Fast Loops & Lipstick
by Mesa Pate
With many roping championships already under her belt, Jackie Hobbs is on the road to being one of the best all-around women ropers ever. But producing great rope horses and sharing her knowledge with others are just as important to her as any gold buckle.
It’s an unusually frigid, finger-numbing November day at the guy ranch In Abilene, Texas. It’s the kind of day perfect for curling up by the fireplace and sipping warm cocoa. But champion roper Jackie Hobbs has several horses tied to the hitching post outside the barn, patiently waiting to be ridden.
Huddling deep into her coat to break the chill, she throws a saddle on the first of many young rope prospects she’ll ride during the day. Then she enters the tack room and gathers bridles for each horse.
“Think I should put on a pair of chinks and really look cowboy?” she asks her friends inside.
Jackie doesn’t need the chinks or the wild rag she wears to look the part of a cowgirl. Anyone who has seen her compete knows that she’s the real deal. Her ability to do ranch work makes her a valuable hand to the Guy family, but where she truly excels is in the roping pen. In the last seven years, the motivated 27-year-old has been on a relentless quest to win all the major championships open to women ropers. She also trains high-caliber roping horses and helps teach aspiring ropers at clinics conducted by her friend and mentor, Lari Dee Guy. Striving to be the best at anything she does is a value she learned at a young age.
“My mom instilled in me that no matter what I do, to work hard to be the best at it,” Jackie says. “That gave me a competitive drive from the start.”
JACKIE STARTED RIDING as a young girl, but in a vastly different arena than the one in which she now competes. Raised in a single-parent household in Belleville, Illinois, she grew up riding barrel horses.
Jackie’s mom, Annette, has been her biggest supporter in her horse endeavors. Also an avid horsewoman, Annette worked hard to keep her daughter riding good horses, while teaching her both the skills to train her own horses and the work ethic to succeed in whatever she does. These qualities have empowered Jackie as a professional rodeo athlete and horsewoman.
Naturally athletic and competitive, Jackie also participated in sports throughout high school. She considered focusing on basketball, but felt she lacked some abilities on the court and also suffered a knee injury her junior year. So, instead, she devoted herself to horses and rodeo.
When Jackie was 12, she and her mom moved to Oklahoma, where she became interested in roping. With her mom’s help, Jackie found roping to be a natural addition to her competitive resumé. Soon, she was competing on the same level as other youths who had roped much longer than she had. During her junior year, she won the Oklahoma High School Rodeo Association breakaway championship. That, along with other accomplishments, earned her a spot on the Vernon College rodeo team in Vernon, Texas.
In 2003, Jackie won a National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association regional championship and a national title in breakaway roping, and was a member of the college’s winning women’s rodeo team. After two years at Vernon College, she transferred to Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, where she majored in business administration and was on the university’s champion women’s rodeo team.
During a summer spent soaking up Stephenville’s rodeo scene, Jackie met Lari Dee. The two began roping together and working horses at the Guy family ranch.
Lari Dee saw so much potential in Jackie that she asked her to become her business partner in roping clinics and her horse business. As soon as Jackie graduated from college in 2005, she moved to the Guy ranch, owned by Lari Dee’s parents, Larry and Mary Guy. Jackie has lived there ever since.
“Meeting Lari Dee opened the door for me to make a career out of roping and training horses,” Jackie says. “I knew I had a name that would be recognized in the roping world for a while, but I did not know I could make a living out of it. When I met Lari Dee and she began to help me with training a lot of horses, that’s when the business opportunity came into perspective. We are able to train horses and still rodeo and go to all of the big ropings.”
Roping and training with Lari Dee has given Jackie an opportunity to improve her skills and take horses to the next level. It also led her to another talent—tying calves.
“One evening, when I’d first come to the ranch, me, Lari Dee and some other girls had just finished breakaway roping and someone mentioned tying calves,” Jackie recalls. “I piped up that I had tied calves before in high school, before I hurt my knee and Lari Dee said, ‘Yeah, whatever. Let’s see what you can do.’ We went down to the arena and she had me flank and tie a calf from the post, and realized I was pretty good. That opened a whole other world for me.”
