UNION — Martha Angelone and Amanda Hodges remember just a few years ago competing at breakaway roping in amateur rodeos in Texas.

They never imagined at the time they’d be competing halfway across the country in the budding rodeo sport, as they were Saturday, June 11, during the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show in Union.

“It’s been tremendous how many rodeos have added it for us, and that it’s in the pro rodeos,” Angelone, who lives in Stephenville, Texas, said. “Me and Amanda, a couple years ago, we were going to the amateur rodeos together down in Texas where we’d get to go to three or four a week, and now we’re getting to go all over the world doing it. I would never be in Oregon if there wasn’t pro rodeo up here.”

The two were among dozens of women competing for the first time in Union with the EOLS electing to add breakaway roping to the fray during its 115th edition.

The growth of the sport, Hodges said, has opened up more opportunities for the competitors, including the chance to earn more on the circuit.

“Those amateur rodeos that me and Martha used to go to would pay nowhere near the same as these,” Hodges, from Brazoria, Texas, said. “We’d go drive a couple hours across Texas to win $1,000, and now we’re driving for $10,000 (pots).”

Breakaway roping, a women’s event, is essentially half of tie-down roping. The riders follow a calf out of a chute just as in tie-down roping, and try to rope the calf around the neck. Once the calf is roped, however, the time stops. There is no need to dismount and tie the animal.

That fact was met with gratitude June 11 by at least one of the 10 women who competed, with one rider saying to another, “I’m glad we don’t have to get off” as they awaited their turn in the rainy, muddy conditions at the EOLS arena.

The speed of the event — most competitors have their calf roped in 2-3 seconds — makes thinking on your feet vital.

“A lot of this sport is just reaction. You can’t think,” Hodges said. “You kind of just gotta hope that things go your way, and a lot of times things do have to fall your way for you to win.”

The fact that it is a quick event makes it one Angelone said is extremely hard.

“You don’t really have a lot of time to set up your shot because you gotta be so fast, so you gotta think about trying to make everything happen in a split second,” she said. “You have to be focused on what you’re about to have to do to make your run work. The tie-down ropers can always take an extra swing and set everything up. We don’t even have time to think about that.”

Angelone was quick on her feet Saturday, twirling an orange rope to catch her calf quickly and post a time of 2.6 seconds.

It was a mark that briefly moved her to the lead, until being surpassed by Sawyer Gilbert later in the round. Gilbert had a time of 2.4 seconds, which ended up being the top time of the day.

“This is the first time I’ve ever rode this horse in the mud,” Angelone said following her run. “I honestly didn’t know how he was going to handle it. It’s a little bit different for the start and the cattle than if it was dry, but not terrible.”

Hodges had a strong run negated by breaking the barrier, which added 10 seconds to her time and put her out of the running for a good payday. Still, she was pleased with her effort.

“It was fun for me. I got a little early start on mine, broke the barrier, but I feel like my horse worked good,” she said. “I did my job good enough for me to be happy with.”

Both were pleased to be a part of the first run of breakaway roping at the EOLS, and said they would be back.

“If it wasn’t raining I’d probably give it a 10 out of 10,” Angelone said of the Union-based rodeo. “Since it’s raining, probably an eight out of 10. I think it’s cool. I think it’s awesome that they’re letting the breakaway ropers in.”

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