Wildfire Ladies Open Champs Haul Home $25,000

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Audra Lujan and Shannon Pope struck it rich at their first-ever Wildfire Ladies Open after roping four steers in 45.98 seconds. Pretty in their Tough Enough to Wear Pink Wrangler Shirts, they stuffed their hand-tooled Double J Saddlery purses with $25,000 in $100 bills. They also rode off into the sunset in the same silver-studded black parade saddles by Cactus Saddlery and Montana Silversmiths that the Open and Sponsor winners skipped town with.

"We rope together once a year, at the rodeo in Hayden, N.M.," said Lujan, who lives in Hereford, Texas, with her husband, Lloyd, and sons, Chance, 13, and Cress Levi, 9. "It's an 'up and back' team roping, so if you catch your first steer, you have to switch ends and rope another one. Fastest time on two wins."

Lujan rode a bay horse she borrowed from neighbor and 1996 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association World Champion Steve "Cheese" Purcella by the name of Skid Mark. Pope, who along with her husband, Casey, and 11-year-old son, Chase, calls Amistad, N.M. home, was aboard her beloved palomino gelding Super Model.

"When we bought him, he was really poor, with no chest and a long, skinny neck," recalled Pope, who less a leg on the second steer was perfect on the back side. "My husband said he looked like a runway model."

The Sixth Annual Ladies Open, which was again presented by Bloomer Trailers and sponsored by Wrangler, was go three times and featured a record $25,000 in added money. The 220-team richest all-girl roping in the world was contested over a 11' 6" score, using USTRC rules. In addition to the loot, champs Lujan and Pope also received hand-crafted Montana Silversmiths Buckles and Black Gold Resistol Hats.

Lujan and Pope are wives, moms and working women. Lujan is a kindergarten teacher, and she's gone back to college to get a master's degree that will allow her to become an educational diagnostician who handles special-ed testing. Pope works at a corn farm called Mason Farms.

"This is our first time to come to this roping, and this is awesome," Lujan said. "You just don't see girl ropings like this one."

"I think we'll be back," Pope laughed. "A lot of this will go back into entry fees and entering more ropings. They do a really, really, really good job with this roping, and they were nice enough to let us rope in front of the crowd with the open ropers in the short round. I'm absolutely thrilled. It won't soak in until Audra has to listen to me all the way home-while she's driving and I'm sitting on my saddle in the passenger's seat."