Shiloh Martin has been competing in rodeo pageants since she was 7, but the biggest challenge she faced this year when vying to become the 76th Cavalcade Queen was her ride: Four months before the rodeo, her faithful steed Tractor pulled up lame.
“I didn’t have a horse to ride,” Martin said. “We had some friends who had an old mare, but she had never competed in a queen contest or done any fancy moves.”
Martin borrowed Leo Gypsy Lou, a 21-year-old registered Paint mare that had been a trail horse and child’s playday mount, and got to work. Every day, they paired up for an hour and a half – and on July 24, no small miracle occurred: They took the top honor in the queen contest at what is billed as the world’s largest rodeo.
“To have her go from 0 to 100, to have her ready, was so much more important to me than winning queen,” Martin said.
Martin appears to be the first member of the Osage Nation to be named Cavalcade queen; at least two other Native Americans, Eusty Barbee and Shelby Bute, have worn the crown – and Barbee’s daughter Hannah was a finalist this year – but they are respectively Cherokee and Seneca-Cayuga. No one could remember a previous winner who was Osage in the Cavalcade’s 76-year history, including the elder Barbee, who is considered the savviest expert on Cavalcade queens.
Martin is the daughter of Jay and Stephanie Martin of Burbank. Her dad, a descendant of allottee Alex Cannon of Grayhorse, is a farrier. She developed her love of horses and rodeo while watching him work at professional rodeo events.
“He grew up cowboying and shod his first horse when he was 13,” Martin said. He and her mom, “a city girl from Blackwell,” also contributed to her rodeo habit by buying the horse named Tractor 27 years ago, when they were dating.
“I’ve been riding him since I was born,” Martin said. “My dad tried to sell him a few times but he’d buck off strangers so we had to keep him.”
Martin, 21, is also the current Skiatook Roundup Club Queen and will continue her duties until December. She has a long track record in rodeo royalty. In 2014, she was the youngest to be a top-three finalist in the Cavalcade queen contest at age 13, and five years later, in 2019, she was the first runner-up. In 2017, she won the National Little Britches Rodeo Association queen title, a nine-day marathon of horsemanship, modeling, public speaking and quizzing about everything from rodeo rules to equine health. In that contest, she had to be able to ride any horse a stock contractor put her on – a challenge that the Cavalcade doesn’t replicate.
Challenges don’t faze her, however: When she was 19, Martin became the youngest licensed insurance producer in Oklahoma, a job she still holds with State Farm while attending Northern Oklahoma University, where she majors in political science and minors in mass communication with a plan to go into broadcast journalism – after she gets a master’s degree. She also works as a photographer.
“The Osage Nation is the only reason I’ve been able to go to college at all,” she said, thankful for the education stipends the tribe offers. Before college, she was homeschooled but did attend Shidler High School for her senior year, graduating in 2019.
Her rodeo queen days are far from over with the big win at the Cavalcade. She intends to go on to compete in the Miss Rodeo USA pageant after she completes her royal duties as Cavalcade queen, which entails many public appearances at Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce and other events.
Her rock and her greatest role model, she said, is her grandmother, Donnis Cannon, who lives on her allotment in the Big Bend near Ralston.
“My grandma is strong willed,” she said. “There’s not a single person who is going to tell her what to do. She’s giving even though she’s had so much taken from her in her life.
“She’s tough. She lives on. She has overcome her circumstances. “If I’m half the woman she is, I’ll be doing well.”