Great Draws and Grade Horses: Jacey Fortier Claims Pendleton Round-Up Championship

The stars seemed to line up perfectly for Montana's Jacey Fortier to claim her first Pendleton, Oregon, breakaway roping championship.

The Long Shot: Jacey Fortier Claims Pendleton Round-up Championship
WT Bruce Photography

Jacey Fortier couldn’t have picked a better venue to break her summer rodeo slump.

“A couple weeks ago, I wasn’t coming to Pendleton,” Fortier, 33, said. “I wasn’t roping good; things weren’t going right. I seriously didn’t know if I was going to (Pendleton) until I left for Colfax (Washington), on Thursday, and my slack was on Monday. Now, I’m happy I went.” 

Fortier’s 3.3-second trip in the first round earned her $525 for 12th—and allowed her to earn the No. 12 callback position to the final round. A 2.7-second short-round run was good enough for first and $1,691. Fortier had to sweat out 11 ropers behind her, but her time of 6.0 seconds on two head held through the finals. She cashed a $6,299 check for her aggregate win, bringing her total Pendleton earnings to $8,515. 

Fortier’s horse had stumbled severely during her long-round run, and she originally thought that she would be bumped out of a short round qualification. Fortier decided to head nearly 12 hours back to her home in Billings, Montana. 

Fortier hung onto the 12th position nearly all week long, and next thing she knew there was just one long round performance remaining on Friday evening. Fortier was anxious to get on the road and knew she had a chance at hanging inside the top 12, but her mom’s superstitions kept her from pulling out of the driveway.

“Mom said she’d help me drive if I waited to find out that I was for sure in the short round,” Fortier said. “She didn’t want to jinx me by leaving early with me. I had the truck hooked up, clothes packed, everything—but I was not leaving until I was 100% sure I made it. I’m not normally that superstitious, but I wasn’t going to test anything this time!” 

Fortier finally got confirmation she’d be competing in the short round and left her house at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, arriving to Pendleton in the early morning hours before the final performance. 

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When Fortier saw her draw, she knew it was game time. 

“I had a really good calf,” Fortier said. “I couldn’t say it out loud when I saw the draw, but I told myself, ‘Don’t mess this up. This is your chance.’ I knew I had a good chance of placing deep if I just saw my spot, rode hard and roped the neck.” 

Coming back into the short round in the No. 12 position meant that Fortier had zero distractions when it came time to back in the corner.

“I thought being first out was great,” Fortier said. “I didn’t have the pressure of knowing what I had to be. I could just do my job and let them catch me at that point.” 

Fortier’s 2.7-second short round run.

It seems fitting that Fortier would win Pendleton aboard a horse nearly as unique as the historic rodeo.

“Teddy,” has been Fortier’s main breakaway horse since she jumped on him at 2018 during a jackpot and never looked back.

“He’s special,” Fortier said of her gelding. “Teddy’s 14 or 15 years old. He’s a grade horse that came from the Black Creek Reservation. We don’t really know what he is—we know there’s some Draft in him. 

The gelding has his quirks, like many do, and Fortier noted that his training process was difficult at times due to the horse’s intelligence.

“He’s almost like a border collie dog—he wants to outthink you every step of the way sometimes,” Fortier said. “But, I’ve never been more confident when I backed in the box in a horse. I know he’ll do his job.” 

Fortier noted that Teddy is an all-around talent. Her family not only heads, heels and breakaway ropes on him, but her mom, Joy Benson, trained him to be a 1D barrel horse, as well. 

Fortier’s mother isn’t the only hand in the family. Fortier’s grandmother, Bettie Benson, helped bring breakaway roping to the Northern Rodeo Association (plug), where Fortier now works, and her parents, uncles and other grandparents have been involved in rodeo from the high school to professional level. 

“Whether it’s roping steers, calves, riding roughstock—you name it, our family has done it,” Fortier said. “I’m definitely not the first one in the family to enter Pendleton, but I’m the first one to win it.” 

For Fortier, having her mother with her during her big win ended up making it sweeter, so she was glad she followed her supserstitions and waited to bring her along. After returning home, she met up with some other Pendleton champions at a team roping jackpot near her home in Billings—Parker Breding (bull riding, 2012), Travis Tryan (team roping, 2004) and Scott Breding (1996, bull riding).

The Long Shot: Jacey Fortier Claims Pendleton Round-up Championship
Four Pendleton Champions: Parker Breding, Jacey Fortier, Travis Tryan and Scott Breding. Image courtesy Fortier.

“We all had to get a picture today since we were all together,” Fortier said. “(Travis Tryan) was a big part of my win.  Earlier in the summer, I showed him a few videos and he pointed some things out in my roping, and things started feeling a lot better after that. So, it was kind of cool.” 

Listen to Travis Tryan on “The Score,” Podcast


First round

1. (tie) Jordan Minor and Sarah Morrissey, 2.3 seconds, $3,780 each; 3. Megan Burbidge, 2.7, $2,730; 4. Bailey Patterson, 2.8, $2,100; 5. Josie Goodrich, 2.9, $1,680; 6. (tie) Karri Jones and Loni Lester, 3.0, $1,155 each; 8. (tie) Cheyanne Guillory and Kimberly Williams, 3.1, $892 each; 10. (tie) Taylor Munsell and Josey Murphy, 3.2, $682 each; 12. Jacey Fortier, 3.3, $525; 13. Rickie Engesser, 3.4, $420; 14. (tie) Brighton Bauman and Taylor Engesser, 3.5, $262 each

Finals: 1. Jacey Fortier, 2.7 seconds, $1,691; 2. Cheyanne Guillory, 3.1, $1,400; 3. Kimberly Williams, 3.3, $1,108; 4. Karri Jones, 4.0, $817; 5. Bailey Patterson, 4.1, $525; 6. Taylor Munsell, 4.2, $292

Average: 1. Jacey Fortier, 6.0 seconds on two head, $6,299; 2. Cheyanne Guillory, 6.2, $5,039; 3. Kimberly Williams, 6.4, $4,095; 4. Jordan Minor, 6.6, $3,150; 5. Bailey Patterson, 6.9, $2,520; 6. Karri Jones, 7.0, $1,890; 7. Taylor Munsell, 7.4, $1,575; 8. Josey Murphy, 7.6, $1,417; 9. Loni Lester, 16.0, $1,260; 10. Sarah Morrissey, 2.3 on one head, $1,102; 11. Megan Burbidge, 2.7, $945; 12. Josie Goodrich, 2.9, $787

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