After that, Lari Dee encouraged Jackie to start entering tie-down roping, as well as team roping and breakaway roping. In 2006, Jackie’s dedication paid off again. She was not only the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association Rookie of the Year in tie-down roping, but she also won the WPRA World Finals in the event. She has gone on to receive several other tie-down roping titles in the women’s league, and in the United States Calf Roping Association, which is also open to men.
To compete in such a physical sport requires regular workouts with weights to develop upper-body strength. A self-proclaimed tomboy, Jackie makes a point of balancing her feminine side with her involvement in a physical, male-dominated sport.
“I get picked on all the time because my hair is always curled and I have on makeup,” she says. “Everyone calls me ‘Princess’ most of the time. I think some women appreciate me because I can be athletic and get dirty, yet also be feminine.”
Lari Dee appreciates that Jackie always conveys a professional appearance, but says, “She constantly has to fix her hair and put on her makeup, even just to practice. It wears us out.”
WHEN JACKIE ISN’T ON THE ROAD, she is at home on the ranch, working young horses. The Guy Ranch raises 600 mother cows, and tending cattle is a nice break for Jackie’s competition horses.
“There’s nothing better for horses of any age than riding outside,” Jackie says. “It keeps their minds fresh. I wish I could work cattle in the open every day and then go rope.”
She and Lari Dee instill in their performance prospects the skills that will be required at top-level events. It all starts, though, with a high-quality horse.
“I now realize that it is way better to use a horses natural talent than to try to make every horse the perfect horse,” Jackie says. “I don’t mind paying a little more for a horse with cow-horse bloodlines and a good foundation. I want to buy horses from cowboys who have already broke them and put the time in on cattle. The return on the investment is so much faster and greater.”
From a business perspective, roping off the horses she trains makes sense, even if they’re youngsters. It not only sharpens and showcases their skills, but it also helps market them.
“We’re always bringing young horses to rope on at the competitions,” Jackie says.“I love roping on green horses. Even if you don’t win, you still feel like you’ve accomplished something. But the bottom line is that everything is for sale. That’s part of the business.”
Jackie and Lari Dee have provided competitive horses to some of the top ropers in rodeo. Jackie claims that one of the biggest honors she has received as a roper and trainer is the respect of her peers.
“It’s a high compliment when the top calf ropers in the world ride up to you and ask what you think of their runs, what they could have done differently, how they could have ridden their horses differently,” she says.
Top ropers not only respect Jackie’s opinion of their runs, but also the work she does on horses. NFR qualifiers—including veterans such as Stran Smith and seven-time all-around world champion Trevor Brazile ride horses Jackie and Lari Dee have trained. Smith owns one of Jackie’s favorite horses, Smokin San Peponchex, known in roping circles as “Boomer.”
The only trait that rivals Jackie’s talent with horses is her compassion for animals. She constantly takes in strays and isn’t found anywhere without a few animals following her around. Even as a calf roper she is almost too soft-hearted. If a calf is “too cute,” she refuses to tie it down. That same depth of compassion extends to the people around her, and this is particularly evident in her willingness to help others.
Although she rodeos full time and rides at least five horses a day, Jackie devotes a great deal of effort to the roping clinics she and Lari Dee hold around the United States and abroad. The schools have taken the two as far as Sweden and Australia, and students include ropers of all ages.
“It can be challenging trying to figure out different ways to explain things,” Jackie says. “Everyone interprets things differently. It forces me to think outside the box. It’s so rewarding to see kids grow and then, before long, start winning and having them tell me I was a part of that.”
JACKIE NEVER TIRES OF ROPING and riding. To stay fresh and focused, she relies on motivational quotes. One of her favorite quotes, spoken by legendary Australian horseman Ian Francis, is “Live your life as an exclamation, not an explanation.” The quote was the inspiration for her livestock brand—an exclamation point.
The quote is quite fitting for someone like Jackie, who rose from humble beginnings and through hard work is making her dream job a reality. She pursues her passion each day, no matter what else may be going on, and she shares that desire with others who aspire to live and rope with the same exuberance. She has also become a role model for young women, showing that they can be feminine and still be gritty, competitive cowgirls.
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