Jackie Crawford Reunites with “Thriller” to Win 2023 WPRA Tie-Down Championship

Jackie Crawford collected a total of three WPRA World Championships at the 2023 Finals in Waco, one of which came on previously owned gelding “Thriller.”

Jackie Crawford and "Thriller" hit their stride at the 2023 WPRA Finals.
Jackie Crawford and "Thriller" hit their stride at the 2023 WPRA Finals. Photo by James Phifer

Jackie Crawford secured another WPRA All-Around World Championship at the 2023 Finals with the help of her average victory in tie-down roping aboard “Thriller,” a gelding she previously owned but sold to Sweet Ranch in February.  

“That horse is so good minded,” Crawford said of Thriller. “I had planned to keep him, but unfortunately you can’t keep them all. I am so grateful I got to get back on him for the WPRA Finals. Blane Cox, Abby and Sweet Ranch are so generous for letting me ride a horse they have so much invested in. It’s very humbling.”

Crawford and Thriller’s three-head aggregate at the WPRA Finals was 44.0 seconds, earning a total of $2,388.

“Now I can always tell Blane I rode Thriller in his first perfs and won the first World Championship on him,” Crawford joked.

Crawford and Thriller’s backstory

Registered as “Fill The Thrill,” then-4-year-old “Thriller” caught Crawford’s attention in a 2021 Solo Select online sale. At the time she was hunting for roping futurity prospects, and Thriller’s Peptoboonsmal bloodlines—a favorite of Crawford’s for their even temper—eye appeal and size made him an ideal candidate. He’d come from a cutting program, and his handle made it easy for him to switch to breakaway under Crawford.  

“He was kind, gentle, left the box flat and stayed out of your way,” Crawford recalled. “I had him for 2 years—but his stride didn’t fit my swing as well as Hail Mary’s stride does. Blane had always teased me about buying him at rodeos, so earlier this year I reached out to him.”

Sweet Ranches of Brazil purchased Thriller and left him with Cox to become a calf horse. According to Cox, Thriller was such a natural in the tie-down he instinctively worked the rope.

“Blane immediately loved him,” Crawford said. “He took him to a 10-header in Amarillo really soon after he bought him and was first or second high call on him.”

But in May, Thriller coliced and had to undergo surgery. He spent the rest of the summer being rehabbed while Cox ProRodeoed, earning $119,608 and advancing to his second NFR. Come October, Thriller was back.

Reuniting with Thriller

When Crawford decided she was going for another WPRA All-Around World Championship in 2023, she knew she needed to compete in tie-down roping to give her a shot. Problem was, she didn’t have a horse in her string that fit the bill.

Crawford originally asked Cox about using another horse she’d sold him—a mare named “Roulette.” But when Roulette came up sore, Thriller got the call instead.

Although Thriller is relatively green in the tie-down pen, he worked for Crawford “perfect.” The pair posted times of 13.8, 14.8 and 15.4, winning the average and Crawford’s 25th WPRA World Championship (she went on to win No. 26 with the All-Around Championship, too.)

Jackie Crawford’s tie-down tips

The men can make tie-down roping look simple, but anyone who has tried to athletically flank a calf for time knows otherwise.

Crawford says when it comes to tie-down roping as a woman, there are steps the ladies can’t skip over.

“Girl’s size can be a disadvantage, and we’re not as strong as men,” Crawford said. “I focus on taking a few extra swings, getting close to the calf, and setting my run up well. When I dismount, I get into the rope. I cannot give that calf any space to move.”

When she reaches the calf, Crawford makes sure she’s stopped its forward motion by blocking it with her hip. Only then will she pivot and flank the calf with both knees under him for leverage.

“At an event like the WPRA Finals, I know if I can tie-down three calves in solid times, the average is within my reach,” Crawford said.

Now, Thriller is back with Cox with a new accolade to his name: 2023 WPRA Tie-Down Roping Champion.

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