Two cowgirls at the opposite ends of their careers within the Women’s Pro Rodeo Association (WPRA).
Sophomore WPRA breakaway roper Hanna Hunsdorfer clinched the year end title during the California Circuit Finals Rodeo (CFR) held December 29-31, 2022 in Red Bluff while WPRA Gold card holder Cathy Cagliari walked away with the average title.
The Veteran Takes the Finals
Cagliari is a veteran of more than a decade’s worth of circuit finals appearances but made her first trip as a breakaway roper in 2022. It was just the second year that the WPRA breakaway ropers had been invited to be part of the year end championship event.
While torrential rain created havoc outside the confines of the Pauline Davis Pavilion, the ladies had things well in hand inside the arena. Riding as a nearly home-town favorite, Cagliari, who along with her husband Cliff Wilbanks, lives just twenty minutes down the road in Corning, set a high bar after winning the opening round in 2.9 seconds.
“My game plan was just to go rope every calf, take the best shot on every calf,” Cagliari said. “It worked out.”
Though roping at her first circuit finals, Cagliari is no stranger to roping titles. She claimed the 2006 California Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association (CCPRA) Breakaway Roping Championship and was the first woman to claim that group’s all around championship for their annual Finals Rodeo, a feat she has done on several occasions.
Cagliari has long been one of the toughest cowgirls on the West Coast, born in Nevada and learning at the hands of her mother Wanda, a two-time National Finals Rodeo barrel racer and many times World Champion in the National Senior Pro Rodeo Association.
Cagliari was Miss Reno Rodeo in 1990, just two years after she claimed College National Finals Rodeo titles in the All Around and barrels for West Hills College. Today, she is an Independent Beauty Consultant for Mary Kay, a job she’s held for 33 years.
“It works great with rodeo,” she laughed. “Especially since COVID, we went to a lot of virtual meetings and we’ve implemented a customer delivery system so that I can send products straight from the company if I’ve out on the road. It’s pretty flexible for me.”
For her 2022 rodeo season, Cagliari kicked things off quickly, placing at the first rodeo in King City. She also picked up a big check at the Red Bluff Round-Up in the spring.
“I kind of just placed along throughout the year,” she said. Cagliari relied upon her good mare, Curly Sue Fame, 15. Curly Sue is by Cagliari’s stud Stir N Up the Fame and out of Docs Bonnie Bird by Especial. “We raised her. Cole Hook broke her and then I’ve done everything else. She runs barrels, breakaway ropes, does anything you want.”
At the Circuit Finals, Cagliari recognized that several competitors went out of the average in the opening round. She remained solid through the second and third rounds, picking up checks for fourth and a split of fourth and fifth, to win the average with a total time of 9.2 seconds on three calves. She was 1.4 seconds ahead of second ranked Whitlee Burgess.
“I was keeping track of who was staying in the average and going into the final round, several of the ones near the top were not catching,” she noted. “I just stayed with my game plan, didn’t try to go be fast, just go catch. I didn’t overthink it, just stayed on task.”
All totaled up, Cagliari pocketed $4,324, enough to land her third in the year end standings. The win also gave her three circuit finals average championships; she won two previously in the barrels.
Cagliari also secured a position at the NFR Open held in July with the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Only the year end champions and circuit finals rodeo winners will compete at the $1 million event that is the crowning jewel of ProRodeo’s circuit system.
“I went when it was in Pocatello before,” she said, referring to when the event was called the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo. “It was fun.”
“It’s going to be exciting. I’ve never been to Colorado Springs so I’m looking forward to it.”
Having competed in the California Circuit for quite a few years, Cagliari appreciates the increased money available and notes that there was a time when it didn’t pencil out financially to even attend the finals if she had to travel the entire length of the state. Of course, having it practically in her backyard helped too.
“It was really good, lots of good energy and it seemed like every one was pulling for each other,” Cagliari said. She also enjoyed the team concept introduced in 2022 where contestants were assigned to teams representing regular season rodeos. “The team challenge deal was cool, it seemed like it got everyone working together as a team.”
Roping First Circuit Title Provides Highlight for Tough Year
The second half of the California Circuit breakaway contingent is Visalia cowgirl Hanna Hundsdorfer. Hundsdorfer earned the year end title with $9,244 won at California rodeos in 2022.
Hundsdorfer only joined the WPRA in 2021 but is no rookie to high level roping. She began her career while still just a kid, one of three roping sisters.
“My grandpa, Alfred Alva, was always team roping and going to brandings and we just loved going with him,” Hundsdorfer said. “Our parents had roped but sold all their horses when they got married so we started begging our parents for a horse. We were always over riding grandpa’s horses.”
