Alberta cowgirl heading to National Finals as the No. 1 roper
Shelby Boisjoli had already clinched her second straight qualification to the National Finals Breakaway Roping before the regular season came to an end, but that didn’t stop her from closing out the campaign on a high note.
Boisjoli won the ProRodeo Tour Finale in Salinas, California, pocketing $7,807 in the process and pushing herself to the No. 1 position in the world standings heading into the finale, which will take place in conjunction with the National Finals Rodeo this December in Las Vegas.
“It’s an honor to compete alongside the women I have all year,” said Boisjoli, who finished the 2021 regular season with $52,486 and holds a lead of just less than $1,400 over the second-ranked cowgirl, Sawyer Gilbert of Buffalo, South Dakota. “To compete at this level, it’s super exciting to be going to Las Vegas.
“I’m really excited with the direction breakaway roping is going and the way things have changed in a short time. It’s an honor to be a pioneer for the sport.”
She has earned the right to be a pioneer and one of the elite breakaway ropers in ProRodeo. She’s done so over a lifetime of competition, something that was just a typical part of her raising near Langdon, Alberta, a community of about 5,000 people southeast of Calgary. As the middle of three daughters to Garth and Sherry Boisjoli, there was a natural progression to battle … whether it was on the basketball court or in the rodeo arena.
“I think my parents’ influence is helping me every day, and it will help me every day of my life,” said Shelby Boisjoli, a Cinch endorsee. “They’re always really positive. I talk to them every other day, if not every day.”
Garth Boisjoli didn’t let his girls rope off a horse until they could rope the dummy 50 times in a row, but there’s a method to that madness. Each had ropes in their hands at a young age and would swing them; Shelby started roping at age 12. By that time, the family had already established a passion for competition. Makayla, Shelby’s older sister by 16 months, has indicated the sibling rivalry began when Shelby was born, then continued with Marissa came along.
There was basketball and soccer. There was swimming and drama classes. If they weren’t at some sort of practice or handling their share of chores, they were riding horses.
“We had so much fun growing up,” Shelby Boisjoli said last year. “(Langdon) used to be a really small population, and everybody knew everybody. I don’t remember being in the house when we were little. We were outside from the time we got up in the morning until after dark.”
One thing it all did was establish a work ethic the Boisjoli girls carry to this day.
“Having a work ethic is extremely important,” she said. “I need to show up at a rodeo and feel that I’ve worked harder than every other girl that’s there. Work ethic and mental game go hand in hand, because I need to know that I can win and I can beat the next girl.
“It’s hard not being able to practice, to be out here rodeoing and not have time to practice. I have to talk myself into not having to work every day.”
Life has definitely changed for breakaway ropers over the last four years. With its introduction in The American in 2019, the sport has skyrocketed in terms of contestants and the opportunities they have to make a living. In ProRodeo, the National Finals Breakaway Roping inaugurated during the 2020 NFR in Arlington, Texas, and more events are including breakaway roping into their schedules.
“It’s been different; I definitely got a taste of what the cowboys go through every year,” Boisjoli said. “There are a lot of highs and lows, and helps helped me learn to control my emotions.
“It’s been so fun, going to all the places and seeing the people we get to meet. I’ve gotten to see the ocean. The experience has totally been worth it all.”
She moved away from home a few years ago to compete at Ranger (Texas) College, then moved to Stephenville, Texas, to focus on her roping career. In fact, her sisters also live in Stephenville, and they’ve taken their Alberta training to the Lone Star State.
Shelby Boisjoli has taken it to the biggest stages in rodeo. She’s the top dog in a field of top dogs preparing to battle during the NFBR in December for the second straight year.
“It’s actually super cool how breakaway roping has taken off,” she said in 2020. “As a little girl with your dad out there for all those late nights, we worked for hours and hours for this. We never thought it would take off anywhere, but it’s as much for our parents as it is for us. They hauled us to so many events over the years, and they were there for the practices.
“It’s paying off now.”
It is … for her and many other ladies that want to make a living with a rope. No matter what happens from this day forward, she will always remember those magical days at the first NFBR in 2020. She and 14 other women roped inside a makeshift arena in the shape of a baseball diamond, and, in doing so, made a statement that helped change the face of the rodeo world.
“It was so special; it’s something I will never forget the rest of my life,” Boisjoli said. “I’ll definitely cherish that moment, that time. I’ll be able to tell my kids one day that I got to rope at the first National Finals.”
Most likely, it was just the first of what most insiders perceive is many for the Alberta-born cowgirl. She’s made it two in a row, and she has the background and work ethic to make it happen many more times over a pioneering career.