Breakaway Benefactor: Betty Gayle Cooper-Ratliff

In this 10-part series, Julie Mankin profiles the unsung heroes of breakaway roping.

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Debbie Garrison vividly remembers the first time she watched Betty Gayle Cooper-Ratliff rope a calf. It was probably 1972, at the college rodeo in Lubbock. Cooper-Ratliff hammered one right across the line, and that just had never happened in girls’ roping.

[Full List: The 10 Unsung Heroes of Breakaway Roping]

Hall-of-Famer Roy Cooper may have revolutionized tie-down roping, but no less than his sister revolutionized breakaway. Betty Gayle got the first rodeo scholarship ever awarded a woman. There, at ENMU, she won two national championships and three regional titles while being named Outstanding Woman Athlete.

Cooper-Ratliff then joined the GRA in 1975 and won nine world titles, including the breakaway gold buckle in 1989 and four tie-down championships. She also served plenty of time helping run the WPRA. But her Cowgirl Hall of Fame legacy was even richer for how many young breakaway ropers she brought along. Coaching Southeastern Oklahoma State University, she watched her kids win a record nine national team championships and two dozen individual titles.

What’s more? She invented that handy black plastic releasable hondo that revolutionized breakaway practice. The Magic Loop came out in 1998, just before she succumbed to cancer. She was still coaching breakaway ropers. BRJ

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