GUYMON, Okla. – For decades, breakaway roping was a bit of a stepchild to traditional rodeo, a starting point for rising stars and a way for young women to show off their abilities.
That changed four years ago when The American made breakaway roping part of its lucrative rodeo, and the rest of the Western sports world took notice. There are more opportunities for female ropers to make a living in the sport than ever before, and it’s still in the growing stages.
While it has been a hit in the Oklahoma Panhandle for a while, breakaway roping will be one of the featured events at this year’s Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 5; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 6; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.
“We’ve had an evening of breakaway roping before, but the rodeo committee opted to be sanctioned by the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association so that money counts toward the ProRodeo world standings,” said Ken Stonecipher, the production manager of the Pioneer Days Rodeo committee.
“For the better part of the past two decades, we were known as a cowboys’ rodeo, and we want to be known as a cowgirls’ rodeo, too. We’ve got unlimited entries, so we could legitimately see hundreds of breakaway ropers come to Guymon this year. It will also have the same added money as the other events.”
“Added money” refers to the amount of local dollars the volunteer committee puts into the pot. In Guymon, each event will start with $8,000 in local money, which will then be mixed with contestants’ entry fees to make up the total purse. Each event will have its own fee per contestant, and the numbers of cowboys or cowgirls per event will vary.
“We’ve got seven full days of rodeo, so it’s no small task to put this thing on,” said Stonecipher, who also serves as one of the rodeo’s announcers. “When we decided to add breakaway roping to our performances, we wanted to give every competitor a good chance, which is why we set it up in the format we did.”
All breakaway ropers will compete in one go-round, which begins at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 4. The cowgirls with the top times will advance through to the progressive round, which will be part of the four paid performances. The lady with the fastest two-run cumulative time will be crowned champion.
Pioneer Days is unique in that it will feature all events associated with rodeo. Not all rodeos have steer roping, while others don’t have breakaway roping. Opening the doors to all types of competitors ensures the cream of the crop will be showcased in Guymon during the first week of May.
Rodeo week kicks off with two days of steer roping beginning at noon Monday, May 1; there will be two go-rounds per day, and the top cumulative time on four runs will earn the first Pioneer Days trophy belt of the week. Two days of men’s timed events will follow beginning Wednesday, May 3. The fastest aggregate times will advance to the progressive round, which will take place over the weekend.
Barrel racers will have the opportunity to compete in two go-rounds. The first round begins at 8 a.m. Friday, May 5, and the ladies with the 40 fastest times will return through the performances. All others will make their second runs around the cloverleaf pattern later Friday.
The roughstock events – bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding – will be just one go-round, with the top score taking the lion’s share of the prize money.
“We’ve been rodeoing in the Panhandle for 91 years, and we’ve got a lot to be proud of around here,” Stonecipher said. “Pioneer Days Rodeo is the hallmark event of our community celebration, so we want to keep it that way by making it fun and entertaining for the crowd and a great competition for the cowboys and cowgirls.
“We’ve got the best stock contractor in the PRCA with Frontier Rodeo, and everybody around here already knows what that means for an event production and outstanding bucking stock. We’ve got a dedicated group of volunteers who just try to do better every year. That’s not an easy job, but it’s one we all take a lot of pride in.”