Brandi McDowell knows how to hustle—inside the breakaway arena and out.
Essentially born with a rope in her hand, this Oklahoma native is bearing down on breakaway excellence and making the most of it with the help of the World Champions Rodeo Alliance.
The 27-year-old works full time as a secretary, practicing in the evenings and competing on the weekends. It’s a path that requires steely determination, but McDowell has an extra-practical view on it.
“I want to have entry fee money,” McDowell said. “Things have gotten very expensive, and I need to look at my priorities. I like the WCRA because I don’t get to go as much as I’d like to, but I’m still able to qualify for something big just by [nominating] things I’m already going to.”
McDowell’s main mount, Dejavu Lena (Puddens Little Uno x Duhons Susie Sprat x Colonel Duhon), known as “Replay,” has quick feet both in and out of the roping box.
“He is very spooky,” McDowell said. “One time, I was saddling some horses up and [another] horse sneezed, and he pulled back. He’s spooky and very quick.”
Replay was originally a heel horse and was molded into a breakaway horse with help from McDowell’s father, Shawn Hollenbeck.
“We had to focus on making sure he broke to the chute and not breaking so wide,” McDowell said. “He’s pretty broke [though,] so it wasn’t that big of a deal. He had all the tools, so it was just getting him seasoned was the big thing.”
McDowell has a futurity prospect, too. Metallic Rio is a 4-year-old sired by Metallic Chance and out of Roan Man Romp mare JB Tally Romp. She’s ready to enter up in 5-year-old futurities once he matures enough for competition.
McDowell plans on heading to the WCRA’s Cowtown Christmas Championship with her favorite Cactus Tsunami rope in hand. To prepare, she’s been stepping up her practice reps.
“Some days, I’ll rope on the horse and, other days, I’ll rope [on foot],” McDowell said. “I can get on my colt and make more runs. I don’t usually run a lot of calves on [Replay.] If I need to practice, I’ll run three or four on him.”
Mcdowell isn’t just changing up her practice sessions for Replay to keep him fresh in preparation for Fort Worth—she’s working a solid plan of attack for herself, as well.
“It’s probably going to be a fast setup, so I need to be sitting in my saddle better coming out of the box,” she said. “I want to rope faster and more consistently.”
McDowell was an early WCRA adopter, attending one of their first events in Guthrie, Oklahoma, in 2018. Her participation faded for a bit, but now she’s back and sitting No. 4 on the breakaway roping leaderboard for the Cowtown Christmas Championship, which will pay $360,000 evenly across every event, including breakaway.
“The WCRA is for the cowboys and the cowgirls, which I like,” McDowell said. “It’s a cool concept—how you can advance—and the big money is great.”