Little did Cara Spirazza know how far her love of horses would bring her. Born and raised in Palm Beach County, Spirazza, now 24, recently competed for and won the title of Miss Rodeo Florida 2019.
The Miss Rodeo Florida competition was based heavily on horsemanship, as well as appearance, personality, interviews and knowledge of rodeo. These are all things Spirazza honed during her time competing in the Wellington area.
Spirazza started riding horses at the age of three and competed in equestrian events throughout her life. As team captain of the University of Central Florida Western Equestrian Team, she helped lead her team to the state championship in 2015.
“My reining trainer taught me so much,” Spirazza recalled. “When we were faced with high-pressure competitions, he would tell us to ‘just ride!’ and have fun. That was helpful advice. It was my trainer who first introduced me to Rodeo Queens.”
As Miss Rodeo Florida, Spirazza has volunteered to be the state’s official representative of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Miss Rodeo Florida travels throughout Florida and the country to promote rodeo and the western way of life. Spirazza takes tremendous pride when she rides into the arena carrying the American flag, and also when she rides “fast fly-bys.”
“We need to be able to ride any horse,” she explained. “You never know the temperament of the horse you will be riding. There are no practice runs — we just ride.”
Hospital and school visits, parade participation and community events are just some of the responsibilities of Rodeo Queens. Spirazza is especially compassionate about visiting children at hospitals and often asks rodeo cowboys to join her.
“The rodeo community is very supportive of one another,” she said. “We want to see each other succeed.”
Being raised in a medical family, Spirazza grew up with the satisfaction of helping others. She helped raise and train service dogs for disabled veterans through Paws for Liberty and derived great satisfaction from assisting hippo-therapists, especially when it involved treating disabled children. Spirazza enjoyed the time she spent volunteering locally at the Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center.
Spirazza’s other unique experiences include being in charge of 32 horses at Rocky Springs State Park and giving trail rides, as well as serving as a volunteer firefighter for the Notasulga Volunteer Fire Department when time allows. Her first assignment was to be propelled down an abandoned well shaft to rescue a dog.
Spirazza’s innate altruism and love for animals has led her to rescue many animals and nurse them back to health, and she decided early in life that she wanted to become a veterinarian.
“I am often asked, ‘How do you handle school and rodeo?’ As a second-year veterinary medical student at the Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine in Tuskegee, Ala., I have a very vigorous schedule. I must stay organized. I take my homework on the road… time management is important,” Spirazza said. “I am fortunate that my school is supportive and accommodating of my rodeo schedule, and I am fortunate that the Miss Florida Rodeo Association is equally supportive of my veterinary school schedule and workload. My passion for both veterinary medicine and rodeo is what keeps me going.”
Spirazza plans on becoming a large animal veterinarian with a focus on equine sports medicine after graduation.
At the end of each year, all of the state rodeo queens compete for the title of Miss Rodeo America in Las Vegas, in conjunction with the National Finals Rodeo. The competition has all the glitz and glamour of the Miss America Pageant, but with a western twist — formal colorful gowns with cowboy boots and hats, dazzling crowns and beautiful belt buckles. You won’t see rodeo queens sing and dance. Their true talent is horsemanship.
After graduation, Spirazza said she would “love to get back to barrel racing and one day be a professional barrel racer. It’s such an amazing part of rodeo.”
Her suggestion for young equestrians is to “follow their passion while serving others.”
You can follow her journey on Facebook at Miss Rodeo Florida Association. She’s always willing to help young equestrians and welcomes them to reach out to her.