By: Jolee Jordan
If there’s a rope in Debbie Fabrizio’s hand, chances are she’ll have a smile on her face.
If she’s winning money while participating in her favorite pastime, all the better.
Fun and money will both be on the menu when Fabrizio competes at the Women’s Rodeo World Championships (WRWC) at the Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas in May 2023. Presented by the World Champions Rodeo Alliance (WCRA) along with the Professional Bull Riders (PBR), the world’s richest all women’s rodeo event annually pays out $750,000 to ladies competing in barrel racing, team roping and breakaway roping.
Fabrizio guaranteed her participation in the lucrative event with a strong showing at the Northern Breakaway Roping and Team Roping Championships in Rapid City, South Dakota on August 22-23, 2022.
The event was a stop on the WRWC’s Qualification Series (QS), events which offer automatic berths into the WRWC. Aside from QS event winners, only those in the top 20 of the WRWC Leaderboards are eligible to compete in Fort Worth. There are five more QS events left on the schedule, scattered across the country from Florida to Arizona to Illinois.
“It was great,” Fabrizio said of the event which is held during the Central States Fair & Rodeo, which she also attended in 2021. “It’s during the rodeo as well so you get to go up there and rope for two or three days. It’s run really well; it’s one of the best ones to go to and for sure one to go back to.”
Though she now calls Pueblo, Colorado home, Fabrizio grew up in Missouri on ranch where her father raised feeder and stocker cattle. Saying she was the “son he never had,” she roped with her father both on the ranch and in the arena. She was hooked early on the challenge roping presented, and, after moving to Colorado, began to compete wherever possible.
“As much as I want,” she laughed when asked how often she goes roping. Though COVID slowed things down some, and younger daughter and main partner Rylea moved to Texas, joining her older sister Jordan Jo Hollabaugh, Fabrizio still ropes everyday with husband, Tom. She heads in the higher numbered roping events.
“We do the World Series roping, some WPRA and I try to go to all of the WCRA events.”
Fabrizio stays busy with her custom home building business too. She fell into it 27 years ago when she and her husband built their own home.
“I really liked it. I’ve got an entrepreneurial spirit and like to do my own thing so I went and got my license and got started,” Fabrizio explained. “My husband is a plumber so we already knew everyone in the field, all the subcontractors.”
Fabrizio does everything from designing the homes to handling financing plus running the job once construction begins. She averages about three to four homes in a typical year.
Owning her own business also gives her freedom to raise a few horses and train her own for competition.
“I just do better if I start them myself,” she notes. “But it takes awhile.”
Fabrizio’s drive to stay in the saddle was tested several years ago when she was forced to have a full hip replacement.
“I had a horse fall with me, he stumbled while heeling a steer,” she said. “You know, it hurt, but I didn’t think too much about it at the time.”
The pain began to worsen and eventually forced Fabrizio to seek help.
“It turned out that it was avascular necrosis,” she said. The fall had caused a loss of blood supply which in turn caused the bone to die.
“There really was no option,” she said. “I didn’t want to do it but they said, no you have to have this done.”
Fabrizio sat out for about three weeks following the surgery but said she was roping again within a month.
“It’s all good now,” she said. “I’m so blessed, the doctors can do so much now to fix you.”
That’s been about four years ago and Fabrizio hasn’t hardly missed a step, still traveling to the good events, like the Northern Breakaway Roping and Team Roping Championships.
Along with a good setup and payout, the event also offered something that Fabrizio misses at many jackpots: the chance to compete in multiple events.
“I enjoy doing more than one event, getting to compete in several events in one place,” Fabrizio said.
“I liked the old WPRA all-girl rodeos because you could do several events,” Fabrizio said. “That was fun.” In fact, Fabrizio holds Mountain States Circuit titles in the WPRA in tie down, heading and heeling and was the 2009 Reserve World Champion All Around cowgirl behind Jackie (Hobbs) Crawford.
“I miss those rodeos,” Fabrizio said. “But the WCRA deals, those are the best ones to go to.”
Fabrizio has been a participant at all three previous WRWC events, making the main event in both of the first two years heeling for Rylea. The two have won better than $20,000 in the team roping alone.
“It’s amazing,” Fabrizio said of the WRWC. “I love it.”
Thanks to her performance in Rapid City, Fabrizio won’t have to sweat out the standings to ensure she gets to enter again. She won the Open Team Roping average with Jessica Amicarella, earning $1,030 after coming tight on three steers in 31.79 seconds. She also picked up a qualification in the Challenger Breakaway Roping.
“The Challenger is a good deal for me,” Fabrizio noted of the WRWC’s unique leveling system that classifies all competitors according to skill level and career earnings, allowing all a chance to compete against those of similar competitive ability right up until the finals rounds of the Championship event.
Though Fabrizio ropes in the WPRA breakaway at some PRCA rodeos, her lifetime earnings still allow her to compete in the Challenger Division. As a Global Handicaps rated #5 team roper, she ropes in the Open Division in that event.
Divisions notwithstanding, Fabrizio put herself in contention for the WRWC’s All Around bonus, a hefty $20,000 awarded to the cowgirl who accumulates the most total points from the combined Pro and Challenger Leaderboards.
Event champions are guaranteed $60,000 per discipline. The WRWC also crown World Champions in the individual disciplines.
“I’m pretty close with Linsay [Rosser-Sumpter, the WRWC Commissioner] and we talk a lot about how to make it easier to go and better, how to get more people to go and get more events,” Fabrizio said. “The WCRA are the best ones and they’re always trying to make things better.”
Bigger and better events are awesome and appreciated. In the end, Fabrizio is content simply to rope.
“I love to rope whether it’s heading, heeling, breakaway . . . as long as I’m roping, I’m happy.”