By: Kendra Santos
It’s been a week since we witnessed the turning of the page in the women’s rodeo history books at the $750,000 Women’s Rodeo World Championship. The sport of women’s rodeo is being revolutionized right now, and it’s an especially spectacular sight for someone like me. There was no financial future for girls who roped when I was Madison Outhier’s age. So we studied hard, and when we graduated from college it was basically over for those of us who needed to make a living.
Times have changed, and the 254 women of all ages and area codes who convened at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas—which decided the top six breakaway ropers, barrel racers and team roping teams who then advanced to the Championship Round held during the Professional Bull Riders World Finals at AT&T Stadium in Arlington—are amazing people in and out of the arena.
It was an honor to watch them all work, and witness the dawning of a new day for women in rodeo. It is now possible for all that hard work to pay off enough to cowgirl for a career. And guess what about those cool big cardboard checks that were presented center stage at AT&T Stadium? In a lot of cases, they didn’t paint the whole financial picture in the best possible way. Teenager Rylie Smith and Hope Thompson were the only team roping team to stop the clock over at AT&T. They were 13.66 with a leg. Admittedly not their most magnificent run, but sometimes stuff happens. There are no style-point deductions on timed-event checks, and hey, it happens in major cowboy contests, too.
Suddenly, those $60,000 checks Rylie and Hope were holding were worth $90 grand per (wo)man. I was standing there when Jackie shared that news of the staggering windfall win with Hope, and she literally dropped that big check in disbelief. All told, Rylie won $98,410 at the WRWC, and Hope was the high-money-winner with $99,660. “This is life-changing money,” said a still-stunned Hope.
Also worthy of the most honorable mention is the fact that the World Champions Rodeo Alliance saw fit to give these girls equal money in the team roping from the start. There’s no telling what the likes of living legends Speed Williams and Rich Skelton, and Jake Barnes and Clay O’Brien Cooper would have won in their Hall of Fame careers if team roping pay would have been equal to that in every other event in rodeo. They fought for equal money and have yet to get it. Thank you, WCRA President Bobby Mote and Vice President Scott Davis, for being good guys AND girl dads who believe this women’s rodeo party is just getting started.
Jackie Crawford won the $20,000 WRWC All-Around Bonus, and deposited a total of $34,539 in breakaway and team roping checks into her bank account in her Cowboy Capital of the World hometown of Stephenville, Texas.
When Jackie looks back on the story of her life, I’m betting the best part of this rodeo revolution for her will be her ability to have it all. There she was 21 weeks pregnant with the baby girl she and husband Charly will bring into this world in March—breakaway roping in a saddle with a sawed-off horn for baby Journey’s benefit. Imagine the rodeo world Journey will grow up in. The world’s richest women’s rodeo will be a special part of her personal history.
Jackie wasn’t the only champ at the WRWC with a mom story that’ll melt your heart. The horse Hallie Hanssen rode to the barrel racing winner’s circle—Vida—is a mom, too. Vida had a baby girl of her own in May. She may have been unplanned—thus the name “Jess A Whoopsie”—but what a beautiful blessing. Motherhood obviously hasn’t slowed Vida down anymore than it has Jackie. With her trainer and besty Hallie aboard, Vida earned $60,000 at the WRWC, and only made three runs to get that done.
WRWC Breakaway Roping Champ Madison Outhier just turned 18. Talk about an all-around cowgirl, and one wild whirlwind of a day. Before Madi stepped up to received the $61,028 she won at the WRWC, she and her trusty sorrel steed Rooster stopped the clock in a sizzling 2.05 seconds to wow the PBR Finals crowd. But first, she and her women’s polo team had the Texas Women’s Open to win down in Houston. The championship—256 miles away—started at 2 and went until 3:30. The final PBR Finals perf started at 4:30.
Moments after the biggest win of her polo-playing career, Madi’s mom, Kristy, put Madi and her little brother, Ace, on a private plane to Arlington, where Dad Mike met them and had Rooster saddled and ready to roll. Madi and Ace arrived at 5:15, she roped the dummy a few times at the trailer, and onto that magnificent battlefield they went. The poise that young lady—a high school senior who’s just been accepted to start college next fall at Texas A&M—exhibited under such stress and pressure was something special to behold.
