Jackie Crawford—who won the 2020 WPRA gold buckle in the breakaway roping—has been in rodeo’s spotlight for a decade. With breakaway roping’s explosion since 2019, Crawford has been at the forefront of driving the sport forward and helping young ropers elevate their craft rise the new challenges laid in front of them. In this monthly blog, Crawford will share her story and her training insights in hopes to continue to grow the sport. In the coming months, she’ll share roping insights, horse training methods and mental strategy in this space, all sponsored by our partners at Soft Ride Equine Comfort Boots.
Getting a Start
I want to start this series with telling you a bit about how I came to roping professionally. I grew up in Belleville, Illinois. My mom trained horses and barrel horses and roped in college, and my dad was a really good roper. But my parents got divorced when I was 4, so my mom hauled me around everywhere running barrels and poles.
I moved to Oklahoma, and there were so many junior rodeos and all of these kids roped. When I was 12, I realized roping looked way more fun than what I was doing. Being a tomboy, I wanted to be able to do everything.
At first, I didn’t have a rope horse, an arena or anything like that. My mom said she’d enter me at the junior rodeos in the roping if I could get my barrel horse to let me swing a rope on her. I worked at it, and the first time I entered the roping, somehow I caught. We were at the end of the season, though, so my mom said if I roped the dummy all summer, she’d let me enter the rodeos. I roped it, but not up to her standard. So she still wouldn’t let me enter until I really learned to work at it.
I figured it out—how to really, really dedicate myself to something, and I finally got to enter it my sophomore year. I finally got to where I was working at it and understood it.
At this point, I still didn’t have a rope horse. I had my ratty, little, sorrel barrel horse. I ran barrels, ran poles, tied goats—she did everything. It took her forever to chill out and let me swing a rope on her, but going to enough places, getting enough help, and working at it enough, she ended up being really neat and really gritty.
My mom roped some in college, and she’d seen my dad rope enough that she was the one helping me. She understood it. She was a good horseman first, so that really drove me.
Not having an arena back then was a blessing and a curse. We’d always have to find places to go rope, and when we did, those people would always reach out a hand to give me an opportunity.
Something I really learned back then is that I’ve never seen anyone that has the opportunity who won’t give someone else the opportunity if that person wants to try. People are always willing to help you if you’re the type of person who wants that help. If you show up, you turn out for them, you rake the boxes, saddle their horses—you do anything to make their day easier because they’re giving you an opportunity.
In high school, I wasn’t bad but I wasn’t great either. I won state my junior year in the breakaway, and I won second in the state my senior year. It was one of those things were a lot of people could see talent, and it was coming on strong. It was a matter of where I took it. I knew I had the ability to do it, and yes I won, but it was a matter of cracking over the hump that makes you great.
When it came time to go to college, I had offers close to home in Oklahoma. They were great schools, and I loved them. There was this aura about people in Texas. The competition was tough. I wanted to go there so bad—I didn’t know how. I didn’t have as good of an offer. I went down with a friend going to Vernon, and I realized if iron sharpens iron, that’s where I needed to be. I ended up going there just to be there. And it paid off. BRJ