The 2023 AQHA World Show was all about Sparkys Golddigger, the 18-year-old mare winning two World Championships in the Open Breakaway and Senior Tie-Down Roping, earning a total of $24,352.
She did it with a time of 1.7 seconds in the breakaway and a score of 232 in the senior tie-down, which is the division for horses older than 6.
For longtime owners Brandon and Dena Bowers, the success with “Sparkles” was more than a decade in the making.
“I’ve been showing her for five years in the calf roping,” said rider CR Bradley. “In the tie-down, we’ve won reserve on her and third three times. We’ve been waiting for the gold buckle.”
Sparkles got her opportunity when AQHA added open breakaway roping for the first time this year. It only took one point to qualify for the World Show, and Bradley considered the event an extra opportunity to show off the solid mare before the tie-down roping.
“It was rumored that they would judge this like they do the futurities,” Bradley, 46, explained. “But they ended up just doing it on time this year.”
Bradley and Sparkles were the last to go in breakaway, so the 1.88-second run thrown down by Ryann Jarrett and Simply Breathless moments before was the benchmark to beat.
“We were 1.7,” Bradley said. “I had a pretty big calf, you just had to let them do something before you went. It was a little faster of a setup than I thought, but she stopped really hard, and I think that’s what helped us. It had been a while since I roped something in two swings—I usually go three or so in the calf roping to set things up a little bit more. I definitely had to practice.”
For the open breakaway championship, Sparkles earned $9,725.
In the tie-down roping, a score of 232 outdistanced No. 2 Cody McCartney and Duals Magic Potion by 4 points. The feat added another $14,627 to Sparkles’ resume.
Dennis Schroeder of Freedom, Oklahoma, bred Sparkles, and the Bowers purchased her during her 2-year-old year. Jeff Carney trained her, and she’s competed in events including The American Rodeo with William Whayne in the tie-down.
According to Bradley, Sparkles doesn’t require much maintenance at 18 years old and lives a comfortable life moving between the breeding barn and his facility to be legged up for shows.
“She’s a solid calf horse, scores really good, leaves off my hand and stops really good,” Bradley said. “She’s easy to rope on and great to be around.”
“This win is more impressive to me because I haven’t breakaway roped since I was a teenager, and I don’t know if she had ever been breakaway roped on, either.” – CR Bradley
Sparkles is sired by Zans Diamonds Shine, a stallion sired by Shining Spark that Trevor Brazile rode to a Timed Event Championship and AQHA World Championships in calf roping and heeling. On the bottom side, she goes back to Colonel Freckles—a stallion that needs no introduction.
The key differences in riding for breakaway and tie-down
While Bradley predominantly trains and competes in tie-down roping, there is no denying the growing popularity and lucrative nature of breakaway.
“I don’t train breakaway horses much different than calf horses,” Bradley explained. “I did realize, though, that you can’t have a breakaway horse slide that far because then your time doesn’t stop. In the calf roping, especially now that I am a little bit older, I like them to stop and slide a little bit and give me time to get off.”
Bradley wants his calf horses to stop with their hind end first, take the pull from the calf, and finish the stop using their front end. The concept is similar for breakaway, too, just condensed.