If you look back as little as 4 years ago breakaway roping was just another rodeo event that girls could only compete in up until college and in certain amateur rodeo associations. Most girls would hang up their breakaway ropes after college and go on to team rope for big money in the World Series or if they wanted to make a run at the NFR, barrel racing. Many girls that were all-around hands in both high school and college felt more comfortable with a rope in their hand than on the back of a barrel horse and therefore they were forced to put their NFR dreams to rest.
Though the WPRA has allowed women to compete for World Championships in various events including breakaway roping, team roping, and tie-down roping it still felt somewhat second class as the lady ropers in the industry were still denied the chance of nodding their heads on the biggest stage of all, the National Finals Rodeo.
In 2020 when the NFR was forced to move to Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX due to the pandemic the breakaway roping became an NFR event. It was held earlier in the day with 5 rounds at a time but the breakaway ropers were finally given a chance to nod their head for a gold buckle in the same arena as the cowboys. Rodeo fans everywhere were on the edge of their seats while watching Jackie Crawford cinch the first NFBR World Championship while 6 months pregnant and roping without a saddle horn, this really put the icing on the cake of how determined these women are.
Following history being made in Arlington there were many questions about whether the breakaway roping was going to continue to be a part of the NFR when it returned to Vegas the following December. Many fans were not satisfied that the breakaway ropers had to compete separately from the NFR but to the lady ropers of pro rodeo, this was still a HUGE step in the right direction. Planning got underway and many more rodeos throughout the regular season were offering breakaway roping allowing the ladies the chance to compete in two events and even make a run at the all-around championships at these rodeos.
2021, the NFR is back in Vegas and so are the breakaway ropers with the NFBR being held at the Orlene's Hotel & Casino following the same type of format as the year before in Arlington. The finals were held over two days with 5 go-rounds per day to ultimately crown the second-ever NFBR World Champion, Sawyer Gilbert. Following the NFR the trend continued, with more regular season rodeos offering breakaway roping and fans wondering when it would be included in the nightly NFR performances, but to the lady ropers being included two years in a row was another great step towards their goal of being in the Thomas & Mack.
2022, the NFBR was held at South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV a similar format once again and this time crowning Martha Angelone as the third NFBR World Champion after a lights-out regular season.
2023 is going to be a big year with the breakaway ropers becoming a huge part of professional rodeo both in Canada and the United States, breakaway ropers are making headlines at the NFR, CFR, and many circuit finals.
This past weekend, history was made again with some of the best breakaway ropers in the world working their way through the qualification system to get into The American Rodeo and have a chance at the million-dollar bonus for the first time in the 10 years of The American Rodeo. It was no easy feat to get into the "million-dollar" round this year with Shelby Boisjoli posting a time of 1.85 to start off the long round followed by Jackie Crawford at a 2.04, Kelsie Domer at a 2.06 and Tacy Kay Webb at a 2.31 rounding out the top four and giving three of these ladies the opportunity at the million. In the final round, Jackie Crawford shot the lights out with a 1.86-second run followed by Tacy Kay Webb with a 2.42, Kelsie Domer and Shelby Boisjoli both went for the round but unfortunately came up with an empty loop. That 1.86-second run had Jackie Crawford's name stamped on $1.1 million dollars because as of that point in the rodeo, she was the only contender to win her respective event. In the following event, the Tie-Down Roping contender Ty Harris also roped his way to victory with a 7.22-second run meaning that when it was all said and done Crawford & Harris would split the million as well as take home an additional $100,000 each for winning their respective events.
Jackie brought home her $600,000 calf and Number 48 will be living out its days on the Crawford ranch, Jackie stated in a Facebook post "Welcome to your new home Number 48! We shall call you "Milli" and you will live out the best life and just chill forever! Thanks for breaking true, running straight, and running right into my loop!".
Records are being broken and history is being made and it is a true inspiration to see these ladies roping at some of the biggest shows in the world, including Rodeo Houston where alongside many others reigning Canadian Champion Breakaway Roper Kendal Pierson punched her ticket to the semi-finals by tying for 3rd/4th overall in Super Series III. I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of Rodeo Houston and the 2023 season has to offer for the lady ropers of pro rodeo.
I could go on forever but long story short, dust off your ropes ladies it's time to get serious!