Annette Stahl—soft spoken and brilliantly talented with a heel loop—has quietly defined heeling in women’s team roping for decades. With two WPRA world titles and countless major jackpot wins, Stahl is a top pick for top female headers like Lari Dee Guy and Beverly Robbins. She’s also a true cowgirl by trade, and she spends her days in the saddle on a West Texas ranch.
Where did you grow up, and how involved was your family in team roping?
I grew up in Tularosa, New Mexico. My whole family roped. Almost every one of them except for one aunt and my sister and grandmother. That’s just what we did. I grew up with my parents going to my granddad’s house, and everybody roping and having matches. Then we’d go to Granny’s house and eat supper, and it was a fun time.
Did you ever consider barrel racing instead of roping?
I didn’t want to barrel race because those horses were too crazy for me. Me and my cousins followed suit with the rest of our family, and we all just roped.
Did you go to college to rodeo?
I was in the sports medicine program at New Mexico State University, so I only got to college rodeo for one semester. I ended up 10th in the breakaway.
After college, what did your roping career look like?
It was just jackpots and US ropings back then. I would breakaway a little bit, over the Fourth of July and that, at amateur rodeos. I quit breakawaying after I sold the last breakaway horse I had. I live so far out here, it’s too far to drive to run at the money breakaway used to have. I’m regretting letting all that go and thinking I better pick it back up.
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You’re a 7 on the heel side. Did having your number raised ever bug you?
When I was little, the coaches were always asking me if I wanted to play basketball, and I’d tell my dad I didn’t want to play basketball—I wanted to be the highest numbered woman heeler ever. Now I’m a little more realistic about having my number raised, because if a guy is going to choose a partner for a #13 roping, they’re going to choose a guy over a woman so it’s better for my number to be lower.
What does a normal day look like at the ranch in West Texas?
A normal day around here is we work from 7:30 to 4. When we get off, we hustle around, get horses saddled and get to rope for an hour or two, and then we put horses up and do it again the next day.
What are you working on in your roping these days?
It’s a constant evolution. If you’re not working on something you’re getting left behind. There’s always something to work on. It’s a constant battle for me to retrain my mind to make my body do the basics anymore. I developed so many bad habits that limited me. I decided three or four years ago I had to change everything, or I wouldn’t win anything. The way I swung my rope, my head position, my angles—I work on something every day. I’m really trying to work on my posture, my core and staying up when I throw and keeping my speed to the ground.
Find out more about a few of Annette Stahl’s biggest wins:
Where do you see yourself in the spectrum of women ropers?
When Whitney DeSalvo and Jessy Remsberg were growing up, they’d go through their struggles. They’d rope some good, and then something would happen and it would ruin their day. I remember giving them words of encouragement and I’d give them some advice. I love helping the young girls as much as I can. I see myself as in a totally different world. I work all day, and I’m way older than them. I wish I were 25 again. I like being in the mentor role. If I see young girls trying and putting effort in, I’m more than willing to do whatever I can do to help.
What goals do you have now in roping?
I want to be the best I can be. I still think I can get better. I still want to be a force for them to rope against, too.