LOVINGTON, N.M. – The sport of breakaway roping has been around for decades, but it’s going to be part of Lovington’s rodeo for the first time this year.
Breakaway roping is very similar to tie-down calf roping, which features contestants roping a young cow, then scrambling down the rope to flank and tie the calf’s legs together to stop the clock. Good runs are around 8 seconds.
Breakaway roping has the same start, but the rope is not tied tight to the saddle horn as it is in tie-down roping. Once the rope is tight, the string that holds the rope to the saddle horn will break, stopping the clock. Good runs are around 2 seconds.
It’s fast and it’s a showcase of great horsepower and incredible roping skills, and it will be part of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 4-Saturday, Aug. 7, at Jake McClure Arena.
“We had talked about having it before, but this will be the first year we have the ladies breakaway roping,” said Trey Kerby, the rodeo committee chairman and vice chairman of the Lea County Fair Board. “I’m starting smaller, and I’ve limited it to 60 contestants; we will have 15 in the slack, and we’ll bring back five to the performances each night. It’s set up like every other timed event we have; they’ll run two rounds.
“After this year, we’ll see how it all runs and decide how we want to handle it in the future. We’re always up against the clock, because everybody wants to get the rodeo done in time to go see the concerts. I fully intend to raise it to the same status as our other timed events.”
Women have roped professionally for 73 years through the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, but the event has just ballooned in recent years. In 2019, RFD-TV’s The American made it part of its nationally televised performance, and it’s seen unprecedented growth. Teenager Madison Outhier won the title and $110,000 that weekend, which also helped propel the event into the big time.
This past December, veteran Jackie Crawford became the first world champion in ProRodeo after competing at the inaugural National Finals Breakaway Roping, which took place in conjunction with the National Finals Rodeo in its one-time home of Arlington, Texas.
Sponsors have opened their pocketbooks, and more and more rodeos have opened their doors.
“I think breakaway roping is going to be a big plus for our rodeo,” said Larry Wheeler, the fair board’s president. “I’m really excited about adding that event. Watching other rodeos on The Cowboy Channel, it really seems like everybody’s enjoying that.
“We’ve got three local girls that will be part of the 60 cowgirls that will compete, so that’s a big deal to the people around here.”
Breakaway roping has changed rodeo over the last couple of years. It’s added another women’s event to the sport and adds a fast-paced and exciting spectacle to an already popular rodeo.
“I think it’s going to go off well here,” Wheeler said.