No. 2 Hali Williams Overcomes Ankle Injury to Rope at 2023 NFBR

Hali Williams has overcome a difficult ankle injury that left her bedbound and unable to practice ahead of the biggest breakaway event of the year.

Hali Williams hasn't let a pesky ankle injury discourage her ahead of her first NFBR qualification.
Hali Williams hasn't let a pesky ankle injury discourage her ahead of her first NFBR qualification. Photo by Click Thompson

Hali Williams battled back from an intense ankle injury sustained in early October that ended practice on horses for six weeks ahead of her first National Finals Breakaway Rodeo qualification.

Williams had come home and was unloading from a rodeo at the Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth on Oct. 7 when her gelding “Hummer” slipped backing out of the trailer, lunged forward in panic and pushed her down onto the trailer ramp, standing on her right foot.

It came just a few days after the 2023 ProRodeo regular season had closed where Williams had earned $146,742. She had a full schedule of amateur circuit finals, the Texas Circuit Finals and NFBR practice planned over the next two months.

The 19-year-old recalled initially feeling fine and walked off the injury. When the Texas Circuit Finals came a few days later, though, her foot and ankle started to bother her.  

“It can’t be that bad, right?”

“My mom Jennifer told me to tough it out,” Williams said. “Well, there at the Circuit Finals it got to where I couldn’t walk. It went really bad in two days. The third day out [from the injury], I can’t move. I can’t put any weight on that foot. I go to Justin Sports Medicine, and they wrapped me up, saying I had a sprained ankle.”

Once she was back home in Comanche, Texas, Williams called family sports medicine doctor Shawn Scott.

Scott didn’t think Williams could injure the foot more than she already had and gave her the clear to compete at the UPRA Finals. The only caveat was she had to stay off it as much as possible.

“My friend Sydnie Romero would warm up my horse for me, I would rope and then get right back off,” Williams said. “Hummer was amazing. It probably looked like a monkey riding a dog.”

After the finals Williams got the results of her MRI and x-rays—there was likely a tear in her peroneus brevis tendon on the outside of her right ankle. The ligament is responsible for holding the foot up, and the injury meant her ankle wanted to buckle. Williams was ordered to rest.

“I’ve been reading a lot about Job in the Bible, and what he went through. I keep the mindset that everything happens for a reason. Take what I learned this year and whether it helps me in Vegas or it helps me in five years, growing is something we all go through, and I hope to do it with humility and gracefulness.”

– Hali Williams

When it rains it pours

Williams laid in bed for days, “going stir crazy.” Meanwhile, her No. 1 gelding Redlight was at the vet with a bout of bronchitis and EPM.

“So Redlight is down and I’m down,” Williams said. “Fortunately, I knew Redlight was with Charlie Buchanan, and he would take care of everything.”

After a few days, Williams began taking short walks throughout her house. Eventually, she began roping on The Speed Trainer, her father Speed Williams’ mechanical breakaway horse.

“The Speed Trainer has been a blessing through all of this because I can’t take the risk of riding a real horse,” Williams explained. “So, I roped with my right foot out of the stirrup—which was good for my balance but not easy.”

A platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection in her right foot in early Nov. set Williams’ progress back a bit—creating soreness that put her back off her foot—but a few days later she began healing in “leaps and bounds after that.”

Redlight improved rapidly under Buchanan’s care and Williams began riding him Nov. 22 in preparation for the NFBR. She plans to start the competition on Redlight and has wrapped her right stirrup in vet wrap to give it more texture for grip.

Hali Williams ropes at a jackpot with her right ankle in a boot, rigged up with pink breakaway string. Video courtesy of Williams

NFBR Gameplan

In light of her injury, Williams is headed into the NFBR with a “less is more” mindset. She’s maintaining a positive mindset, saying she and her horses know their jobs after spending all year on the ProRodeo trail.

“If you told me last year that ‘A lot of hard stuff will happen, but I would be going into the NFBR No. 2,’ I wouldn’t say no to that,” Williams said. “I think it’s easy to get ahead of yourself and say ‘This should happen, that should happen.’”

Her mature mindset ought to serve her well as she heads into 10 Rounds of grueling competition against the best ProRodeo breakaway ropers of 2023.

Keep tuning into The Breakaway Roping Journal’s coverage of the National Finals Breakaway Roping with exclusive interviews, video footage, compelling photography, writing and more.

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