Women in the Cariboo are redefining what it means to be a rancher in a predominately-male industry.
Monika Wyssen is one of those women.
“I grew up in a city, but as a child, I always wanted to be around horses,” she said.
Wyssen was born and raised in Bern, Switzerland. At the age of 16, she was given the opportunity to travel to Canada with another family. Her parents were hesitant about the idea, but they let their daughter go.
“I totally fell in love with the country,” she said. “While I was here, I stayed on guest ranches, I worked, and took a trip to the mountains.”
When Wyssen turned 20, she immigrated to Canada. Wyssen has been living in the region, including in the Cariboo, for more than 30 years working in the ranching industry, and is what some might consider a cowgirl.
“In Switzerland, I only knew cowboys existed from John Wayne in the movies,” she said. “I thought it was a thing of the past.”
Wyssen always had a love for horses. She said she didn’t know where that love came from, it was just something that was.
“I don’t know why but I was just crazy about horses,” she said. “Whenever I saw one, I wanted to ride it and when I got to, it meant the world to me.”
While living in Switzerland, Wyssen rode horses in a competitive setting. The horses were never hers, but she had a dream, and that was to have horses of her own.
“I sometimes think about if I could see myself doing something else, but I don’t think I can,” she said. “I came over here for this reason, and it was one of the main reasons I was attracted to Canada.”
Wyssen doesn’t consider herself your typical rancher.
“I don’t see myself as a rancher’s wife, I am the rancher,” she said. “You won’t see me canning peaches or baking pies but you sure can find me out in the arena, team roping with the men to see who can do it the fastest,” she said.
Ranching has been known to be a male-driven industry, but women have been reclaiming the west. Wyssen said it’s common for her to be the only female working alongside men on the ranches, but that has never deterred her.
“I think women are working in this industry because we have a lot to give,” she said. “A lot of women ranchers are very knowledgeable about animals.”
There were times where Wyssen was told she couldn’t do a certain job because she was a woman and that only drove her even harder.
“I put in as much effort as any other rancher does,” she said. “I think it’s important in any job to have both women and men working. It’s also important to have different views on how to do things.
I think ranching is a great job for women, and I don’t think we stand behind men in any way when it comes to ranching,” she added.
Wyssen and her husband Curtis own a small ranch just outside of Clinton, British Columbia. They call it Cowboy Up Ranch. When Wyssen is not mending her own she is contracting herself to other ranches around the Cariboo.
“I will go out on the range for other ranches,” she said. “In the summertime, I do a lot of cowboying. You have to be creative at times because you never know what you might encounter.”
The couple built their ranch from the ground up and have run a successful business ever since. Wyssen is an example of the women out there who don’t take no for an answer: she had a vision and she achieved it.
“I truly love what I do. Sometimes I have to pinch myself and remind myself that I am really here, I did what I always wanted to do.”