Resident Millie Benne wowed rodeo crowds with tricks on horseback
Millie Benne was a horsewoman from a young age. She taught herself to be a trick rider and performed in rodeos throughout Missouri for several years.
She didn’t have any formal training, but she did have a strong bond with her horse, a yellow fellow named Rex. “I loved my horse and he loved me, he would nicker when I would come,” said Millie, a Rolla Presbyterian Manor resident. “I started doing different things on him that I wanted to do, and he was OK with it.”
Millie could stand in the stirrups and ride around the arena with her hands in the air. She could stand on one foot with the other in the air.
Amazingly, she never got hurt. In addition to performing her tricks, she also competed in barrel racing on the rodeo circuit on a different horse.
One of her fondest memories, however, was when she was asked to substitute for the flag bearer in the opening ceremony for one rodeo.
“The lady that usually carried the flag around the arena wasn’t able to come, so they asked me because they had seen me ride,” Millie said. “I felt very honored because everybody stands up and claps as you go around. I was very proud they had asked me to do it.”
One day Millie met a fellow horse lover named Al Benne, who came from a ranching family in the St. Louis area. “I fell in love with him because he loved horses. I think the first date he took me to was a horse show. He said, ‘Do you like horses?’ And I said ‘I sure do.’”
Al was a rodeo steer roper — the kind who ride up next to a longhorn steer and jump down to rope it. He won a lot and never got hurt either, Millie said. He also bought Millie her first trick riding saddle.
Millie and Al didn’t have a big wedding — they just went to the preacher. When they weren’t wowing the crowds at rodeos, the couple worked their 200-acre cattle ranch near St. Louis. They owned the ranch until Al fell ill. He died in 2013 at age 94.
Trick riders are few and far between these days, but Millie is happy she got to do what she loved for many years and entertain others alongside the man she loved.