“It’s been a great day, to say the least,” beamed Madi, who won the 2019 American at AT&T at 16. “I’m just so thankful to the women before me who paved the way for women’s rodeo and such an amazing opportunity as this. I’m grateful to get to rope on such a big stage. I’m in awe every time I walk into this building.”
Not every contestant who started the week advanced to AT&T. But memories were made and friendships forged, and each and all left with the priceless experience of partaking in the richest women’s rodeo of all time. World-class barrel racing ballerina Maggie Poloncic and her magic dragon Puff won some money at Will Rogers, then returned to the Cowboy State of Wyoming, to get back to being the Associate Director of Dance Arts Gillette.
The eldest contestant in the WRWC cowgirl crowd, 65-year-old Peggy Kellogg Buetzer, roped up a storm in Texas, then went back to serving society’s greater good as a home-health nurse in Oklahoma.
California native turned Texas transplant mom Lynnette Krantz got to rope with and alongside both of her daughters, Taryn Krantz Castodio and Erica Krantz Lozares. “From where I came from—$10 jackpots—getting to experience roping for $60 grand with my girls makes me speechless and proud,” Lynnette said. “I will always cherish this.”
We were all thrilled to see two-time Barrel Racing Champ of the World Lindsay Sears again after making her last Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2012 and exiting stage right. “Full-time rodeo is exhausting, and to be great at traditional rodeo it has to be your sole existence,” said Sears, who now works in the family business and splits her time between her native Canada and Texas. “The fact that I don’t have to go rodeo all year and rodeo hard, but still have a shot at big money like this is what attracts me. This didn’t exist in rodeo before the WCRA.”
Hollie and Jacie Etbauer are perfect poster people for the WCRA women’s rodeo hashtag #ItsOurTime. Hollie’s husband and Jacie’s dad, Billy, won five gold bronc riding buckles in his Hall of Fame career. After their unwavering support of his hopes and dreams, the tables have turned in the Etbauer family dynamic. Now it’s time for their barrel racing breeding and training program to come first.
“Billy’s basically told us that it’s our turn,” Hollie said. “He takes care of the place, and starts all the colts. He even trims them when they’re babies. Billy puts the base on these horses that makes it easy for Jacie and I to go on with them. Billy’s the wagon hub of our training program—and our family.”
Danielle Lowman, Bailey Bates and Serena Dahozy made an impressive showing at the WRWC, then returned home to their native Navajo Nation to tell the young girls behind them that if they work hard enough this is all possible for them, too. Erich Rogers, Aaron Tsinigine and Derrick Begay have done this for their community’s native sons. Now Lowman, Bates, Dahozy and Kassidy Dennison are delivering the same message of hope and opportunity to the native daughters.
After a week of watching new doors slung wide open for the women of rodeo, I walked out of AT&T Stadium last Sunday exhausted in the best possible way. I thought of my dear friend Betty Gayle Cooper, who beat up her brother Roy—yes, the roping-revolutionizing Super Looper himself—in childhood matches. Cancer took her from us before she could see all of this for herself, but Betty Gayle never gave up on having it all. She got married, had her beautiful baby boy, Cooper, and roped her heart out until she couldn’t get out of bed anymore. I just know Betty Gayle is smiling about all of this up in Heaven, and agrees with what Jackie had to say about the possibilities for all women in rodeo—and life—right now. Oh, and the Women’s Rodeo World Championship will return in 2021—and will again run in conjunction with the PBR World Finals, November 1-6, when it returns to the South Point in Las Vegas.
“It’s such an exciting time to be a part of this sport,” Jackie said. “This is big money, and it’s real money. A girl can now win a quarter of a million a year pretty easily, thanks to events like this one. I want women to know that they can have it all. It’s hard, and it’s challenging. But don’t cut yourself short in life and what’s after this career. I can do it, and so can you.”