RACHEL VAN NIEUWENHUISE (’10, M.B.A. ‘22) started riding horses at six years old and has been making history ever since.
In 2020, she was appointed as the first female wagon outrider for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Due to the pandemic, the 2020 Rodeo was cut short but Rachel was able to fulfill that appointment and see the opportunity come to life in 2022.
For 28 years, each Houston Rodeo daily performance has begun with a parade of the Grand Entry Committee featuring dignitaries, on horseback, in wagons or on firetrucks, that circle the arena to call attention to the start of events. Outriders have the job of keeping all the riders safe.
Preceding the 2022 event, Rachel was the first female head scout of the Valley Lodge Trail Ride, a 70-to-80- mile caravan of horses and wagons into Houston to promote the Rodeo coming to town.
When she’s not spending time with her horses or preparing for the Rodeo, Rachel works as a Marketing Manager for Wood Partners, one of the nation’s largest multifamily real estate developers and managers. In 2022, she received an executive MBA in global business from the University of Houston.
Rachel’s interest in horses began when her dad was transferred to Norway for work. To keep the move exciting and provide an incentive for the girls, her sister was promised violin lessons and Rachel was promised horseback riding lessons.
“The sorority gave me a place as a home. I was able to have an experience that I wouldn’t have had if not for Phi Mu — just like a trail ride.”
“I don’t think they ever planned on following through with their promise,” Rachel said. “I’m the type of person that won’t let things go. Once my mind is made up, it is happening.” In Norway, she went to riding school and trained a few days a week. When her family moved back to Houston, she continued lessons and was connected with the Houston Rodeo and the Valley Lodge Trail Ride by her trainer and mentor, Barbara Arlington. Rachel has now been a part of the Trail Ride for 26 years.
When trail rides began, marketing wasn’t what it is today. Horses and wagons would come together for the 70-to-80-mile trail ride into Houston with the intention of getting the communities along the way excited for the Rodeo. Now there are 10 to 12 trail rides associated with the Houston Rodeo, and when they all reach Houston, they become part of a parade and celebration.
“The Valley Lodge Trail Ride became a strong community for me, basically a family. Kind of like Phi Mu,” said Rachel.
Initially, Rachel wanted to join a sorority so she could have an excuse to take her own car to and from campus. Her father was a professor at the university, so she struggled with independence in college while living at home and catching rides with her dad to class. After recruitment, she moved into the Phi Mu house as quickly as she could and loved every second of her time as a collegian. “Being able to join Phi Mu gave me a true college experience.”
As an alumna she continued her involvement with the Houston Alumnae Chapter as Secretary, Membership Director and Philanthropy Chairwoman. Rachel enjoys the philanthropic aspect of membership and loves fundraising and volunteering with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. “Being a part of something bigger than just you is so special. That also ties into the Rodeo — they both give you an opportunity to give back to your community.”
From Phi Mu national magazine, The Aglaia- Summer 2023