story by Lindsay Humphrey Life for 17-year-old Konner Bickerstaff has been consumed by two things: soccer and rodeo. Rodeo came first, but she’s been competing […]
Association MemberJoin Rodeo News
Meet the Member Abbey Middleton
story by Lindsay King
“I named my rope horse Lester Don, after my grandpa on my dad’s side. I never got to meet him, but I know we would have been best friends and he would have been at every rodeo. He would’ve been the only one in the world that would appreciate that horse as much as I do,” said Abbey Middleton in what could easily be mistaken for a southern accent. But, instead, she’s the soft-spoken kind of cowgirl with the can-do attitude of an ant at a picnic. That’s why she ropes with the best of them after only a handful of years behind the wheel. That is also why she endured a year-long dry spell and came out the other end to continue competing today. The 17-year-old from Yukon, Oklahoma, didn’t grow up in rodeo. In fact, her family just had horses at the house until one day they became a whole lot more.
“We had a couple ranch horses and I just started roping on them one day. I was running barrels and poles in the junior rodeo associations when I was about 14. That was my first year of rodeo.” After trailing some roping dummies, Abbey got help from Doug Clark. He revolutionized her horsemanship and the results were tenfold for her roping. Though as soon as she threw her first loop, it was a love affair for the ages. “The first time I got a calf at a rodeo, I remember feeling the rope snap off my saddle horn. Both my parents were going crazy. I remember thinking ‘this was pretty, I could get used to it.’” It was at that moment Abbey caught the bug to chase the “winning feeling.”
This was the mentality she carried through the year-long slump, as calf after calf dodged her loop. “I had only been roping for about a year. It was really tough because I knew I was still a beginner and I had not been in enough roping situations to know I had seen it all. I just wouldn’t let myself give up.” The pivotal moment in Abbey’s slump was at a Tuttle open rodeo when she decided her calf wouldn’t escape her rope. “After that, I knew I could do anything. I had gone that long without catching a calf and never gave up.”
Though she competes in barrels, poles, ribbons and heading, it’s easy to see breakaway roping is Abbey’s favorite. “You are essentially competing against yourself. You have one calf and your goal is to rope it, no matter what. There are so many variables that come into play, they make it tricky to keep everything the same for each run.” The OKHSRA competitor got something figured out though, as she made the short round for the Roy Cooper Jr. Calf Roping last year. “It was the first short round I had made it to after I caught all three calves in a row. I was tenth high call back. I was pretty proud of myself for that.” It was comparable to the first time Abbey won a saddle for barrel racing in the HOYRA in 2016.
The tenacious daughter of Roy and Lynette, and sister to Parker, 20, is in her senior year at El Reno High School. Rodeo is her life, but she also finds time to judge milk products and quality with her FFA chapter. Once again, being a pathfinder. “It is a different event, but it is fun.” She jokes that she has learned a lot about cheese through the competitions. “We are out of our comfort zone for sure. We were the first team from El Reno to compete in it, ever. We didn’t really know what we were getting into, but we ended up state runner up last year.”