How to Produce a Breakaway Roping

How to get started producing breakaway ropings from California’s Richest All-Girl Breakaway & Team Roping producer Danielle Porteur Johnson.

Liz Hirdes roping a calf at the 2023 California's Richest All-Girl Breakaway & Team Roping.
Liz Hirdes was the WRWC Pro winner from the 2023 California's Richest All-Girl Breakaway & Team Roping. | Phil Doyle photo

The California’s Richest All Girl Breakaway & Team Roping takes place every year over on the West Coast in the small town of Tres Pinos, California, and this year the August 5-6 roping had a record-breaking turnout with 188 all-girl teams and 66 breakaway ropers.

What started out in 2015 as a one-day breakaway roping jackpot in Salinas has evolved into a two-day event with both a breakaway roping, all-girl team roping and all-girl calf branding, produced by Danielle Porteur Johnson. Now a Women’s Rodeo World Championship Qualifier Series event, the roping continues to grow, and Johnson notes they aren’t at the end of the road when it comes to her goals for California’s biggest and highest-paying all-girl jackpot. 

“I still have goals that I haven’t reached, like This isn’t it,” Johnson said. “I’m very grateful for just the cowgirls that come to rope every year and continue to come back and support this roping and I thank all my sponsors and sanctions. I’m very grateful for everybody, but I still have a vision and I haven’t reached it yet.”

So, what has Johnson done to grow her roping over the last few years? She shares her tips for future roping producers.

#1. Have good people in your corner

You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with, and Johnson knows this to be true even in production. A decade ago, Johnson dreamed of bringing the legendary Jackie Crawford (Hobbs, at the time) out to California to put on some clinics and better the youth of the West Coast. She worked up the courage one summer in Reno, and the two went from there. 

After a few years of the roping school, the conversation of the lack of big breakaway ropings in California started, and the two had created a new plan. After working out the kinks over the next few years, Johnson and Crawford co-produced the first-ever California’s Richest All Girl Roping in 2015 with just the breakaway. The following year they made the leap to add the team roping.

“I’m forever grateful for her believing in me,” Johnson said. “Jackie Crawford, a world champion, believing in this little cowgirl over here that just kind of wanted it to go big. She really did believe in me.”

And even today, Johnson knows producing such a successful event wouldn’t be possible without great people there to help and support.

“I manage it just by having a great crew,” Johnson said. “People that I can count on that have been there for me. I’ve had pretty much the same crew for the last few years, and they kind of know the drill. It just takes a village.”

#2. Dolla dolla bills

Let’s face it, money makes the world go round. Good sponsors are vital to a good roping, something Johnson knew from the get-go.

“The first thing I did was created a sponsor package,” Johnson explained. “I divvied it up to different levels; saddle sponsors, mother lode sponsors, hat sponsors—opportunities to advertise their businesses. I went face to face and met with people and told them, ‘This is my vision, this is what I want to do.’”

It’s important to build relationships with said sponsors as well.

“That’s a huge thing is just building relationships with sponsors and trying to get them to see the vision of where we want to go with this roping. Sponsors are huge.”

#3. Think about the ropers

At the end of the day, it’s about putting on a good roping where contestants want to come back each year, and a producer can’t achieve that without aiming for a fair roping.

“Look at what’s keeping it fair,” Johnson said. “Be really roper friendly, too. These girls travel so far, and they’ve got a lot of money up at my roping. It’s not just the breakaway but also the team roping. So, really giving them a fair chance in a roper friendly environment.”

Sometimes that means making decisions that go against the grain. To keep it from becoming an entering contest, Johnson made her roping an enter once format in the breakaway.

“I want to keep it prestigious and weed out those double entries,” Johnson said. “Say someone can out enter me because they have more money, but that doesn’t mean they can always beat me. So, I was really key on that and so was Jackie about just keeping it prestigious and having it where nobody got to out-enter you. So that’s huge. I want to see what girl can stay focused and enter one time and beat everybody and have the same fairness.”

#4. Be so passionate about the sport you stay open-minded

Being passionate about the sport is what drives a good roping and gives you the goals you need to be successful.

“You’ve got to have passion for the sport,” Johnson said. “For us, I think it all stems from starting it with Jackie and that we didn’t want to be a backyard jackpot; that wasn’t what it was. We wanted to be the biggest.”

Passion for the sport also means being willing to reevaluate and having honest conversations about what could be done better.

“Be open to suggestions and going back into the drawing board,” Johnson said. “Every year you learn something. It’s like, ‘Oh, I should have done this that way, or maybe this call could have gone that way.’” 

#5. Don’t forget the WRWC sanction!

In 2022, California’s Richest became a Women’s Rodeo World Championship Qualifier Series event and is one of the only ones on the West Coast. From 30 nominations in 2022 to 61 this year, Johnson is ecstatic with what it’s done for the roping. It’s been a no-brainer decision to keep it going.

“It is such a great opportunity for people that are working full time that can’t rodeo,” Johnson said. “Moms that work but love to rope on a competitive and professional level, they can’t be on the road all the time. So, here’s an opportunity where you can come to this one, nominate yourself and qualify. I thought that was a really good opportunity and it speaks for itself.”

Lauryn Wilson roping a calf at the 2023 California's Richest All-Girl Breakaway & Team Roping.
Lauryn Wilson was the WRWC Challenger winner at the 2023 California’s Richest All-Girl Breakaway & Team Roping. | Phil Doyle photo

WRWC Qualifiers

Pro: Liz Hirdes

Challenger: Lauryn Wilson

2023 California’s Richest Results

Round 1: 1. Sage Pearce, 2.57, $1,115.00; 2. Maggie Usher, 2.7, $835.00; 3. Billie Sellars, 2.9, $555.00; 4. Shaylee Baxley, 2.95, $280.00.

Round 2: 1. Tie, Hanna Hundsdorfer & Sadie Grant, 2.61, $975.00 each ; 3. Josie Pereira, 2.64, $555.00; 4. Shaylee Baxley, 2.81, $280.00.

Round 3: 1. Sutton Mang, 3.32; 2. Sienna Radelfinger 3.47; 3. Maddie Biglow, 3.69; 4. Hailey Kennedy, 3.74.

Average: 1. Maggie Usher, 13.26, $3,635.00; 2. Liz Hirdes, 14.83, $3,010.00; 3. Hailey Kennedy, 15.62, $2,380.00; 4. Maddie Biglow, 15.73, $1,755.00; 5. Haliegh Grant, 18.09, $1,130.00; 6. Emily Gately, 20.85, $625.00