By: Kendra Santos
The sky seems to be the limit for the future of breakaway roping, and 16-year-old Jordi Edens’ $53,200 score at the 2019 Komatsu Equipment Days of ’47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo presented by Zions Bank in Salt Lake City is the latest, greatest example. The $1,125,000 rodeo, which crowned its champions on July 24 with Olympic-style medals and cash-cow paychecks, actually added breakaway roping for the first time this year.
The World Champions Rodeo Alliance, which in the final analysis will be recognized as the pioneer of adding breakaway roping to the mainstream rodeo mix, stepped up and funded equal money for the Days of ’47 breakaway ropers by cutting a $125,000 check from the WCRA coffers to make it happen. That, ladies and gentlemen, is by definition putting your money where your mouth is.
Edens of Gatesville, Texas, reaped the biggest benefit, after beating a bunch of her heroes, including 18-time Women’s Professional Rodeo Association World Champion Jackie Crawford, who finished a close second for the silver medal with her 2.76-second run to Edens’ 2.58.
“This is definitely the biggest day of my life,” Edens said just after taking center stage for the arena-side medal ceremony in front of the sold-out, capacity crowd in Salt Lake. “I’ve never roped for anything like this before. This is the best time ever for breakaway ropers, and for a 16-year-old kid to win $50,000 is unheard of.”
Edens, who lives with her parents, Tommy and Lori, about 30 miles west of Waco, won reserve National High School Rodeo Association national championships in both 2017 and ’19. Jordi caught the roping bug from her dad, who’s been right there for all of her milestones, from when she took her very first steps as a toddler to picking up a rope for the first time.
If the name Tommy Edens rings a bell, it might be because you watched him rope with Coby Jones at the 2007 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Tommy’s also the guy who rode ProRodeo Hall of Famer Jake Barnes’ great grey horse Barney before Barnes bought his dream ride from Squeaky Terrell. To this day, Tommy wears the buckle he won riding Barney and heading for Jones at the 2002 California Rodeo in Salinas. The only thing bigger than Barney’s right knee was his heart.
But it was a flashback from a different win—when Tommy won RodeoHouston heading for Cody Doescher in 2011—that came in handiest when the Edens family got to Days of ’47.
“When we saw that I was the very first breakaway roper of the whole rodeo, my dad made a joke about it,” Jordi smiled. “He and Cody were the very first team out at Houston when they won it, and he told me I could do the same thing. It was kind of fun, because I wear his Houston buckle all the time. I wear the proof that it’s possible every day.”
No one can say with certainty that they saw today’s breakaway roping boom coming. But there sure has been a lot of hoping—and answered prayers. The Edens family is a prime example. Jordi, who will turn 17 next week on August 13 and will be a high school senior at White Horse Christian Academy in Stephenville, Texas, this fall, has been building on her breakaway roping game for years.
“When I practice at home, it’s usually me and my mom and dad,” Jordi said. “I go to a private school in Stephenville, and during the school year I stay a few days a week with Jackie and Charly (Crawford, Jackie’s nine-time NFR header husband) at their place in Stephenville, which my dad built. So that’s like my second home, and Jackie and I practice together all the time.
“I’ve always wanted to win with Jackie. She’s a badass, of course, but she’s also a good person all around, and I look up to that. We always joke around when we practice. She teases me about how lucky I am to be younger, and I tell her she’s crazy, because she can outrope me any day of the week. My dad got me started, then Jackie was one of the first people he took me to for more help. We’ve always been good family friends, so what happened in Salt Lake was extra cool for me. Jackie’s like a second mom to me in a way.”
Edens rode her main mount Honey, 11, for the win. Who trained Honey? You guessed it.
“We bought Honey from Jackie after she trained her,” Jordi said. “We got her right before my freshman year, and we bought her as a backup for my good dun horse, Buckshot. He tore his superficial flexor tendon right before nationals my freshman year, so I pulled Honey out of the pen and rode her there. I’ve ridden her ever since.
“Honey’s fast, she breaks hard, she’s very smart and she watches everything. I’m her person and she’s my horse. I love riding her. She knows every move I make, and I love everything about her.”
Jordi practices three or four nights a week before they head out virtually every Thursday or Friday for a weekend of rodeo roping. In addition to the NHSRA—Jordi will head for fellow female roping phenom Riley Smith from South Texas at the high school rodeos this year—Edens also competes at a lot of Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association and United Professional Rodeo Association events. And she’s a team roper, barrel racer, pole bender and goat tyer in the various organizations, too.
“I think I was 11th in the (Virtual Rodeo Qualifier) points, and they took the top 28 in points to the perfs,” Jordi said. “It’s so easy to nominate events, and to win that amount of money it’s kind of crazy not to give yourself a chance at it.
“Besides the $50,000 for winning the medal round, I also won $3,200 for winning my set at Salt Lake. My biggest check before this was maybe $5,000. We put the money into my college fund, so it’ll help pay for me to go to college. I’m looking into Texas A&M. I’d really love to graduate from there. I try to take school pretty seriously, because I want to always know I have a way to support myself.”
She also takes her fitness seriously, and has a personal trainer who pushes her through her paces.
“We focus on getting strength in my arms, and she’s hard on me sometimes,” Jordi said. “I work out three or four mornings a week, and she has me do everything from flip tires to run on the treadmill, drills and use a medicine ball. I’ve noticed a huge difference in my roping from getting stronger. I have more power and range when I rope now.”
She needed the extra stamina to get through the week of her big win, as she was back and forth between the National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyoming, and Days of ’47 in Salt Lake City. And yes, it did feel great to get this big, fat W after coming oh so close as the reserve national high school champ her freshman and junior years.
“I told my mom and dad before we went to nationals this year that all I wanted was to be on that Cinch trailer with the other national champions,” Jordi said. “I roped my first calf at nationals on Sunday, July 14. I roped my first calf at Salt Lake on Friday, July 19. Then it was back to nationals, to rope my second calf on Saturday, July 20, before roping again that night in the short round. A few days later, I was roping on Wednesday in the medal round at Days of ’47. It felt good to win Salt Lake in that same week.
“It still feels surreal to me that I won Salt Lake. I knew it was a big deal going into it, and I loved the big production and the adrenaline rush that comes with that. I like pressure, because it gets me pumped up. I like big atmospheres, and Salt Lake definitely had that.”
The WCRA has been bold about its inclusion of breakaway roping at every WCRA event. This has not been done at the expense of contestants in the other events by dividing the existing pie by an additional slice, but rather by adding the additional, new money it takes to bring equal money to breakaway roping. In fact, the WCRA has paid breakaway ropers well over $457,000 in the past 10 months.
“The WCRA has opened so many doors, and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Edens said. “I love rodeoing. It’s what I want to do, and I want to be very successful at it. It’s a goal of mine to be very well respected in rodeo and as a human. I want to do good and be a good person. I’m just so excited about the way things are going.”