Who Made Breakaway?

Every sport has its catalysts, change makers and boundary breakers. These are the people and events behind breakaway, according to its top ropers.

Lari Dee Guy swinging a breakaway rope
Lari Dee Guy is a name frequently mentioned when is comes to who changed how things were done in breakaway. BRJ File Photo

The Breakaway Roping Journal asked top breakaway ropers who their icons were when it comes to the reach, clinics, training and the rodeos committees that gave them a place to shine.

Women In Rodeo Month is taking place all September long, and is supported by R. Watson Boots, Resistol Hats and Mane ‘N Tail Equine products.

Who started the “reach” in roping

The term “reach” in breakaway means throwing beyond the comfortable, sure-shot position of the roper. A reach often requires a lot of rope and a body position that is in front of the center of gravity in the saddle.

To reach with poise, snag the calf and smoothly stop without being dashboarded on the saddle swells is a talent indeed.

2022 Reserve World Champion Taylor Munsell:

“When you’re talking about reach in breakaway roping, that title has to, hands down, go to JJ Hampton. There are a lot of other girls that have perfected it, but she’s the one everyone looks to, expects to do and you know you’re never safe if she’s behind you no matter the score because she’s going to use her entire rope to get it there, and she makes it happen a lot of the time.”

No. 1 breakaway roper Hali Williams:

“I feel like Speed Williams changed the way that reaching was seen and how far you could reach with your rope. From then on it was different variations of that important length. People have altered it throughout the years, and we get to see people’s own version and how they utilize it. In my opinion—and I might be a little biased—Speed Williams started the reach.”

3X WPRA World Champion Erin Johnson:

“I grew up watching calf roping in the ’80s and ’90s. So for me, the reach started with Joe Beaver and Cody Ohl. They came across there with a big wide swing and loop and could throw a lot of rope and still be accurate and sharp.”

Who changed the way horses were trained for breakaway?

As the sport of breakaway has evolved, so has the breeding and training of horses for it. The ability to score, rate and pop the rope off are all key factors in a solid breakaway horse.

2023 Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo Champion Cheyanne Guillory:

“Trevor Brazile changed the horse training. He is big on making sure to have a great view of the calf and not letting your horse cover up your target.”

Who started the teaching revolution in breakaway?

Good teachers allow their students to take things to the next level and, over the last three decades, the teaching side of roping has grown tremendously. From in-person clinics to DVDs and on-demand video services like Roping.com (now the home of BreakawayRoping.com), there are many options for those seeking to grow as a competitor.

2023 Reno Rodeo and San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo Champion Shelby Boisjoli:

“To me, Joe Beaver started the teaching and clinic revolution in breakaway. Even Haven [Meged] talks about going to Joe B’s clinic when he was little and how it was such a turning point for him. I think that the first clinics I heard of were Joe B’s, and they impacted a lot of kids. After that I feel like more people started doing clinics.”

2022 WPRA All Around World Champion Sarah Angelone:

“For me growing up, it was always watching tapes of calf ropers. Cody Ohl, Fred Whitfield, Stran Smith, Trevor; all of those. But as far as the breakaway world, I feel like Jackie, Lari Dee, Hope—that was who I would want to watch and go to a clinic. Those were the three I was really looking up to.”

9X WPRA World Champion Kelsie Domer:

“There are a lot of great clinicians out there now for breakaway ropers to find help, but I feel that Lari Dee Guy was the first breakaway roper to start the clinics and the lessons, and she has a huge hand in why breakaway roping is where it is today.”

3X WPRA World Champion Erin Johnson:

“The first calf roping video I personally remember watching was a Joe Beaver video. There were probably a few before him, but in my mind, he transformed the learning medium in roping, and has been a clinician in our sport as long as anyone. The calf ropers that came before us deserve the recognition for these things. The breakaway ropers followed.”

What committees stepped up for breakaway?

All the progress in the breakaway pen would be for naught if ProRodeo committees and other organizations hadn’t stepped up to the place and given the ladies a platform.

NFBR Qualifier Dani Lowman:

“Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo! They have equal everything. And Cassia County Fair and Rodeo in Burley Idaho.”

2023 Governor’s Cup Competitor Bradi Good:

“I think the committee that stepped up for breakaway was the WCRA. They were one of the first to include us as equal payout and it really made an impact in the rodeo industry.”

2X NFBR Qualifier Joey Williams:

“For me one of the committees that stepped up the most was Fort Worth. When they added breakaway in 2019, it was pretty unheard of for breakaway ropers to get to rope for that much money on that kind of stage. On a circuit level, I want to give a huge shoutout to Baker, Montana. They were one of the first rodeos up here to add breakaway and they added a pile of money of us to rope at, and I feel like we haven’t really looked back since. The growth of breakaway can be credited to those committees that took a chance on us in 2019.”

NFBR Qualifier Rickie Engesser:

“There are a lot of really good committees out there for the breakaway roping, but a couple of the big ones are Fort Worth and Cheyenne because they were some of the first ones to put us in.”

20X WPRA World Champion Jackie Crawford:

“I was there before the revolution, during it and now after, feel like the association that really stepped up and stuck their neck out on a big platform was the WCRA. The WCRA awarded the first $50,000 check to a breakaway roper on an equal money playing field at Chicago Windy City. After that, to me, was when the snowball effect came in because the American came in, and so many committees followed suit.

In the PRCA, I thought that Fort Worth was pretty spectacular. They were the first ones to add it and did not even balk as doing it at equal added money. They added a ton—I think it’s $100,000, straight out of the gate and it’s really cool because it’s such an iconic rodeo and really gets the year started off.”

2021 Resistol Breakaway Rookie of the Year Madison Outhier:

“I think the Fort Worth committee has stepped up hugely for us breakaway ropers. Not only were they one of the first ProRodeos to add us with equal money, but they also treat us like royalty there, from the complimentary stalls and shavings to the great hospitality and even better fans. That arena is electric, and it is one of the coolest feelings backing in the box there.”

Thanks again to Women in Rodeo Month supporters R. Watson Boots, Resistol Hats and Mane ‘N Tail Equine.

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