All Inductees

Manuelita Woodward Richards

MANUELITA WOODWARD-RICHARDS was Barrel Racing Director for the Girls Rodeo Association in 1957-1958 and then served as Secretary-Treasurer in 1959-61. She was instrumental in promoting the barrel race event at Rodeo Cowboy Association rodeos throughout the United States. She performed a great deal of public relation work for the Girls Rodeo Association, meeting and corresponding with rodeo committees at a time when many rodeo producers and committees were not very responsive to barrel racing as an event in their rodeos. She spent innumerable hours, traveled many miles, and did much to promote the barrel race event to the level of popularity that it enjoys today.

During the time Manuelita was Girls Rodeo Association Secretary-Treasurer, she wrote a monthly article for the Quarter Horse Journal, entitled “GRA Highlights.” In addition, she published a monthly newsletter for Girls Rodeo Association. She also designed the Girls Rodeo Association brochure that helped publicize the organization. Even today, the WPRA newspaper carries a reprint of Manuelita’s GRA newsletter each month in “Lookin’ Back.”

Manuelita has lived on her family ranch and farm near Lohn, Texas, all her life. The land has been owned and operated by her family since 1901 when her grandfather, J. K. Shelton, purchased the land. Manuelita’s parents, J. T. “Dutch” and Latitia Woodward, operated the farms and ranches throughout their married life. Manuelita still operates the farms and ranches in the Heart of Texas.

Manuelita was born with a heart ailment said to limit her physical activities growing up; therefore, her main hobby was horseback riding. She had been riding horses since she was three years old. In 1948 she began riding in amateur rodeos and horse shows. Later she joined the Southwestern Rodeo Association and rode in many of their approved rodeos. In 1955 she became professional by joining the Girls Rodeo Association. In November 1955, she had heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic. After a speedy recovery, in January 1956, she participated in the Invitational Ranch Girls Barrel Race at the Fort Worth Rodeo. Manuelita was invited and rode in the Fort Worth Rodeo Parade and each Grand Entry. She also carried the American flag for the San Antonio Rodeo in 1960.

She has ridden, won, or placed at such rodeos as Fort Worth, San Antonio, San Angelo, Coleman, Odessa, Texas; Havana, Cuba; Chicago, Illinois; Winston-Salem and Raleigh, North Carolina; Indianapolis, Indiana; Memphis, Tennessee; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and Burwell, Nebraska to mention only a few. In 1959 she competed in the first Girls Rodeo Association National Finals Barrel Race at Clayton, New Mexico.

There have been many articles and pictures of Manuelita published in magazines and newspapers. She was well known for her stunning rodeo costumes. Her picture has also appeared on several magazine covers. Manuelita designed her rodeo wardrobe, and she modeled her rodeo clothes to advertise the rodeo in different cities throughout the United States. She also participated in publicity for rodeos and the barrel racing event on television, radio, and had many interviews for articles in newspapers, horse and rodeo magazines, and other publications.

Manuelita bred quarter horses, which she helped train and show in the horse shows at halter and performance classes. She also owned, bred, raised, helped train, and raced many top race horses at tracks in Texas and New Mexico. In 1978 she began breeding registered red brangus cattle. Manuelita still maintains the registered herd.