Barrels & Babies
By Laci Jones
As technology advances and society changes, quality family time is difficult to come by. The Youree/Ward family broke that mold among many others. Every morning, the Youree/Ward clan gather at Dale and Florence Youree’s home for breakfast, where they chat about everything from family to horses.
“We still seek advice from one another,” Kylie (Ward) Weast explained. “We might have a different approach to fix a problem. I really think that’s why this business has gone for 60 years now. It’s not just one person’s idea, but we never stop learning.”
The Youree/Ward women managed to balance motherhood and their passion for horses all while making it look effortless. Each generation has made their mark in the barrel racing industry. The Youree/Ward women include the first generation— Florence (Price) Youree; second generation — Renee (Youree) Ward; the third generation—Janae (Ward) Massey, Cassie (Ward) Ambrose and Kylie (Ward) Weast.
Florence (Price) Youree
Born in Duncan, Okla., 85-year-old Florence (Price) Youree grew up working on her father John Henry Price’s ranch in Addington, Okla.
“My dad put me on a horse before I was old enough to even remember it,” she added.
Avid rodeo fans, her parents took Florence and her younger sister Sherry to the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo each year, where Florence was fascinated by the interest among women in rodeos. She was later inspired to try barrel racing herself after attending smaller rodeos in Waurika, Okla., and Comanche, Okla.
“I went home and got on one of the ranch horses, ran the barrels and I loved it,” Florence added.
Both Florence and her sister rode a Palomino horse named Chubby at rodeos. When asked if she and her sister were competitive with one another, she said, “Oh, sure, but we were always pulling for the other one.”
“We changed saddles because she was younger,” she explained. “We put her on him, and we won first and second at nearly every place we went back then.”
At 14 years old, she met Dale Youree at a rodeo, where she asked if she could ride his horse in the grand entry.
“He said, ‘You sure can,’” Florence recalled and laughed. “After that, we just continued on.”
They were married two years later on Feb. 18, 1950. After Dale graduated from Oklahoma A&M, now Oklahoma State University, they made their way back to southwestern Oklahoma where Dale worked on Florence’s father’s ranch.
Shortly after, they had a son named John.
“As soon as he was born, I got back on the horse,” she explained.
Their daughter Renee was later born a few years later in 1958. The couple joined the Rodeo Cowboys Association, and the Girls Rodeo Association, now known as the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, respectively.
Florence was later appointed as the GRA barrel racing director in 1954, becoming president in 1958. She resigned five years later to take over the secretary/treasurer position. The barrel racer was a pioneer in the Barrel Futurities of America, where she served as vice president and later president.
The rodeo athlete first qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in 1959 and returned many years. After, the Yourees began training horses for the public two years later in 1961.
“We just kept working,” she said. “Our livelihood became training and selling barrel horses.”
They also started hosting the Youree Horsemanship Camps throughout the summer to teach students rodeo skills as well as other life skills. Florence said she was able to balance motherhood while barrel racing, training horses with Dale and working in the associations with support of her mother and friends.
“I was very blessed to have people who would help take care of my kids,” she added. “Mother and Dad had a hired hand who had been on the ranch for more than 20 years. If I had to go anywhere or do anything, I could call his wife, and she would say, ‘I’ll be right there.’”
The mother of two continued to barrel race through her 50s, but her decision to quit barrel racing was easy after she was injured in a horse accident. For her years in the barrel racing industry, Florence earned the 1966 GRA All-Around Cowgirl title. She was later inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1996 and the National Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2009.
The matriarch said she had “no earthly idea” what she and Dale were starting when they married 68 years ago, but she said it is a joy to watch the next generations.
“Every now and then, I’ll look out there and see the girls riding, and I’ll think it would be fun to do that again,” Florence added.
Learn about the other Youree/Ward women in the May issue of OKFR!