Loni Kay Lester, of Gonzales, Texas, and Erin Johnson, of Fowler, Colorado, finished as the first-ever breakaway champions at the Caldwell (Idaho) Night Rodeo, which ran from Aug. 17–21.
They each stopped the clock in 8.3 seconds on three head, adding $2,956 to each of their earnings. Johnson is sixth in the PRCA/WPRA Pro Rodeo Breakaway World Standings with $28,573.78 in season earnings. Lester is sitting 17th with $18,898.72 in earnings, which is $931.98 behind Madison Outhier, who is currently 15th.
“I needed that,” Lester said. “God has blessed me with the horses that I have out here, and everyone is safe and healthy. I’m going on the road but, I thought that I would do a lot better, so far. Now, I’m having to kick it in and get pretty tough. Caldwell helped a lot.”
Before securing the split average win, Lester was having trouble getting out at the barrier, which seemed to cost her earnings before backing in the box in Caldwell.
Breakaway Scoring Tips:
“It’s been a little rocky this summer. I haven’t been trusting my horse. I kind of forget that he’s really fast sometimes,” said Lester, the 2017 CNFR All-Around and Breakaway Champion. “It finally all turned around, and I guess it happened at a good time. That was a neat rodeo, and they were really good to the breakaway ropers. It’s a cool experience all together.”
Lester, 25, drew a calf that was on the slower end of the herd in the short round and used it to her advantage to win the final round with a 2.4-second run, worth $1,034.
“I knew I had to take a totally different start than I did on the first two because I drew two stronger calves in the first two rounds,” said Lester, who graduated from Sam Houston State University in 2018 with a major in animal science and a minor in equine nutrition. “I just tried to go up there and be smart on the barrier and take a good, solid first shot. I knew my horse would take care of me.”
Lester roped her first calf in 3.2 seconds and then shaved off a half second on her next calf to win the round, worth $1,833.
“I figured I needed to see a little more, trust my horse and go rope,” Lester said about her intentions to score on the first calf. “He ended up being a little strong, so I just went out there and used my horse and took a good shot. The second one I knew was stronger, and I saw a little bit less on him. I went out there and used my horse again and took a really good shot.”
Lester was on her 13-year-old, blaze-faced sorrel gelding, Boss.
“He’s definitely been a blessing in my life. He’s one of those that never does anything wrong, usually. If I do my job, he’s going to do his. He was amazing. He actually got double the runs because Marty (Yates) rode him in the tie-down, as well."
Yates, a seven-time Wrangler NFR calf roping Qualifier, finished second in the calf roping with a time of 25.0 seconds on three head, worth $4,589, and placed in each round while riding Boss.
Listen: Riding the Wave with Marty Yates
“I think I was more nervous watching him in the tie-down than I was for myself backing in the box,” Lester said about her equine companion that she has ridden since he was 4 years old. “I always knew that Marty could ride him because he’s so talented himself. Watching that horse and both of them together is a really cool thing.”
Boss earned a total of $15,236 between the breakaway roping and the calf roping.
“I think he gave us both every opportunity to do exactly what we did,” Lester said. “I cannot be more thankful for that horse. He scores so good and leaves so flat that it makes my job a lot easier. I think [the calf roping] makes him finish harder for me in the breakaway.”