There is a first for everything, and Sawyer Gilbert became the first-ever breakaway champion at Rodeo Austin on March 25, 2023, where an equal payout garnered her a total of $10,569.
“We’re still making ‘firsts,’” Sawyer said, referring to Austin’s addition of breakaway.” I’m glad that breakaway is growing and I’m a part of it.”
The 2021 WPRA breakaway world champion from Buffalo, South Dakota, carefully navigated through hesitating and trotting calves in the go-round and semifinals to advance to the Saturday night finals performance.
“I drew great in the finals for sure,” 21-year-old Gilbert said. “Everyone who’s had that calf won the perf on him. I knew he was a goodie.”
With a time of 2.2 seconds, Gilbert and trusted 18-year-old Paint Horse Strait Smokin Docwood known as “Roger” brought home the Championship and moved into ninth in WPRA breakaway world standings with $22,920 earned.
Can’t cramp Roger’s style
Bay tobiano Roger (Strait Gunsmokensugar x Woods Gay Echo x Doctor Wood) has his signature style of stopping on a 45-degree angle—commonly called “quartering” in breakaway. Although it’s not ideal for some people, Gilbert embraces his habit which came after he became stuck in a gate in a pasture and previous owners used ropes around his legs to free him. He was terrified of ropes for a time and started quartering in his stops.
“Roger doesn’t do it until after he gets his butt in the ground, and then he quarters,” Gilbert told BRJ in 2021. “He’s not really shorting me and not taking my throw away. It happens after the rope is on the calf. We’ve timed it, and he’s one-to-two-tenths faster when he quarters. It definitely helps on slow calves.”
To keep Roger feeling his best on the rodeo road, Gilbert focuses on keeping wheat hay and alfalfa cubes in front of him. For his grain, she feeds Woody’s Sales Prep Feed, which is high protein with a beet pulp base.
“I think he looks the best he ever has and has more muscle tone,” Gilbert said. “It’s not over exaggerated with a lot of supplements, it’s just something to eat all the time.
Sawyer Gilbert’s Different perspective for 2023
After winning the world in 2021, Gilbert was “gung-ho” for rodeo in 2022.
“I was chomping at the bit, I’d just bought a new trailer and I wanted to go everywhere,” Gilbert explained. “This year it’s different, I want to go to the big ones and show that I can win and then go back home and ride some colts. This year I am really focusing on doing my job when I show up. I don’t have to play road warrior and drive all night.”
For Gilbert, breakaway competition is her “fun” thing and due to her natural intensity, if she goes at it too long it becomes a job quickly. Instead, she spends her time working cattle and training on horses.
“If you can believe you’re going to win, you’re going to win eventually. You’ve got to stay the course and things will roll back your way,” Gilbert said.
Up next for Gilbert is Guymon, Oklahoma, and a smattering of Texas rodeos in May.