Lady Legend: Jimmi Jo Montera Sets the Standard
Jimmi Jo Montera might look like a cross between a runway model and an Olympic athlete. But make no mistake—this Colorado cowgirl is one of the wolfiest women ever to swing a rope. Jimmi Jo and her team roping husband, Rick, own feedlots. They raised their now-grown, basketball-playing sons, Colby, 24, and Garrett, 21, in Greeley. Jimmi Jo also adores her three stepdaughters, Chancy, Jenna and Keiley.
Jimmi Jo Montera and John Wayne Heeling

Q: You’re 6’ 1” and grew up a multi-sport athlete, right?

A: Yes, I grew up outside of Longmont, and played basketball and volleyball for Otero Junior College (in La Junta, Colorado) my freshman year. Then I transferred to the University of Wyoming in Laramie, and rodeoed for three years.

Q: You’re being modest with the details. You rodeoed for Otero your freshman year, too, didn’t you?

A: Well, yes. Back then, a women’s team was three people, and there were just two of us rodeoing for OJC—my sister, Shannon, and me.

Q: OK, I’ll say it. The Martin sisters were a two-woman team, and you qualified against teams of three for the College National Finals Rodeo. You tied goats, breakaway roped and team roped, and won the breakaway, goat tying and all-around in your region, for starters. Did you have a favorite event back then?

A: My best event ever was the goat tying. I won nine of the 10 regional rodeos my senior year. My goat got up to win the 10th rodeo. So I bought him, and tied him all the way to the CNFR in Bozeman (Montana). If I could ever heel as good as I goat tied, I’d be a #10 heeler. I just loved it.

Q: I can’t leave your college career without mentioning that you won the goat tying average at the 1990 College National Finals Rodeo, and also that year’s National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association goat tying title (back when the regular season carried into the Finals). You also placed in the breakaway roping, and were crowned the 1990 CNFR All-Around Cowgirl and NIRA All-Around Cowgirl. You were so dominant that you won the CNFR Women’s Team Title for the University of Wyoming, even though you were the only point-earner.

A: (Silence. All that got out of her was a grin.)

Q: Ever think about cracking those breakaway ropes back out?

A: I love the breakaway, too. My only issue is I’ve broken my back twice, and have had two back fusions. So I have six screws and two rods running down each side of my back. I was starting to breakaway again, and I would love to do it. But it brought on more flare-ups with my back. Even just riding rough horses is a no-go for me now, and I’d be really upset if I couldn’t team rope because of it.

Q: How much pain do you live with?

A: I manage it pretty well, but I have to stay strong. I do a lot of core and balance exercises. I don’t do any heavy lifting, but I do stretch every day. Because of sports, working out has always been part of my life. If I don’t do it now, I can’t rope.

Q: When did team roping take over as your main event?

A: After college, I went to the women’s rodeos some (she won the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association breakaway roping title twice, and the all-around once). But the money wasn’t great. I grew up team roping with my dad and brother and sister. We roped as a family, and I always loved it.

Q: Have you always heeled?

A: Pretty much. I headed a little bit, but I’ve always loved to heel. There weren’t many girls who heeled when I grew up. I remember Kathy Kennedy who lived in Berthoud heeled. I always got told that girls can’t heel, and that I could win more money if I headed.

Q: Why haven’t there been more girl heelers historically?

A: Not many girls thought to do it. It’s just like the first person who broke the record on the mile. Years ago, you’d go to the US Finals and see maybe one girl to every 20 boys running around with a rope roping the dummy. That’s changing. You can’t tell me a girl can’t heel, if she’s taught how to do it and works at it like a boy. And it’s not just a strength thing, because there are skinny little boys who can heel. It’s a matter of having the mindset that you can do it.

Jimmi Jo and her main mount John Wayne, who came from NFR heeler Shay Carroll. Courtesy Jimmi Jo Montera

Q: You’re now a #5 header and a #7 heeler. You headed for Kim Grubbs to win the All-Girl Roping at the 2021 NTR Finals at Rancho Rio last spring, with you heading because it was a #10 roping, right?

A: Yes, I head a little bit, when it makes sense. But I like to focus on my heeling. We rope a lot when we’re home, and Rick’s my main spinner. A lot of rodeo guys roll through in the summertime, too, which is fun.

Q: Who has most influenced your roping over the years?

A: I’ve gotten help and pulled from a lot of different guys. I love watching Patrick (Smith) rope. I’ve gotten help from Shay Carroll, Speedy Williams, Bret Beach, and Joseph Harrison helped me when he was here at the house. Colby Lovell and Paul Eaves were here, too, and I got to rope with them. All the top golfers swing a little bit differently, and are built a little bit differently. I enjoy watching Paden Bray rope, because we have a similar body type. I have a passion for watching the best ropers, and trying to figure out how I can do it.

Q: Which women ropers do you look up to most?

A: Lari Dee (Guy) has been such a mainstay over the years. She sets a pretty high standard, just watching her rope and her horsemanship skills. She’s been great for the sport. I really enjoy watching Kelsie Chase (Domer) head, heel and breakaway, too. She’s handy.

Q: Do you have one heeling hero that stands out?

A: I really enjoy watching Paul. Everything is so smooth, and he makes it look so easy. He just never seems to be out of position. And I love watching Patrick. I watch his DVDs when I do my workout. I watch Patrick so much that when Rick’s in the room, he says, “Anything but Patrick.” Last Christmas (2020), he got me a day of roping with Patrick as my Christmas present. As it turned out, I got to spend a day roping with Patrick, Chad (Masters), Luke (Brown) and Hunter (Koch) right before the Windy Ryon (which Jimmi Jo won with LaRaye Stipes).

Q: What do you consider your career highlight?

A: That last win in Vegas (Jimmi Jo won the team roping heeling for Lari Dee at the World Champions Rodeo Alliance’s $750,000 Women’s Rodeo World Championship last fall at the South Point in Las Vegas), just because it was kind of a goal, and we finished strong.

Q: You won that on your renowned Paint, John Wayne, that you bought from Shay. Is he your #1?

A: I have two #1s—John Wayne and Mr. Kitten. My horses Mr. Kitten, Sally and Powder all came from Larry Rice’s Flag Ranch. His horses are very athletic, and Larry is extremely knowledgeable about breeding and what crosses to produce great rope horses.

Q: Got any team roping goals left?

A: Just to keep getting better, and I really feel like I can. I want to keep improving, and see where else I can get to. I feel like I’m stronger than I was 10 years ago. And I still love it. That’s the cool thing about team roping. There’s a spot for everyone at every stage of life. TRJ

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