She is a cowgirl who overcomes contemporary obstacles (father, family, school, tradition, societal, romantic and friendships) and becomes a world-famous champion in an uniquely American sport. Her addiction to danger, and her belief that she could handle anything and anyone, is her greatest strength and nearly fatal flaw. Like many teenagers, she pushes her single parent to his breaking point. He’s concerned about his daughter’s future; he wants her to complete her education, marry and have children. She wants to own a ranch and compete. When she quits school, her furious father sends her away to boarding school. She quits school, runs away and joins a traveling Wild West Show. When the show fails, and the owner steals the monetary prizes, she is abandoned and alone, until she joins her best friends and mentors on the circuit.
Lorena’s friendships with cowgirl champions Mabel, Kitty and Bertha began when she was a child, but after her first race, those friendships become more complicated. The women uncomfortably manage their friendships outside of the arena, but they are adversaries inside the arena. Lorena dedicates herself to achieving professional success and very quickly becomes a World Champion at 16, and dominates her sport for decades. She acquires international fame and wealth, tremendous popularity with her fans and the press. Her championship events involve physical risks which require athletic talent and skill. She creates innovative and ever-more dangerous techniques, suffers serious injuries (broken limbs, concussions); humiliations (completes a race despite a ripped skirt), and along with her wins, suffers embarrassing losses.
After decades of competition, one professional goal eludes the cowgirls – they cannot compete in Pendleton’s All Around Championship. Mabel takes a pragmatic, politically astute perspective, and in time, she becomes the first cowgirl crowned Queen. She’s grateful for her professional achievements, as well as her husband, child and a successful horse ranch. Kitty joins her husband, Yakima Canutt, in Hollywood to begin her off-season stunt-riding career. After the death of her husband during the influenza pandemic, Bertha leaves the Circuit, tries to succeed in Hollywood, and ultimately becomes the first female tour guide in Yosemite. Denied her last professional goal, Lorena leaves for her last competition in Chicago and an uncertain future.
Her personal life is the diametric opposite of her professional bravado; she’s a coward who avoids romantic relationships. At Kitty’s wedding, Mabel and Kitty manipulate Slim, a cowboy-gambler, to meet Lorena. Despite a magnetic attraction, their conflicting professional and personal agendas, her girlfriends’ continual interference keep them apart. During the Chicago competition, Slim rescues Lorena from being trampled and guides her through a grueling rehabilitation. During a growing and public courtship, he escorts her through a new World Championship competition – over nine days of events. She wins the World Championship, the love of her dreams, and Slim finally wins his champion. Lorena is seduced by Slim and is invited to begin a new career – as a stuntwoman in Hollywood.