Making the Move: Stepping Up from College to ProRodeo - The Breakaway Roping Journal

With breakaway roping taking a national spotlight and more professional opportunities for breakaway ropers than ever before, many young women are making the transition from college and amateur rodeo to the professional ranks. They’re stepping up their game to compete with WPRA World Champions and the sport’s greatest legends—like JJ Hampton, Lari Dee Guy, Kelsie Chace, and Jackie Crawford. But the transition from idolizing the greats to competing against them isn’t an easy one, and it’s one ropers across the country are now facing. We caught up with five up-and-comers to see how they’re handling the challenges.

Rickie Engesser College National Finals Rodeo Breakaway Roping

Rickie Engesser

Rickie Engesser

(3x CNFR Qualifier, Spearfish, South Dakota)

Greatest Challenge:

“The biggest challenge I have faced when it comes to roping at the higher level is roping fast and making each loop count no matter how far away you are. In college, you can take an extra swing and be just fine—but at the pro level, if you take an extra swing, it could cost you a paycheck. In college, you don’t have to rope in the ones; you can go rope one in 2.5 seconds and still be okay. At the ProRodeos, if the score is good and the calves run, you have to be a low two to even place at the top.”

Solution:

“To address these differences in the ProRodeos, I have worked a ton at practicing throwing my rope right out of the box regardless if I catch or not. Taking that shot was hard to adjust—you have to be so much faster on getting your rope up out of the box and getting into position. The first couple times were hard, but eventually the more I did it, the more I caught. These challenges have definitely pushed me to work harder. Each day I have a new mindset about what I’m going to work on when I go into the arena. Most of those days I focus on positioning and getting my rope out of my hand my even if it’s uncomfortable. I’m taking every practice run and/or rodeo run as a new opportunity to grow in my roping. I have seen improvements in my roping since I first started working at becoming a faster roper, but I’m still not where I want to be. Thanks to roping and rodeos, we get to practice a lot!”

Loni Lester Breakaway Roping College National Finals Rodeo

Loni Lester at the CNFR 

Loni Lester

(2017 CNFR All-Around/Breakaway Roping Champion, Gonzales, Texas)

Greatest Challenge:

“I would say going from competing against collegiate athletes to ProRodeo athletes that are older girls that have been doing it forever and have more experience and know the ins and outs of rodeoing.”

Solution:

“Spending more hours roping the dummy, roping calves, getting your horses together, getting yourself together mentally, as well as getting physically strong. Lots of practice and dedication comes with this sport. Not only you have to be in perfect tip top condition—so does your horse. It’s all about timing and having you and your horse together.”

Teisha Coffield breakaway roping Cheyenne frontier days Cheyenne Wyoming

Teisha Coffield at the Cheyenne Frontier Days 

Teisha Coffield

(3X CNFR Qualifier, Yuma, Colorado)

Greatest Challenge:

“Once I got to the pro level, I realized that I needed to make my horses better, along with myself, because once you get to that level—everybody’s great, and all those girls rope all the time and they’re all phenomenal ropers. The thing that really sets like Lari Dee, Hope Thompson, Kelsie Chase, and Jackie Crawford apart is that they all ride phenomenal horses that go do their job every single run. I think that horsepower plays a big role and can really elevate your game.”

Solution:

“The horse that I won so much on at the collegiate level isn’t the caliber of horse that I need to be able to go on to the next level. So, for me to be able to compete at the really big ProRodeos, I’ve got to have something that can really score, really run, and really stop. Right now, I’ve got some young horses, so I think that I’ll just keep trying to season those guys. I need to get my horses and my roping to a level that I feel confident spending that kind of money to rope and compete with the best in the world. I think that years like this are nice because I’m up at a couple rodeos per weekend versus five or six like years past. If there’s something I find that I need to work on, I get to come home, and I actually have the time to make my horses and everything better.”

Cassie Bahe College National Finals Rodeo Breakaway

Cassie Bahe

Cassie Bahe

(2020 Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo Breakaway Roping Champion, Grantsville, Utah)

Greatest Challenge:

“I think just traveling more. The amateur rodeos were around three hours at the most from my house, and now we have to go about 10 hours at minimum now. It just takes a little bit more of a toll on you because you are a lot more tired.”

Solution: “I would say I’m dealing with it by making sure my horse has the best traveling conditions possible and making him as comfortable as possible. I use a lot of shavings, walk him every four hours, and use Soft-Ride Boots. For myself, it’s hard to eat healthy on the road when your bouncing around from truck stop to truck stop, so I try to pack a lot of food and drinks I like. I also make sure that my sister and I are switching off driving a lot so neither of us get burnt out on driving.”

Shai Schaefer Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo

Shai Shaefer

Shai Schaefer

(Fort Worth Stock Show Finalist, 2017 CPRA Breakaway Roping Champion, Torrington, Wyoming)

Greatest Challenge:

“I would say probably the caliber of the competition around you and how much experience they have rodeoing at that level is a little bit different than college. You have some that are college rodeoing just to pay for school, and then you get into the ProRodeos where that’s all some people do is just rope.”

[SHOP: Schaefer's Go-To Goods]

Silver Lining Herbs

Fast Back Athena

Solution:

“Just get out there and get going and go to as many amateur rodeos or ProRodeos or whatever you can get to—you only get better the more you go to. Find a mentor or someone that can help you that’s familiar with the setup. They can help with your mental game, get you prepared for the competition around you, and get your mind right.” BRJ

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