Women ropers growing component of Watershed event
Photo by: 
Chris Rourke
Stacy Weisbach waits her turn during last Wednesday's Watershed event at the Gunnison County Fairgrounds.
Stacy Weisbach waits her turn during last Wednesday's Watershed event at the Gunnison County Fairgrounds.

The sport of team roping is not just for boys anymore. Perhaps it never was.

Both nationally and locally, women are seen regularly picking up a rope and mounting a horse with the hope of catching a steer by its head or heels. It is what many say is an “equal playing fi eld” with their male counterparts.

At least four women have competed regularly at the Gunnison County Fairgrounds — including, most recently, in the Watershed roping competition during Cattlemen’s Days last week. They range in experience and profession, but all agree: the sport is fun; they experience great comradery; they can hold their own in competition; and the men don’t seem to mind that they do.

 

‘I was hooked’

Wendy Collins grew up on the Redden family ranch on Ohio Creek Road but didn’t pick up a rope until she was a junior in high school. She was introduced to the sport by her uncle, Bill.

“I went to my first high school rodeo in breakaway roping and won a buckle,” Collins said. “Then I was hooked.”

Collins left the Gunnison Valley for a period of time and upon her return home, she began to compete with the Gunnison Roping Club, which meets Friday nights in the summer. After marrying her husband, Mike, she set her sights a little higher.

Rather than enduring the Colorado winter only to rope four months out of the year, the Collinses relocate during the colder months to Arizona where they continue their practice. Collins has qualifi ed for the World Series of Team Roping

in Las Vegas twice and intends to qualify again.

“There are a lot of really good women ropers and the guys are very accepting of it,” said Collins. “I would say it’s pretty much an equal playing field.”

When Heidi Sherratt Bogart isn’t designing the interior of someone’s home or fundraising for her local charity, you can find her on the back of a roping horse that came to her serendipitously. Sherratt Bogart started roping through the help of roping club President Mike Dawson, with whom she fundraises. He’s offered her support and tips on how to improve and has even bailed her out of tough situations.

“There have been some scary moments,” said Sherratt Bogart. “I had a rope pulled behind my back and Mike just roped that calf and pulled the rope away from me.” It was on a trip with Dawson representing Tough Enough to Wear Pink at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas that Sherratt Bogart attended a horse auction. One particular horse caught her eye, and she began to visit him every day until he hit the auction pen.

After winning the auction, she realized she was not prepared to haul the horse back to Colorado. She convinced a contractor to haul the horse to Salt Lake City, and after a six-hour layover at a fairgrounds the animal was picked up by a Gunnison Valley friend.

Sherratt Bogart roped on this horse at this year’s Watershed competition.

 

A sense of community

Stacy Weisbach began roping by chance when she met a woman who had a roping dummy in the back of a pickup truck. She would spend her lunch break learning how to swing a rope. She eventually was invited to “go chase steers.” Since then, she has become an accomplished roper and placed well at competitions outside the valley.

“When I went to the arena everyone was so great to welcome new ropers and young horses,” said Weisbach. “Never had I done this on a horse, so trying to learn how to rope and teach my horse was pretty intimidating. But everyone was understanding and said that it wouldn’t happen overnight.”

Weisbach said she became hooked on the timed event because there was no judge giving a personal opinion about her performance. She also appreciates the teamwork involved — not just with her roping partner but her horse as well.

Sara Coblentz is following in the steps of her father, Kevin, who is passionate about roping. She and her boyfriend rope with the local club. Coblentz competed at the Watershed competition last Wednesday night.

For Coblentz, who is entering her second year of nursing school, the sport is an escape.

“Roping is kind of like a getaway, something that takes your mind off everything because it requires a lot of focus,” she said. “There’s a real sense of community too — there’s a really good group with the roping club willing to teach. It fills my cup up and allows me to have some fun time.”

 

‘I learn so much just by watching’

While each woman discovered roping in a different manner, they share a commonality in their experience. First, they noted how comfortable the male ropers feel with having female partners. Collins noted that sometimes a high-level roper likes to partner with a woman to even out the team’s handicap rating.

Several of the women said the men treat them as equals in the sport. Additionally, the women learn from and support each other.

“It’s so great that the roping club has so many exceptional women ropers,” said Weisbach. “I learn so much just by watching how they ride, and their horsemanship. We try to support each other with positive attitudes and encouragement.”

 

(Chris Rourke can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at chris.rourke@gunnisontimes.com.)