Breakaway Ropers Are the Heroes Rodeo Needs

Elevating breakaway ropers to the same level as the rest of the competitors in ProRodeo isn't just about being fair. No, there's so much more to it than that.

Sawyer Gilbert Jackie Crawford National Finals Breakaway Roping
Sawyer Gilbert and Jackie Crawford celebrate after Gilbert wins the 2021 breakaway roping gold buckle.

When it comes to breakaway roping, there’s debate across the sport about how to raise sponsor money, how to logistically include breakaway ropers in rodeo performances from amateur rodeos to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and how these women fit into the landscape of the sport as we know it.

But for us, it all comes down to this: the stories, personalities and character of the breakaway ropers is what the rodeo world—and the world at large—needs in this moment.

Maybe it’s Sawyer Gilbert.

There’s never been a rodeo athlete like her, who marches purely to the beat of her own drum, with an electric style that inspires young girls who might rope, think, dress or act a little differently than the rest of the crowd. Who can use that uniqueness to catapult her to three iconic wins in one year, at Cheyenne, Pendleton and the National Finals of Breakaway, culminating in a gold buckle that put the world on notice that the next generation of Western woman is here to stay.

It’s certainly Jackie Crawford and Erin Johnson.

They prove that their class and ability is second-to-none. Who do battle in the arena with unmatched precision, and then hurry back to their trailers to care for their children with the kindest and gentlest mother’s hearts.

It’s Madison Outhier.

Who shows up and shows out every chance she gets—never making herself smaller or less than in any arena or area of life, no matter what challenges are thrown her way. She unapologetically seizes every opportunity thrown her way, and she owns it.

It’s ladies like Carole Hollers.

Who proved—without a doubt—that at any age, on any horse, a person who has grit in her gut can set records on any stage.

Of course it’s Martha Angelone.

Who moved to Texas from Virginia with a horse and a dream, ready to do whatever it took to succeed. Who’s hustle from horse training to bar-tending to rodeo dreams that won her $70,900 at the Women’s Rodeo World Championship in Fort Worth last month. Who still goes back home to help share her passion for the sport as it grows on the East Coast, too.

It’s also guys like Charly Crawford.

who set an example for husbands, boyfriends and young men everywhere, stepping back from his own ProRodeo career—one that saw 10 NFR qualifications and wins from Ellensburg to RodeoHouston and beyond—to support his wife and his daughter and care for his kids. All while changing the lives of the veterans he supports through his non-profit, the American Military Celebration.

And it’s Lari Dee Guy.

Steadfast in each and every way. A businesswoman, a leader and a friend, who has mentored the next generation every chance she gets, all while still honing her own craft to remain competitive against them. Who has stayed the course, over decades in an industry built with the odds stacked against her, maintaining grace while she relentlessly advocated for change.

As Guy was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame last fall, she told the thousands gathered in Fort Worth’s Dickie’s Arena that while breakaway may seem like an avalanche of change:

“That avalanche will unearth talent we haven’t yet seen, events we haven’t yet dreamed of, and the landscape of roping—and the Western world—will be completely reshaped in its wake. When the earth settles around us, I’m hopeful that it’s THOSE new talents, THOSE bright beacons of hope, grit and leadership, that you see, that you write about, and that you talk about.”

The young girls inspired by the stories of these ladies, the hardened minds changed by their poise and their charisma and their grace, the young boys who learn to see women as equal—that’s what the opportunity in this moment is truly about. These women just love to rope, and they want to rodeo, but in this moment, it’s about so much more than just a girl and a rope and a chance at a payday.

It’s these stories that we at The Breakaway Roping Journal have made it a mission to tell every day. And it’s our sincere wish that the rest of the world—outside of those avid readers of this site—can hear those stories, too. Maybe told nightly on rodeo’s largest stage, for 10 rounds, by Joe Beaver, Jeff Meadors and Butch Knowles, in front of 18,000 or so fans and on television around the world.

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