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Joanne Kennedy | Men at Work

June 7, 2012

Joanne KennedyI love my job. Writing is a pleasure. Signing books and meeting readers is a rush. But the best part of writing contemporary Western romance is the research.

Last summer, preparing to write COWBOY CRAZY took me behind the chutes at Cheyenne Frontier Days to watch cowboys in action, riding some of the rip-snortingest broncs and bulls in rodeo.

Donning my Western shirt, boots and cowboy hat—requirements for everyone with a press pass—I looked forward to a lot of joking, a little joshing, and a fair amount of cussing. But what I got was real insight into the true nature of my favorite sport.

In romance novels, cowboys usually symbolize freedom. They’re the epitome of wild, unrestrained energy and devil-may-care attitude. But in reality, the bronc rider, bull rider, or roper is as well-trained and disciplined as any other athlete. If you think the cowboy just gets on the horse and hangs on, think again.

For starters, it takes a half-dozen cowboys to get each rider mounted. They cluster around the chute, calming the horse, offering advice, and helping the rider get situated in the saddle. The contestant spends a fair amount of time adjusting his position, adjusting his hold on the rope and making sure his feet are positioned above the horse’s shoulders. He’ll be disqualified if he doesn’t “mark out” the horse, keeping his feet in position as the front hooves hit the ground.

When the gate swings open, it’s time to rodeo. Most of us know the cowboy has to hang on for eight seconds, but there’s much more to it than that. Judges are watching the rider’s form as well as the horse’s, and points are awarded to both the horse and the cowboy. A good horse can make or break a ride, which is why a talented bucking horses is a sought-after dance partner.

No matter what the horse throws at him, the cowboy has to make sure he spurs properly, sweeping his feet from the horse’s shoulders to its flank in a rhythmic counterpoint to the bucking action. Don’t worry; the spurs are dull and spin freely on the rowel so they don’t dig into the horse’s hide. Sharp or fixed spurs are absolutely forbidden.

The cowboy’s also required to keep his free hand in the air, away from the saddle horn. Touching any part of the animal or saddle results in a “no score” and a walk of shame across the arena.

Whatever happens, the cowboy often looks a little dazed on dismount, not just because he’s shaken up but because he’s struggling to re-focus on the real world. I took a poll last year to find out what cowboys are thinking about as they ride. I thought some might concentrate on spurring, while others might focus on the tension on the rope.


Every single cowboy I talked to said they think about the same thing: nothing. A clear mind makes for a good ride, and by the time they make a big-time rodeo like Frontier Days, they’ve drilled the moves into their subconscious so that muscle memory kicks in, allowing them to react to every move of the animal with the perfect counter-move.

That’s one reason I love writing about cowboys. The outer façade is only part of the story; beneath it is an extraordinary athlete so attuned to his mount that he can sense the horse’s next move from the merest muscle twitch.

In COWBOY CRAZY, Lane Carrigan carries that instinct from the bucking chutes to the bedroom. He understands Sarah Landon better than she understands herself, and he has the patience and fortitude to lead her back to her real self in spite of the fact that she fights him as hard as a bronco with a burr under the saddle.

What’s your favorite manly-man sport? Hockey? Football? Have you ever been behind the scenes at a game or gotten up close and personal with the players?

To purchase COWBOY CRAZY by Joanne Kennedy, please visit


Sparks fly when sexy cowboys collide with determined heroines in a West filled with quirky characters and sizzling romance. Acclaimed for delivering “a fresh take on the traditional contemporary Western” Joanne Kennedy’s books might just be your next great discovery!

From stable to boardroom…

Sarah Landon’s Ivy League scholarship transforms her from a wide-eyed country girl into a poised professional. Until she’s assigned to do damage control with the boss’s rebellious brother Lane, who’s the burr in everybody’s saddle. He’s determined to save his community from oil drilling, and she’s not going back to the ranch she left forever. Spurs will shine in this saucy romp about ranchers and roots, redemption and second chances.


Joanne Kennedy is the author of four contemporary Western romances for Sourcebooks: Cowboy Trouble One Fine Cowboy, Cowboy Fever, and Tall, Dark and Cowboy. She brings a wide variety of experience, ranging from chicken farming to horse training, to her sexy, spicy cowboy stories. She is a 2011 finalist in the prestigious Romance Writers of American RITA© Awards, for One Fine Cowboy. Joanne lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where she is working on her next book, Cowboy Tough (Fall 2012). For more information, please visit To purchase Joanne’s latest release, COWBOY CRAZY, please visit

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