The 19-time WPRA World Champion will compete in the Breakaway Roping World Championship.
A breakaway roping run only lasts a few seconds. Horse and rider are let loose darting after a calf until the clock stops when the rope breaks away from the saddle horn. Often, the difference between the champion and second place will come down to hundredths of a second. It’s one of the fastest sports in rodeo and requires incredible precision. Ariat Athlete, Jackie Crawford, makes this intricate sequence of events look easy. It’s why she’s considered one of the best breakaway ropers in the world.
This December, Jackie, who has been instrumental in bringing breakaway roping to rodeo’s biggest stage, will make history when she competes in the debut of the Breakaway Roping World Championships during the Rodeo Finals in Texas, December 8-10. These three days will mark not only one of the most important moments in Jackie’s storied career but also break new ground for the sport of rodeo.
Learning the Ropes
Jackie was born in Springfield, Illinois, where she began her journey learning to ride and competing in barrel racing, pole bending, and flag racing. Her family moved to Oklahoma when Jackie was 12 and she was introduced to roping when she began to junior rodeo. She would eventually train her barrel horse to compete in the breakaway events.
Jackie’s upbringing instilled in her the knowledge that success doesn’t come from having money or fancy gear, but rather from a drive to push forward regardless of a lack of opportunity. This drive and determination are ultimately what set the tone for Jackie’s success in professional rodeo and has allowed her to become one of the few women to completely make a living from her rope without any other jobs or family income.
“There are no shortcuts in life. Make a goal and no matter what happens, don’t make an excuse. You can never buy into an excuse.”
After she began roping in high school, Jackie went on to win the Oklahoma High School Breakaway Roping Championship. The wins have kept coming ever since. Throughout college, Jackie won multiple NIRA National Breakaway Roping titles, and over the last 15 years has amassed 19 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association World Champion titles (among countless other accolades). On November 15, 2020, Jackie earned the first-ever Women’s Rodeo World Champion All-Around title during the inaugural Women’s Rodeo World Championships.
Breaking New Ground
For the nearly 140 years that rodeos have taken place, the only event for women at a professional level was barrel racing. After college, there simply wasn’t an avenue for women to continue competing, even though their talent was undeniable. The rise in breakaway roping over the last several years, due in part to Jackie’s tireless championing of the sport, has turned the tides. Now, women who thought they’d never have the opportunity to compete in breakaway roping at a professional level are coming out of retirement to participate in these events.
“Of course, I love to win. But I also love being a woman who little girls look up to. They see me making a difference in this sport and impacting the way it’s going to be done in the future. It fuels me to give these girls something to work for.”
In 2019, breakaway roping made history when professional events were added at the iconic American Rodeo and Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. The response from fans was immediate: they loved it and they wanted more. In 2020, breakaway roping has continued to gain momentum at the professional level with 53 pro rodeos adding the event to their lineup and over 2100 women entering these competitions.
Last year, Jackie was asked to pen a letter about why breakaway ropers deserve to compete at rodeo’s largest and most prestigious event, the National Finals Rodeo. Jackie’s emotional letter describes how it would feel for her as both a woman and an elite athlete in breakaway roping to participate somewhere that she’s never been able to rope before.
“I am going to do the best job I can to represent our sport in this moment so that I do the ones before me proud and hope to inspire and set the precedent for the ones after me.”
In September, that dream was realized when it was announced that this year, women ropers would be invited to compete in the Breakaway Roping World Championships during the National Finals Rodeo. In December, the top 15 money winners from events hosted by professional rodeos over the last year will convene in Texas to crown a breakaway roping world champion.
Preparing for the World Championships
With just days before competition kicks off, Jackie and her team are training as hard as ever. Most days, this looks like working eight to ten horses a day and spending anywhere from four to eight hours on horseback. Jackie’s also committed to staying as active as possible working with a trainer three times a week to strengthen her core, legs, and arms.
“I pride myself on outworking everyone, but I've had to learn to use my practices a little differently, making them more concentrated and not lengthy. I’m learning to not be a control freak.”
While breakaway roping isn’t typically a team sport, this year, Jackie will have a partner with her in the saddle. During competition, Jackie will be nearly six months pregnant and has been practicing on a custom saddle without a saddle horn. Rather than tie her rope to the horn, the custom saddle will have another location where the rope will be tied.
Through it all, Jackie says her biggest challenge is finding balance as a wife, mother, competitor, and trainer.
“Balance is a constant thing I'm working on. I want women to know that you don't have to pick one dream. You can be competitive. You can be a badass. You can be a mom and a wife. Don't cut yourself short if there is something you really want to do.”
Don’t miss Jackie and the rest of the women competing for this year’s historic Breakaway Roping World Championship, December 8-10. Live video coverage of the three performances from Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas will be available here, as well as rebroadcast at a later date on The Cowboy Channel.