As Women’s History Month comes to an end, I thought it would be fitting to round out the month by reminding you that an amazing group of women made history this month by competing in the very first year of Breakaway Roping at RFD TV’s The American in the first year.
While I was at the American, I got to catch up with Jackie Crawford. One of the competitors in the Top 8 Breakaway Ropers in the inaugural year of the event at the American, Jackie has an impressive record including 17 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association’s World Titles. She was also the first woman to qualify in the team roping for the American Semi-Finals and is still one of few to compete against the men at the professional level. Crawford teaches clinics and trains horses for team roping and breakaway.
Jackie competed against 500 breakaway ropers to qualify for the Top 16 at the American. Many talented and dedicated women and girls came from across the country to compete at the qualifier.
“I am so fortunate to be in the Top 16 and just to walk into this stadium and to be a part of this. The rest of this is just gravy. Whatever happens, just happens,” Jackie told me before the short round.
Crawford started out strong in the long go with a 2.64 second run which put her in fourth place. After clocking in at a 2.80 in the short go of eight, she was sitting second in the average with the top four coming back. She ultimately had a No Time in the last round.
“This is an amazing experience and I’m just super grateful to be in that group,” she said.
It took years and a dedicated group of women to get breakaway roping on such a large and impactful stage. Crawford was instrumental in the accomplishment — even if she doesn’t want the credit.
“I get a lot of credit that I’m really not due,” Jackie said. “All I’ve done is try to bring breakaway to a more seen stage. You know we work hard, and the numbers are there. It’s an awesome event to watch. I just always put the bug in [the associations’] ear. That’s really all I’m responsible for.”
Today the news is full of women speaking up for what they want and what they can do, making it the perfect time for such a popular sport to start receiving the attention it deserves.
“Everyone is created equal when it comes to having a love for the sport,” Jackie said. “There’s no difference in a man or a woman for the love of it. We all have it.”
Growing up in the roping pen with my parents, I never thought that roping was any less accessible to me for the fact that I was a girl. Jackie gives a lot of that credit to the various rodeo and roping associations who focus on making opportunities available to both men and women.
“The thing about the team roping and rodeo world is there is a place for everyone now. The associations have created that. There’s no domination anywhere. You’re going to fit somewhere, wherever your level or love for the sport comes in.”
The progress for women in rodeo doesn’t stop here. Jackie and others have plans to cover much more ground.
“I want the breakaway in the NFR. I want there to be another women’s event. I think it’s fun to see women pick up a rope and include that,” Crawford said.
The way she sees it, it’s less about having to compete against the men for a limited number of spots. It’s about women making their own place with their own event.
“It’s hard to say let’s have the open team roping and then the women’s team roping. To me the top level of that event is what people want to watch. The guys are at an amazing level and it’s fun watching,” Jackie said.
Crawford was filled with pride and ownership as she continued, “We’re fun to watch in our event. Breakaway is our event. That’s where we want to excel and be fun watching.”
Adding breakaway to the agenda would be beneficial to everyone involved, especially the associations. Crawford described her thoughts that men might be more willing to travel to rodeos if they could compete alongside their wives.
Jackie noted, “My husband is a team roper. I don’t get to go rodeo with him. We don’t get to rodeo as a family. To me it’s a no brainer for the associations. Why wouldn’t you let more families rodeo together?”
When women and girls came to my Dad’s clinics, some of them were anxious or timid about roping with a bunch of guys. That was something that I never thought twice about — a fact I’m thankful for.
I was about 11 years old when one woman in particular told me that she was really nervous to be at the clinic. She then told me that seeing me rope had helped her decide that she could do it too. This woman opened my eyes to the stigma that many women probably had about roping. I’m thankful for women like Jackie Crawford that push that stigma to the side with their love and dedication to a sport we all get to enjoy.
Allowing room for so many talented women with so much love for rodeo is such an exciting opportunity for the associations. Women shouldn’t have to worry that there’s not a place for them in the roping world. As Jackie said, the guys are supportive of the addition of breakaway. They see it as a win for everyone involved. Let’s hope the associations follow the American’s lead after seeing the excitement over the event.
Happy Women’s History Month and Happy Roping!
– Whitney Green