The Women’s Professional Rodeo Association’s roping division amended its rules for 2017, allowing girls under 18 years old to join their mothers, sisters and friends as full roping members, a move that looks to expand the association for the “wolfie” young guns, roping director Patti McCutcheon said.
“We’ve had some good girls that were interested in the calf roping and team roping at the Finals in Waco for a while,” McCutcheon said. “Rylie Fabrizio had to sit on the fence and watch her mom and sister rope when she could have beat any of us there. There have been girls who were so good and had to wait until they were 18, and all of those years they could have been roping. Why hold them back?”
The WPRA hosts an entire junior division in the barrel racing, but with smaller numbers and super tough talent in the roping events, the association’s board chose to let the younger girls compete against the best in the game.
“There are younger girls who are so competitive,” WPRA world champion Lari Dee Guy said. “I want them to have an opportunity to compete with the top end women. It’s a cool thing for them to compete with their heroes and see where they stand. They’re so tough at such a young age. That’s the best way for this sport to grow—to keep getting younger girls more and more involved.”
Younger girls are honing their skills at roping schools taught by both top male and female ropers, making them extremely competitive at an early age, Guy pointed out.
“These girls coming in, it counts as their rookie year,” McCutcheon added. “It’s almost like a lot of them, they want to do it, and then when they’re 18 they’re in college rodeo and then they’re getting a job and getting married and having kids. They miss the opportunity to join the WPRA, and this allows them to go ahead and play.”
The WPRA is focusing on promoting the all-around, and McCutcheon said she hopes to see younger girls take advantage of the added prizes at the World Finals across the breakaway roping, tie-down roping, barrel racing and team roping.
The move is part of a larger effort to expand women in roping, with a push to add breakaway roping to some Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association rodeos in the coming years.
“Girls have been wanting that,” McCutcheon said. “Some committees are really excited about it. Sometimes they have an open one in conjunction with the rodeos. I would like to bring that back. In the Columbia River Circuit, they even had a breakaway circuit finals.”
Committees in Sonora, Texas, Coulee City, Wash., Kennewick, Wash., Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Ellensburg, Wash., Pendleton, Ore., Cave Creek, Ariz., and Payson, Ariz., all hosted breakaway ropings in conjunction with their ProRodeos, McCutcheon said, describing it as a step in the right direction for the sport.
Because not all lady ropers can travel to Waco, Texas, each October for the World Finals, McCutcheon said women and girls who join can take advantage of the co-approvals at WPRA ropings and amateur rodeos nationwide. The WPRA crowns circuit champions in the roping division and gives awards to the top 15 ropers entering the WPRA World Finals, too.
The 2016 World Finals saw three mother-daughter teams competing because of the new rule that took effect for the event, something McCutcheon hopes will grow as a result of younger girls’ ability to compete.