Tuesday , July 29, 2014 - 9:09 AM
OGDEN -- With their long hair flowing behind their horses, there’s no mistaking the lady members of the Weber County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse for men.
And they don’t talk like the male members either.
Bonnie Armstrong of West Warren and Lauri Cannon of Syracuse are the two female members of the 14-member posse. They spoke of their love for the posse and their romantic notions of camaraderie they say the posse provides for them last week while preparing for a performance at the Ogden Pioneer Days rodeo.
“I kind of fell in love with it,” said Cannon, noting that she volunteered to help with the posse’s projects, including taking tickets at the Weber County chariot races, before joining.
And she said spending time together before and after events and continued service such as helping to park cars at the Weber County Fair draws her closer to the posse all the time.
“I like the camaraderie of it,” she said.
Neither woman saw herself as one who would buck the trend. They both said they just came to look at the posse as family and felt welcomed as they began to participate, boosting the dwindling numbers of the group and enjoying their service as ambassadors.
Among the group’s community building activities are serving the Miss Rodeo Ogden and Miss Rodeo Utah pageants and help with search and rescue operations when needed.
Organized in 1942, until six years ago the posse has always been a men’s riding group, which has achieved some notoriety with its efforts to serve the community and perform in drills at Ogden Pioneer Days and other rodeos.
Included in the achievements of the posse has been helping to train the bison at Antelope Island to stay away from horses. Quick thinking of able members who have shot stinging buckshot at charging bison has been credited with saving animals and improving safety.
Armstrong, who is married to the posse captain, Robert, said she did not grow up with horses and that she gets surprised looks from her long-time friends when they see her newfound lifestyle.
“This is something I never thought I could do,” she said. “It stretches me to try new things.”
Armstrong wasn’t the first female member but she was the first to start riding with the posse in 2008.
“My father-in-law (Jim, also a former captain) asked my husband if I wanted to ride,” she said. “He said my horse knew the drill. All I had to do is be on it.”
And Armstrong said she'd never run on a horse before so her father-in-law's assurance helped her get started.
But the advice proved to not always be accurate. Armstrong admitted that high-speed drills have proved to not be a typical easy going horsemanship activity.
"I’ve been bumped around a few times,“ Armstrong said, starting into a tale about her cinch coming loose on the way out of the arena in a performance.
”My husband tried to grab me and pull me over,” she said. “A couple of guys tried to help.”
But despite their efforts, Armstrong fell to the ground.
She said she's also survived some close calls where horses nearly collided in the drill too. But she said they weren’t as close as they may have appeared.
“They are never as close as it looks until they actually hit,” Armstrong said.
With their bravery inspired, both Armstrong and Cannon are getting ready to really stretch themselves in 2016.
The two are planning to ride with the posse when they re-enact the pony express riders’ efforts by racing from Sacramento, Calif.
The posse will be hosting numerous fund-raising activities between now and then to fund its effort of racing horseback at top speeds for one-mile stretches along the way, trading back and forth among members.
The two women said they're getting themselves and their horses in shape for the one-mile sprints.
Posse fans are asked to stay tuned for dinners and other events where participation will help the posse’s efforts in achieving this dream.
You may reach JaNae Francis at 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at JaNaeFrancisSE. Like her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis.
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