Hats off to Braylee Shepherd, the 2023 Resistol Rookie of the Year! When the WPRA regular pro rodeo season ended September 30, Shepherd led Shaya Biever by more than $8,000.
It’s quite a feat considering the unbelievable challenges the 19-year-old breakaway roper faced this year.
“There were a few times when I was like, ‘I’m going home,’” Shepherd admits. “But my plan was to just take one calf at a time.”
The journey to Rookie of the Year started in February, when Shepherd’s horse, Dollar, succumbed to cancer. Shepherd had hoped Dollar, who was first diagnosed in late 2021, would be able to make it through the season. She tried riding his half-sister, but that didn’t work out.
“Losing Dollar kind of threw me off,” Shepherd says “I kind of had to shift the game and just take each day to try to make everything work.”
The 19-year-old turned to family friend and breakaway legend Lari Dee Guy, who had hosted clinics at the family’s facility in Utah, to see if she had a horse she could continue the season with.
“I asked Lari if she had anything for sale,” Shepherd says. “I was pretty much to the point where if I wasn't on a horse that I could win on I wasn't going to go rodeo that summer. Lari offered me this mare - her name is Promise - and she’s been good ever since.”
But Shepherd’s troubles in 2023 weren’t behind her. There were loads of mechanical problems, including blown tires, broken axles, and a totaled trailer.
“I had to shift my goals and everything so much,” she admits. “I had to because everything just kept coming at me. I couldn’t keep looking far into the future - I just had to look at the next thing and do my job.”
“Braylee ropes fierce,” Hollabaugh says.””She went through utter heck this year, but she still had a great run. She ropes above exceptional - she’s definitely going to be a contender for years to come.”
The Shepherd family moved to Fitzhugh, Oklahoma so that Braylee would have plenty of opportunities to compete in the new pro season.
“This year I haven’t had much easy,” says Shepherd, who uses Lone Star’s Pink Caddy. “I don’t know if it was bad luck or good luck. But it helped me learn and shaped me into who I am today.”