Ryan and Debbie Hundsdorfer finally relented, agreeing to buy one each for oldest daughter Hailee and twins Hanna and Quin. Hailee is fourteen months older than the twins and Quin is fourteen minutes older than Hanna, making her the baby of the family.
“The finally got us each a horse. The the next thing you know we’re up to five horses, then ten,” Hundsdorferlaughed. Noting none of the sisters were ever into barrel racing, they began a trek through the traditional youth rodeo path and Hundsdorfer never quit roping.
The year end title came during a year that was trying for Hundsdorfer on a personal level. Noting that roping was about the only thing that kept her going for a spell, she found some early success at co-approved rodeos in Arizona that counted for her home circuit.
“I was going to just go to the California Circuit rodeos and maybe a few of the bigger ones outside the circuit but rodeo kind of became my escape so I went and rodeoed over the summer.”
Unfortunately, she found herself struggling to catch until a friend offered advice that resonated.
“It was a rough year and I was roping a lot of horns. My friend said, ‘just keep moving those mountains.’ It just made something click and the difference in my roping after that was night and day.”
Hundsdorfer was surprised as the season winded to its September 30 conclusion to see her name atop the circuit standings and went to the final rodeo in Poway with a mission.
“I had made it my goal the year before to lead the circuit going into the finals and to win both the year end and finals,” she said. She clinched the regular season lead with the big win in Poway, outroping a tough field that included a lot of ropers vying to get inside the top 15 for a berth to the Wrangler National Finals Breakaway Roping. “It felt good to get that win. I needed it as much as those big names that were there.”
Carrying a lead into the circuit finals, Hundsdorfer caught the ears on her first calf. Aboard her top horse, the nine-year old bay mare she calls Lena, she bounced back with a 2.6 second effort to win the second go, the fastest calf roped at the finals.
Though she drew a runner in the final round, she still managed a round check and climbed back to fourth in the average, banking $2,257 during the rodeo to maintain her lead for the year end title.
“It was a good finals,” she said. “The rain was horrible but we had fun.”
With the flooding effecting all of California, her parents weren’t able to attend the finals but Hundsdorfer was quick to credit their help in her career.
“They’re both my coaches, we nitpick every run,” she laughed. “They’ve been my ride-or-die, go everywhere with me. I couldn’t do this without them.”
She also sends videos of her runs to her grandpa since health issues have prohibited him from traveling with her anymore. The whole crew took advantage of the Cowboy Channel’s coverage and she noted that she got phone calls after every performance.
Hundsdorfer now turns her sites to the new season and the chance to compete at the NFR Open next summer.
“I’m super excited,” she said. “I watched it last year and it looked like a great rodeo. There are some rodeos that are just bucket list rodeos to qualify to and get to rope in.”
Hundsdorfer is planning a move to Texas in the coming year to further her competitive roping career and gain better opportunities for seasoning the horses she trains, something else she is passionate about doing. Along with roping and training, she also provides PEMF treatments for horses.
As for the rodeo trail, she believes she’s capable of much more than she accomplished in 2022.
“I expect more of myself, for how much I rope,” she said. “My goal is to win the circuit again and the finals this time and get into Houston and Fort Worth. I’m just going to go rope when I can and let the chips fall where they may.”
California Circuit Finals Breakaway Roping Results
First round: 1. Cathy Cagliari, 2.9 seconds, $1,091; 2. Liz Hirdes, 3.0, $903; 3. Jaden Cowan, 3.5, $714; 4. Gianna O’Day, 3.7, $526; 5. Whitlee Burgess, 3.9, $338; 6. Karri Jones, 4.5, $188
Second round: 1. Hanna Hundsdorfer, 2.6 seconds, $1,091; 2. Toni Miller, 2.9, $903; 3. Jaden Cowan, 3.0, $714; 4. Cathy Cagliari, 3.2, $526; 5. Karri Jones, 3.4, $338; 6. Gianna O’Day, 3.6, $188
Third round: 1. Fallon Ruffoni, 2.7 seconds, $1,091; 2. Whitlee Burgess, 2.8, $903; 3. Liz Hirdes, 2.9, $714; 4. (tie) Cathy Cagliari and Hanna Hundsdorfer, 3.1, $432 each; 6. Alea Cunningham, 4.1, $188
Average: 1. Cathy Cagliari, 9.2 seconds on three head, $1,636; 2. Whitlee Burgess, 10.6, $1,354; 3. Karri Jones, 12.5, $1,072; 4. Hanna Hundsdorfer, 5.7 on two head, $790; 5. Liz Hirdes, 5.9, $508; 6. Jaden Cowan, 6.5, $282