Bucking Expectations: Ruth Vogelsang

28 April 2022

Ruth Vogelsang has worked with SA Pathology since June 2019.

A new graduate, Ruth was accepted into the Regional Service Scholarship Program, spent two years in the Alice Springs Lab, and found herself travelling around the Northern Territory.

Now a Medical Scientist home in SA; Ruth is based in Wallaroo working as the Laboratory 2IC. The days are varied - it’s what she loves most about working in regional areas. The role she says is rewarding, and she counts that largely being due to its diversity.

 “I’m never bored. I’m always having to use my brain and prioritise. I’m just always busy and that’s what I really like”.

With the busy nature of her role, Ruth breaks and defies boundaries with her extracurricular activities, which she says have led some to question her intelligence.

“The reaction that I get if they find out I’m a medical scientist, and I’ve done bull-riding is, ‘I thought you were smart!’ Smart or smart enough not to do that” she laughs.

Ruth has been a bull-rider since she worked out in the Kimberley. A chance sighting in the paper when she was on her tea break at the local hospital saw her decide to head to the local bull-riding clinic.

Her arrival was unexpected, to say the least.

A famously male-dominated sport, Ruth jokes that they assumed she worked in admin and went to give her their waiver forms. She says there was some hesitancy at first due to her gender and the high level of risk involved in the sport, but she persisted and was accepted.

This wasn’t Ruth’s first encounter with the high-risk animal, though.

 “I went and did running with the bulls in Spain as a bucket list thing and when I was running alongside them, I just thought how brilliant to be able to ride one, one day. Then, when this clinic came up in Kununurra in the Kimberley, I thought, what better way-what safer way than to learn and get involved in a clinic…so that’s what I did!”

What started as a bucket-list item quickly became addictive, and after competing in just one rodeo, her love for the sport has remained strong and consistent.

 A self-described thrill-seeker, Ruth has Bungee-Jumped, Cliff-Dived, and Sky-Dived and still believes that there is nothing else that compares to the rush of bull-riding.

“…it’s no mean feat to get on the back of a wild bull and give it your best shot and especially because it’s a random draw, you don’t know what you’re getting, you don’t know what skill level the bull is. He could be real rank, or he could be safe as houses, it just depends.”

But it’s not just the animals themselves that keep Ruth coming back for more.

“I love the whole rodeo scene, there’s nothing like it. I grew up in the country and I love stock, cattle, and cows and there’s just something about it. Rocking up, in your boots, you’re in the dirt, you’re outside, you’re around people that care about the stock and the sport as much as you do, and I love it. [It’s a] feeling of belonging, but also it’s just a feeling of pride in yourself as well.”

With so few women within the adrenaline-fuelled sport, the sisterhood is strong between the few who do compete. Bull-riding took Ruth overseas to join the Women’s PBR in 2019 and saw her compete for seven weeks after an encounter on social media with an American female bull-rider.

“… I just thought, wow, what an opportunity! So I stayed with her and her family, and we trained together. We competed 3-4 times a week.

 They have rodeos on a Tuesday night over there, it was amazing. And she had her own practice bulls, so once a week we would train on her bulls, and it was incredible- I had the time of my life over there! I just thought it was amazing.”

This trip also inspired Ruth to purchase her own bulls when she returned to Australia, training them up to help her practice for competitions- a commonplace occurrence in the U.S. where bull-riding is more frequent.

Due to COVID-19, Ruth says that rodeos have been few and far between in SA, so she opted to have the bulls remain in their home, the Kimberley, where rodeos are more frequent.

However, when the opportunity eventually arose late last year in Kapunda and Streaky Bay, (the first rodeos to have taken place in a year and a half), Ruth returned to her passion, and although she says that she was somewhat “rusty” it was a welcome change. She looks forward to continuing to bull-ride for years to come.

Thank you for being a valued member of the SA Pathology team Ruth, and we look forward to watching you at a Rodeo soon!

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