By Kendra Santos
Britta Strain has a little Stetson Wright in her. Try as the media might to get this surfing, snowboarding, breakaway roping, barrel racing Florida native to name her favorite event, she’s not budging. She loves them both. And life has dealt the 21-year-old college cowgirl enough adversity and perspective that sweating such small stuff is simply not happening.
“My favorite thing is doing both,” said the super-smart, 21-year-old Texas A&M student. “I love breakaway roping, because you cannot pay to win. You have to practice and put in the time to be successful. But I also love barrel racing, because if you learn the horsemanship side of it, you can go wherever you want to go. I want to make the NFR (National Finals Rodeo), and do what Taylor Hanchey’s done by making it in both events and being damn good at them.”
But first things first, and job one for this Texas A&M junior is to graduate with a major in animal science and a minor in biomedical science.
“And when I’m done with school, I want to use my degrees,” said Strain, who calls Fort Lauderdale, Florida home. “I haven’t taken a bunch of tough classes for nothing. I will likely do research immediately after graduation, then pursue a career in the field of science and animal medicine. Vet school is not out of the question. I don’t think I’d ever be happy just rodeoing.”
That last statement has everything to do with why the World Champions Rodeo Alliance is a perfect fit for such a busy, career-driven young cowgirl as Britta. But first, a little background as to how someone so young can possibly have so much perspective on life.
In June of 2020, Britta was life-flighted out of a horrific truck-and-trailer accident on Interstate 20 in the middle of the night after the driver of their rodeo-bound rig fell asleep at the wheel. Strain was asleep in the back seat when the truck veered off the road, and the horse trailer crushed the truck when they crashed into a ditch.
“I barely remember the first 48 hours,” she said. “I cracked my head open, lacerated my liver, broke my spine—I had compression fractures of my L1 and L2 vertebrae—and fractured my right elbow and thumb. I remember sitting up and screaming right before we wrecked, then everything went black. I was in and out (of consciousness) for 48 hours.”
Britta kept asking emergency crew members if Eleanor was OK, so they kept searching the scene for another passenger. What they didn’t understand is that Eleanor was her beloved bay breakaway horse. Miraculously, they both survived.
“The wall collapsed between the trailer and living quarters, so Eleanor ended up in the bathroom,” Britta said. “And another horse slid up underneath her, so she had to make it over him going backwards to get out of there. Eleanor has a huge heart. She still neighs at me every time I come to the barn.”
It took about a year for Britta to get back to rodeoing. Enter the WCRA into her life, and that timing was truly perfect for someone with so many irons in the fire, between recovering, rehabbing and getting back to the books.
“The WCRA has been the main thing I’ve focused on since the wreck,” Strain said. “It works for me, and so many people who just can’t devote all their time to rodeo right now for all sorts of reasons. School is serious business for me. You can’t just cram the night before and get through bio chem, organic chem, genetics, anatomy and nutrition classes. Rodeoing full time and living on the road isn’t realistic for me while I’m in college. But I can still nominate events, earn points and compete at big rodeos.”
Strain is actually a very unlikely rodeo star. She’s the only child of an orthopedic surgeon dad, Richard, who also owns an orange grove and booming organic tomato business, and an international flight attendant mom, Elizabeth. Britta’s grandparents were missionaries in China, and the rest of the family tree branches even further away from rodeo.
“There were these ponies at the end of the street where we lived,” Britta remembers of her first brush with four-legged friends. “We took them carrots every day. A goat got loose on our property one day, and I took it back to the lady two doors down who was a horse trainer. She was actually an Appaloosa halter horse trainer, but she invited me to come ride.”
Britta took that neighbor up on her offer, and started riding when she was 7. She rode English—hunters and jumpers—and loved it.
“I really just liked horses,” she smiles. “Then there was a Wednesday night rodeo that happens in the same arena—the Bergeron Rodeo Grounds—as the Southeastern Circuit Finals, which is a mile from the house.”
Britta worked every event—breakaway roping, barrel racing, pole bending and goat tying—on her first horse, Leroy, and won her first buckle when she was 12.
“When I was 13, my dad took me to Texas and I started entering against the open ropers,” she said. “I had to progress, so Dad took off his entire summer and hauled me around. I’ve always been an all-in kind of person, and Greg and Stacie Clair, who ran events at our local rodeo grounds, found me my first rope horse, Tony, for $4,000. My dad videoed me, and after we roped, we all watched my runs every single day and talked about them.”
Britta was a track star in her younger years, too. She qualified for the Junior Olympics in both the 100 and 200 hurdles, but skipped it in favor of competing at the National Junior High Finals Rodeo. Britta had an offer from Brown University—the Ivy League powerhouse in Providence, Rhode Island—but picked Texas A&M as a better fit for her cowgirl dreams. She’s currently college rodeoing.
Strain’s done some surfing, and still carries a surfboard in her stock trailer at all times. She skied until she tore her ACL and broke her back, but now finds snowboarding more suitable. She says the goat tying was actually her best event before her knee and spinal injuries. Now it’s all systems go in breakaway roping and barrel racing.
Britta went far at the WCRA’s Cowtown Christmas last December in Fort Worth, and will be back in both events at the WCRA’s Texas double-header that includes the $550,000 May 11-14 Rodeo Corpus Christi, and the $750,000 Women’s Rodeo World Championship, which is coming up May 16-18 in Fort Worth.
This girl’s fierce competitive nature has never wavered, but her horse preferences did take a slight turn since her rodeo party started with Leroy and Tony. Britta’s barn is basically now a mare motel.
“I love mares,” she said. “I’ve had geldings in the past get hurt. Mares are always an investment, because if they do get hurt, you can breed them. And what I’ve found about mares is that they give me everything they have.”
Strain still rides her old buddy and fellow survivor Eleanor a lot in the breakaway roping, though she has a younger red roan she calls Peppa in the trailer, too. In the barrel racing, it’s all about Britta’s palomino mare, Golden Cloud.
“Everybody calls her my secret barrel horse,” Strain smiles. “My dad and I had to keep her under wraps from my mom, because it was a big deal to get a third horse. Remember, we aren’t horse or rodeo people. We bought her before the wreck, but have just now had her a full year, because we didn’t pick her up until after I got healed up from the wreck.
“(NFR barrel racing qualifier) Lynn Khor has been a huge part of my success also, and she’s started a lot of horses people know today, including Lisa Lockhart’s Rosa (Rosas Cantina CC). Rosa is Golden Cloud’s mom. She’s out of Rosa and by Dash Ta Fame. Golden Cloud’s a full sibling to a horse named Jaguar that Ryann Pedone’s currently training.
“Golden Cloud’s the reason I’m back from the wreck. Lynn says Golden Cloud’s the best she’s ever trained, and I’ve never put in so many hours riding a horse. Golden Cloud’s not really buddies with anybody but me. She’s very cold to other people. I’m her human, and she’s my horse.”