Story by Lindsay Whelchel
Quebec, Canada’s rodeo and barrel racing industries are at the very roots of Jessica Gauthier’s family tree.
Her dad, Ben Gauthier, became a champion in the heart-pounding gymkhana-events of pick-up and exchange racing. Her uncle Sylvain Bourgeois is a rodeo contestant-turned leading rodeo stock contractor and producer in Quebec.
But it was Jessica’s grandfather who instilled a love of barrel racing in Jessica’s mother Manon and aunt, Tania, and then passed it on to a young Jessica.
“My grandpa made a pretty big step for us. He showed my mom everything she knows, my aunt Tania too, and he was teaching.” Her grandfather took in horses for training, gave lessons at his ranch and even hosted clinics as far away as Italy.
Naturally, Jessica was inclined to pick up the sport. Then Sylvain began producing rodeos and helping to grow the rodeo scene in Quebec and added the pick-up and exchange racing, now a rodeo fan favorite north of the border, into the mix. Suddenly, the whole family was focused on rodeo.
Jessica credits knowing what it takes to produce a rodeo as being beneficial to her as she tackles the challenges of the rodeo road.
“Sometimes people just don’t realize how much time we put into producing the rodeos, how much work you need to have big events like that, so it’s cool to know,” she says and adds, “You know how it works. It’s not just traveling and going to rodeos. I know how much time they put [in].”
She also says she is happy to be able to primarily rodeo so far north, because of the quality of events put on in Canada. “Sometimes people just don’t realize how big the rodeos are here and how good it is. We’re lucky.” Her home, Moon Star Ranch is located about 30 minutes west of Montreal.
Perhaps most important in Jessica’s mind is always remembering to try to set a positive example because young girls look up to professional cowgirls like her.
Experience is also something Jessica values, especially when it comes to putting the time into her horses.
“My grandpa always told us how to understand the horse language. So my biggest job I think is just help the horses be as good as they can be and handle the crowds, or weather and even the different pens, the different footing,” she explains. “I like to make them confident, because they know what they are doing, but sometimes the winning run is really the one that is 100 percent sure of what they are doing.”
This confidence from experience relays to Jessica personally as well. “That’s the thing I love the most, is sometimes with experience that’s what you can have earlier than just sometimes bad luck happens and you don’t know how to deal with that.”
Jessica has qualified for the International Finals Rodeo three consecutive times, and though she’s recently retired her main mare who helped her get there, she’s been seasoning her young futurity horses as well as looking forward to her mare having a foal.
And despite her summer rodeo run not having gone quite as lucratively while seasoning the babies, Jessica knows the value in taking her time, and she’s ready to shine with her young horse at the region’s biggest rodeo, Festival Western de St. Tite this September 9-18.
Outside of the arena, Jessica represents her sponsor as a dealer of Equine Revolution and as a Wrangler dealer with her boutique, Rock Star Ladys.