The Booming Business of Breakaway Roping at the WRWC
By: Kendra Santos
If you’re a cowgirl who loves to compete, the $750,000 Women’s Rodeo World Championship—which is going down at the world-famous Cowtown Coliseum May 16-18—has something special in store for you, be it beefing up your bank account or the experience of a lifetime going head-to-head with your heroes. Lari Dee Guy’s whole life has revolved around rodeo, and she’s as hardcore as cowgirls come. Liz Hirdes married into a Hall of Fame rodeo family, but she’s a working mom whose husband, Blake, is as big of a homebody as she is. College cowgirl Rylee George is a rising star riding a four-legged living legend here at the WRWC. Three completely different cowgirl backgrounds, but here for the same bottom line—the WRWC is a no brainer.
Guy’s in Cowtown from her home in Abilene, Texas, competing as one of 23 breakaway roping professionals vying for the $60,000 WRWC title, which will be awarded Wednesday night. The Pro pool is for breakaway ropers with either lifetime earnings over $20,000 or who’ve won more than $6,000 a year in any of the last five years—in other words, career cowgirls the likes of Lari Dee. Guy’s 2.92-second run finished fifth in Round 1. Twelve Pro cowgirls will take on 12 Challengers in the Semifinals tonight after Round 2 plays out today.
“The Challengers and the junior division (the World Champions Rodeo Alliance’s DY Division Youth) are what’s going to keep breakaway roping growing,” Lari Dee noted. “We need more girls coming up to grow the sport. The Challenger division is a great concept, because it gives younger ladies, older ladies wanting to get back into roping, moms and working people who can’t or don’t want to go hard a chance to win big without having to live on the road.”
Guy and Colorado’s Jimmi Jo Montera are the defending WRWC team roping champs, and Lari Dee left last year’s WRWC in Las Vegas with $80,000 in her pocket after also placing in the breakaway roping.
“The $80,000 I won at this event last year was more than I won all year long at all other events combined,” Lari Dee said. “The main reason I’m here is because I want the WCRA to work. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to women’s roping. What’s going on here is unprecedented. The financial opportunities they’re giving us are chances we’ve never had before in women’s rodeo. When breakaway roping gets to where it’s supposed to go—and is equal to all other events—I’ll be home more. Meantime, I love to rope and I love to compete. And I’m going to support the people who support women who rope.”
Hirdes—whose husband’s grandfather Les Hirdes was a ProRodeo Hall of Fame team roper—is a working mom. She and Blake, who’s a California Circuit team roping titlist—run yearlings and have a 3-year-old little boy, Daniel. Liz came all the way from their West Coast home in Turlock, California, to compete as a Challenger. She placed third amongst the 21 Challengers here at the WRWC with a 2.64-second run in Round 1.
“I’m a circuit cowgirl,” Liz said. “Blake and I are homebodies, and we don’t want to rodeo hard. I’m here because I don’t have to be gone a lot to have a shot at winning a ton of money at this one rodeo. I nominated rodeos I was already roping at to get this chance, so to me, that’s double incentive. I love the sport, the people and the competition. But I’m not trying to rodeo for a living. The WCRA makes perfect sense for me, because I get to pick where I want to go and still get to have it all without all the travel.”
Hirdes helped organize a breakaway roping clinic in the original Cowboy Capital of the World in Oakdale, which was instructed by Guy, Hope Thompson, Jackie Crawford and Kelsie Chace-Domer, during this year’s spring rodeo run in California.
“It was awesome,” Liz said. “And events like this Women’s Rodeo World Championship are the reason one of the students in her 50s has cracked her rope can back out after hanging up her ropes since college. All of us competing here together—young girls, Challengers, Pros—is what it’s all about.”
Rylee George—a 21-year-old college junior from Oakdale who’s majoring in agricultural business at Texas A&M Commerce—is one such young gun. George finished right behind Hirdes in fourth place amongst the Challengers in the opening round, and riding a rodeo royal in that 2.71-second run, no less. For those of you who don’t recognize him, that sweet sorrel horse of hers is one and the same as Cowboy King Trevor Brazile’s legendary dream ride Deputy. Deputy’s 18 now, and living his best life.
“Deputy’s the fastest horse I’ve ever ridden from Point A to Point B,” Rylee said. “I love how good he scores, and he gives me 100 percent every time. Everything I win is 100 percent all him. I’ve never had a horse like Deputy. He’s the best. He never has a hard day anymore, and he’s all about his molasses-and-oats cookies when we get done roping.
“This is my first WRWC, but it won’t be my last. Everybody’s super helpful and nice, they have an answer to every question I have, and they’re all here to help you win all this money. It really is a “no brainer” to be here.”