Local breakaway ropers rise to the top
Several area breakaway ropers are at the top of the leaderboard in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association world standings early in the 2021 season.
Samantha Fulton of Miller, South Dakota sits comfortably in the top spot with $7,851 won so far, ahead of last year’s WPRA World Champion breakaway roper, Jackie Crawford. Though she is thankful for a good start, she is wary of being too satisfied too quickly. “It feels good, but I’m ready to get rolling to some more rodeos, because there haven’t been a lot going on lately. It doesn’t mean a whole lot at this point. I’m just ready to get to some more rodeos and get going this summer,” Fulton says.
By all accounts, Fulton is a veteran competitor, even though navigating breakaway roping in professional rodeos was new terrain last year. Fulton (previously Jorgenson) is a multiple-time North Dakota Rodeo Association champion, go-round winner at the College National Finals Rodeo, and 3 Star Memorial Roping champion. “I’m still learning now, for sure. I had kind of an advantage because I’d barrel raced in the Badlands and made the Circuit Finals, so I knew a little bit how ProCom worked, but I’ve still been learning along the way, just like everybody else.”
Entering professional rodeos through the association’s communications center, “ProCom”, can be complicated, especially during the summer run. According to Fulton, breakaway ropers must enter as many as possible, without overextending their horse or driving any excessive miles. They must also consider which setups might suit their horse and roping style the best, coordinate with traveling partners, and manage trades, if necessary. One may not get their first preference, which makes for an added challenge.
C.Y. Christensen of Kennebec, South Dakota, currently sits in 14th place, meaning that if the season ended today, she would qualify for the National Breakaway Finals Breakaway Roping (NBFR), in which the top-15 in the world compete. During the time of interview, she was within the top 10, but slipped a few spots as standings began to change with frequency of rodeos. A win in Springfield, Missouri and placing in Valley City, North Dakota gave her a launching pad from which to propel into the summer season.
With the exploding popularity and inclusion of breakaway in the past two years, Christensen decided 2021 was the year to go for it all: she plans to qualify for the NBFR. “I just decided that I have my two horses, and they’re getting older, and I’d better just try it while I can, and I have a job that lets me do these kinds of things. I’m a crop adjuster, so I kind of make my own schedule to an extent. It’s pretty busy from May to December, but you can make your hours,” she says.
Christensen plans to rodeo in Oklahoma and Texas during the month of June with Megan Steiger of Rapid City. After returning to South Dakota, the pair plan to pick up Carole Hollers and travel to Badlands Circuit rodeos over the Fourth of July. “If it’s not going good, I might have to work,” she laughs. For her, traveling partners relieve the mundane hours behind the wheel. “I think the three of us all get along pretty good. We don’t go one mile without laughing at something, so that makes it pretty fun,” she says.
Like Christensen, Fulton’s job allows her to pursue her first NBFR. “My parents have a company in the oil field, so I do all the secretary work, data entry, accounting, and payroll, and I can do all of that on the road,” Fulton says.
The Badlands Circuit Finals, as well as the WPRA World Finals gave Fulton a considerable jump on the 2021 season, in aid of her ultimate goal: “I want to go to as many rodeos as I can and make the Finals in a good place.” Fulton most looks forward to entering Reno Rodeo in June, which will feature breakaway roping for the first time and added money of $20,000
Interestingly, both Christensen and Fulton will ride horses that are well into what is considered “middle age”. Fulton’s “Sambo” is a 16 year old black gelding that she has used for seven years. “He’s one of the best ones out there, in my opinion. I’m pretty lucky and thankful to have him. I’ve been with him for so long that I kind of know what he’s going to do in every setup. He’s kind of a veteran,” Fulton says.
Christensen’s A-string consists of two identical sorrel geldings, both 17 years old. “I’ve rode Dino all through my sophomore year of high school until now. Peppy, I bought from the Musick’s in Pierre–he was their old calf horse, and I’ve had him for four years. I usually just decide which one to ride the day of the rodeo,” she says.
Both women credit their families for supporting their world-class dreams. Fulton will celebrate her first wedding anniversary to husband, Cole Fulton, on June 5th. “My husband does a lot for me and helps me out in any way he can. He supports me going out and trying to rodeo. My parents and my sister also do all they can to help me. There’s also just the breakaway roping community as a whole is pretty supportive and fun,” Fulton says.
Christensen says, “I just have to be forever thankful for my parents (Jerry and Melodi). They go above and beyond. I’ve got stuff at home that they take care of.” She adds, “I think it’s kind of a trade-off. I stay home all winter while they’re in Arizona!”
Christensen comments on the magnitude of breakaway roping last year: “I don’t think there was under 70 at any of them. Over the Fourth, there were more than 100 in all of them. You sure have to be thankful to all the committees that had it. We sure appreciate it,” she says.
A complete list of area top-20 breakaway ropers in the WPRA ProRodeo World standings as of May 19th include:
1. Samantha Fulton; Miller, SD $7,851.50
11. Sarah Morrissey; Thedford, NE $4,094.64
14. Syerra C.Y. Christensen; Kennebec, SD $3,449.80
15. Kirby Eppert; Seneca, NE $3,198.28
19. Rickie Engesser; Spearfish, SD $2,763.02
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