Growing up on a farm and ranch west of Scottsbluff, Shelby Winchell developed a passion for rodeo and the Western industry. That interest guided her throughout her childhood and career and now she is receiving national recognition.
Winchell’s efforts were recently honored in COWGIRL Magazine when Winchell, 29, was selected to COWGIRL magazine’s COWGIRL 30 under 30 for 2021. The 30 women selected come from a diverse background, but have been influential in their fields for promoting the Western industry. She found out she was an honoree in late November and was featured in the January issue of Cowgirl magazine.
“It was very gratifying to be selected within such an empowering group of women for the COWGIRL magazine’s 30 under 30,” Winchell said.
Winchell’s family was excited, but they did not realize the significance of the recognition until they traveled to Fort Worth, Texas.
“We were hoping for her,” said Shawna, Winchell’s mother. “We knew the field of contestants was endless and a little girl from this area who knows.
“We were excited for her because she works hard at what she does and she’s a true believer in everything she does for the Western industry.”
Wrangler hosted its second annual Bubbles & Blue Jeans party for the women at The Cowboy Channel Studios at the historic Fort Worth Stockyards in Texas the weekend of March 5. The 30 women received various pieces of custom apparel from the event sponsors as well as a certificate.
Winchell’s mother and younger sister Libby were in attendance at the event as her father Mike held down the ranch in Scottsbluff.
“I’m grateful they got to come along,” Winchell said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to share that moment with anyone else.”
Shawna said she was glad to be part of the moment to see her daughter recognized for her work ethic.
“She’s been in the spotlight for her rodeo and different things she’s done, but this is a whole new category for her,” Shawna said. “It’s recognition of all of her accomplishments and her work ethic, so it was neat to see her spotlighted for that.”
Her family’s support allowed her to pursue this path from an early age.
“I was fortunate enough to have family support to grow up around rodeo and the Western industry,” she said.
At the age of 12, Winchell started rodeoing and she competed in goat tying, breakaway roping and barrell racing. She continued to rodeo throughout junior high and high school, graduating from Scottsbluff High School in 2010.
“I knew pretty early on because I started doing clinics in high school that I wanted to be a teacher,” she said.
She began training horses during college as she earned her associates degree in agriculture and industrial technology from Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington and her bachelor’s degree in English and natural science education from Chadron State College.
When she wasn’t focused on her studies, Winchell was practicing goat tying in the arena. Her hours of dedication culminated to her being named the 2016 National Intercollegiate Rodeo Goat Tying Champion.
“Without the opportunities this industry has given me, there’s no way I would have been able to have the job I have today.”
Winchell now leads the next generation, serving as an educator and rodeo coach at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado. She is in her fourth year teaching equine sciences and served as the assistant rodeo coach for two years before becoming the head coach.
“Now that I’m older, I love to train horses in all three events. I primarily compete in the breakaway roping and barrel racing because I’ve kind of aged out of my goat tying.”
Still, she works alongside her students, perfecting their techniques to get faster times.
“Every opportunity definitely has it’s hurdles to overcome, but doing the clinics for so long, I knew how to break it down, which gave me more insight as a coach,” she said.
When she’s not coaching, she holds goat tying and breakaway roping clinics.
“It’s very involved,” Winchell said. “In doing the coaching and the clinics, it’s a good way to give back to an industry that’s offered so much and been my livelihood.”
As she reflected on her passion for education and the Western industry, Winchell shared her second thoughts on applying for Cowgirl Magazine’s 30 under 30.
“I actually wasn’t even sure if I was influential enough to be able to be on such a prestigious list, but thankfully, the people at Cowgirl magazine recognized all the 12-hour days that get put in behind the scenes that no one else sees.
“It’s gratifying to know that all the late nights and all the long days and driving by yourself, it doesn’t go unnoticed,” she said.
Shawna said Shelby’s passion for the industry is now being shared with students and the 30 under 30 recognized her work ethic that started in the arena.
“She truly does put her heart and soul into her job and helping the rodeo kids and her students in her classroom and wanting the best for them.”
Though the days and nights have been long, Winchell’s early connection with rodeo and the Western industry sparked a passion that was fueled by the support of her family and friends.
“Without their support growing up, I wouldn’t be the individual I am today nor would I have had the experiences from all the opportunities they gave me.”