 2017 with degrees in communication and psychology. Only a couple months later, she won the Miss Rodeo Idaho title, kicking off a year of traveling, rodeos, public speaking and more.

“It has been a whirlwind,” Butler said. “It’s been crazy, but it’s been a blast. I’ve spent about 150 days on the road this year ... 110 of those have been spent rodeoing across the country, (in) 11 different states from California to Florida and quite a few places in between. I’ve ridden horses across the country at various events, anywhere from agriculture events to parades to speaking engagements to the rodeos or community service activities. … Lots of traveling and curling my hair and saddling up my horses — it’s all been wonderful.”

On top of a busy year of traveling, Butler has also been preparing for the Miss Rodeo America pageant, which runs Sunday through Dec. 9 in Las Vegas.

In order to prepare for this big event, in which Butler will compete against 27 other girls from across the country, she’s been spending a lot of time training and studying. Butler said part of the contest involves riding horses they’ve never ridden before, so she’s been riding as many different horses she can get on — particularly the stockier ranch horses, not fancy show horses.

She’s also been practicing her interviewing and speaking skills, which will also be tested in the pageant. In addition, Butler has spent a lot of time keeping up on current events, listening to the news, studying the PRCA rulebook and even learning about horse anatomy by shadowing vets and farriers.

“Everyone I work with is just phenomenal and it’s been a lot of work, but I think it will pay off and I feel really prepared,” Butler said. “... I’ve managed to make it fun. Right now it feels really surreal. This is something I’ve been watching my whole life.”

Throughout her year as Miss Rodeo Idaho, Butler has embraced a particular platform she calls “be a unicorn.“ This slogan, according to Butler, is intended to “encourage people to embrace what makes them unique and be confident in that.”

“So many times today, people get so worried about what other people think of them and what’s expected of them that we forget to own who we are,” Butler said.

On top of spreading the “be a unicorn” sentiment, Butler has also spent a lot of her time as Miss Rodeo Idaho promoting rodeos and the Western lifestyle.

“There’s a huge number of people who are growing further and further away from their Western roots where our country started,” Butler said. “The Western lifestyle and the things the rodeo preserves and promotes are values that the world still really needs at the moment — like taking care of your neighbor, serving your community, respecting one another no matter where they come from, always being willing to lend a hand and having pride in your community and your country no matter what happens.”

Butler has found meaning through her experiences as Miss Rodeo Idaho and while she hopes to take home the Miss Rodeo America title, she also knows she’s done the best she can no matter what happens.

“There are 27 other girls competing alongside me and as much as I want to win and have really prepared for the title, the biggest mental obstacle is knowing it will all be OK and life will go on if I don’t win,” Butler said.

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