There is nothing more terrifying than a breakaway roper with nothing to lose.
Brianna Waltz proved that at The International Professional Rodeo Association’s International Finals Rodeo, IFR 52, when she roped four calves in 12.3 seconds, dominated the aggregate, and won $7,111.11 in Guthrie, Oklahoma’s Lazy E Arena.
Waltz kicked into survival mode in the first round of IFR 52 and chased down a hard-running calf to turn in a clean run in 3.9 seconds. She recovered in the second round, however, and tied for the win with Pryor, Oklahoma’s Halle Tatham with a 2.7-second run. In the remaining rounds, she pulled checks with solid times of 2.8 and 2.9 seconds, respectively.
Coming into IFR 52 in the No. 11 position, Waltz knew that the race could technically be won by any of the cowgirls in the top 15, but the championship buckle was not her focus.
“I knew that I won the average but, after my run, I asked the guy in the out gate who won the [IPRA] World in the breakaway. He told me, ‘You did! Didn’t anybody tell you?’” Waltz said, laughing. “I really had no idea.”
A New York native who now calls Dresden, Tennessee, home, Waltz is no stranger to success in the ranks of the IPRA. The association began including cowgirls in their finals back in 2011, and Waltz has only been absent for two of the 10 years since the event’s inclusion. In 2017, she captured her first year-end championship IPRA title.
Despite her previous success, 2021 proved to be a challenge for Waltz in the rodeo arena. She purchased SS Sophisticatedpoco, a 2010 gelding by Sophisticated Catt out of Miss Merada Poco, from Trent Creager in May. Waltz struggled with the gelding’s impressive speed at the start.
“Squirrel was way above my level at first,” Waltz explained. “I was breaking out everywhere. It was awful. I was catching and roping well, but I just couldn’t learn how to score on him.”
Waltz worked hard on leveling up to the sorrel gelding’s ability throughout the 2021 season and set a goal to qualify for the IFR despite her struggles. Her central location in Dresden, Tennessee, offered her the ability to travel west to Oklahoma rodeos, or east to rodeos along the coast. She and her husband, Tyler, a 2-time IPRA World Champion in the bareback riding, alternated between hitting rodeos along both fronts. This allowed Waltz the chance to rope on the short starts in the Southeast, or the longer starts and stronger cattle offered at the rodeos out west. Western trips also allowed her the opportunity to rope with Creager, who Waltz credits with not only sharpening her skills, but also helping to keep Squirrel tuned up throughout the year.
“Trent and his wife, Callie, have been a true blessing. Usually, when you buy a horse, the person will just tell you to figure it out, but the Creager’s have gone above and beyond for me and Squirrel.” Waltz said.
Nonetheless, Waltz, a full-time registered nurse, nearly lost her nerve before IFR 52, and she contemplated getting back on Ringo, her faithful bay gelding. However, Squirrel’s explosive speed was needed on IFR 52’s long score and fast calves.
“The calves ran, and that’s one thing that Squirrel has going for him,” Waltz said of her decision to ride Squirrel. “He’ll make a fast calf look like a medium calf.”
For Waltz, bringing home a gold buckle signified how far she has come as a competitor. In 2018, Waltz lost the world championship after an unsuccessful IFR, and she has worked hard in the years since that challenging week to ensure that she would not make the same mistakes again.
“A few years ago, I choked. I just had to catch my last calf to win the World, and I choked. This year, I told my husband, ‘I’m going in No. 11. I have nothing to lose. I’m just going to go for it.’ I went in with a different mentality, instead of telling myself to just catch four, I treated each night like a different rodeo.”
Now that she and Tyler both have won two IPRA championships, the couple jokes that it is a race to see who secures the third. Looking ahead to 2022, Waltz has a new set of goals, thanks to finding her groove with Squirrel. She plans to buy her WPRA permit and take advantage of the Southeastern circuit’s inclusion of breakaway in more circuit rodeos while continuing to travel to IPRA rodeos.
Waltz is now 6th in the WCRA leaderboard standings with 1547 points, thanks to her success at the IPRA World Finals.
Full Results— IFR 52
1. Cali Griffin, 2.7-second run, worth $1,777.78
2. Halle Tatham, 2.9-second run, worth $1,333.33
3/4. Jessie Letzelter, 3.4-second run, worth $666.67
3/4. Hannah Hughes, 3.4-second run, worth $666.67
1/2. Brianna Waltz, 2.7-second run, worth $1,555.56
1/2. Halle Tatham, 2.7-second run, worth $1,555.56
3. Shelby Osceola, 3.0- second run, worth $888.89
4. Jessie Letzelter, 3.4- second run, worth $444.44
1. Angela Bartley, 2.5-second run, worth $1,777.78
2/3/4. Brianna Waltz, 2.8-second run, worth $888.89
2/3/4. Sage Dunlap, 2.8-second run, worth $888.89
2/3/4. Kyla Matthews, 2.8-second run, worth $888.89
1. Hannah Hughes, 2.1-second run, worth $1,777.78
2/3. Angela Bartley, 2.9-second run, worth $1,111.11
2/3. Brianna Waltz, 2.9-second run, worth $1,111.11
4. Cali Griffin, 3.1-second run, worth $444.44
- Brianna Waltz, 12.3 on four head, worth $3,555.56
- Hallie Tatham, 9.4 on three head, worth $2,666.67
- Shelby Osceola, 9.5 on three head $1,777.78
- Jessie Letzelter, 10.0 on three head, worth $888.89