At 14 years old, Harley Pryor has raked in breakaway roping accolades, earning $179,000 in 2022 and boosting herself to superstar status with an American Rodeo third-place finish, Junior Patriot 15-and-Under championship, World Championship Junior Rodeo title and WCRA DY Showcase championship.
Capturing consistent success at any age is tricky, but Pryor’s string of triumphs hints that she must have some secret sauce.
Harley Pryor’s Success Goes Back to the Start
“My parents always entered me as soon as they could,” said Pryor, who started roping at 6 and entered up for the first time that same year. “One of my strengths is being able to handle each short round and not getting nervous. I’ve been in so many competitions—I’ve done this since I was young—and my parents mentally prepared me for this. I get pumped up now. I’m not nervous or anything.”
As a young teen, Pryor boasts more than a decade of riding experience from moving cattle through the marshy country of Southern Florida. Pryor says their cow horses at home taught her balance in the saddle as they navigated the tricky country.
“Since she was old enough to walk, she was riding,” said Weston, Pryor’s dad. “Our mindset with Harley was: ‘We’re not going to be average with anything. If she wanted to be a ballerina, we were going be the baddest one there. We were going be the best we could possibly be.’”
Some of Pryor’s influencers are breakaway roping royalty Angelone sisters Sarah and Martha. Martha earned the 2022 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association Breakaway World Championship while Sarah found success at the WRPA All-Around World Championship in Waco, Texas, and The Cowgirl Gathering in Fort Worth, Texas, winning the reserve championship in breakaway. Pryor practiced with the ladies from North Texas and purchased mare “Muffin” from Sarah, who specializes in training horses.
“I think one of her strengths is her start and how well she can read cattle at a young age,” Sarah said. “It’s helped her have an advantage over people that have been doing it quite a bit longer than she has. Plus, she’s always in a good mood when we’re roping. She’ll get frustrated, but she gets over it fast.”
That kind of company has fueled Pryor’s flame to be excellent. Her day-to-day habits reflect that determination, too.
Life in Moore Haven
Pryor grew up on her family’s working ranch where they run cattle and grow sugarcane. Three generations live on the property, and Pryor’s rope teachers included mom Leslie Pryor, Aunt Whitney Savoi and “biggest supporter” granddad Byron Storey.
“Learning to rope was definitely challenging,” Pryor said. “Getting my tip down was the hardest thing for me. I’ve always been mounted on good horses, and they’ve always been able fire across the line and run. Just being able to stand up right there and get ahead of the horses has been the challenging part.”
Typically, Pryor begins her day with a 6:30 a.m. workout. From there, she completes her Grace Christian Academy schoolwork in about five hours before heading outside to rope for the rest of the afternoon and evening with her cousins. At the end of the day, Pryor shares a meal with her family.
Excellent Horseflesh from the Beginning
While Pryor’s peers and personal regimen are top-notch, breakaway roping is not done on foot. Horsepower is essential to her success, and the Pryor family has a knack for finding reliable ones. Pryor says a horse that’s good in the box is important so she can focus on her job, and Weston emphasized the fact that breakaway is a timed event, so the horses need to “fly.”
Pryor started roping on “Beaver,” a sorrel, grade gelding that was in his 20s when the Pryor family purchased him.
“Beaver was honest, and he knew his job,” Pryor said. “He took care of me and wouldn’t do anything stupid. He’s the horse that taught me how to rope. He’d just run in there and did anything you told him to do.”
After Beaver, Pryor moved up to “Eli,” registered as Dots Smoking Peppers (Smart Dr Pep x Dots Punky Grace), whom she also described as honest—but a step up in speed and stopping power.
While she was in the 12-and-Under group in junior high rodeo, Pryor calf roped on mare “Dolly.”
“If I didn’t tie down, I probably wouldn’t be where I am right now,” Pryor said. “Sometimes, I still got to go back and I’ll tie some down. I love it.”
Pryor’s current string of horses includes Junior Patriot 15-and-Under Breakaway Champion Muffin, new addition “Tick,” and the 2022 American third-place-finisher “Jewel.”
The 2013 mare Muffin is registered as SC Off Your Rocker (Rockin W x Smart Tennia). She was trained by Sarah Angelone, who described the mare as a hard-running and hard-stopping.
In December, Muffin and Pryor gathered the WCRA DY Showcase breakaway championship that took place in conjunction with the Cowtown Christmas Championship Rodeo.
“I definitely like how Muffin runs in there and rates off,” Pryor said. “She’s quick and you’ve got to get ahead of her, but she points the calves out.”
Pryor’s newest addition is 2010 gelding Tick, registered as HR Eatin Smart (Smart Like Flynt x Eatin Outa Oak), who has a free-running style Pryor says will be good for longer setups. The duo has already started winning together, bagging the breakaway win at the Ocala, Florida, High School Rodeo.
Rounding out Pryor’s top three is “Jewel,” who has been off since the 2022 American Rodeo due to two torn deep digital flexor tendons in her front feet. The 2011 mare is registered as MPH Docs Next Jewel (My Peppys Freckles x Holly Leo Lena) and is going to be started back under saddle in the spring.
“Jewel was probably my first really big step-up horse,” Pryor said. “It took me at least over a year to ride her. She’s the fastest horse I’ve ever had.”
What’s Next for Harley Pryor?
Amid a sea of opportunities, Pryor is prioritizing nominating competitions to the WCRA and qualifying for their major events. Coming off the heels of her DY Showcase victory, Pryor’s next WCRA event is the World Championship Rodeo Week in Fort Worth, Texas, May 14–20, 2023.
“Cowtown was pretty cool,” Pryor said. “I’m glad the youth got the same opportunity as the Open did. I appreciate the WCRA for having it.”