Meet the Rodeo Company Rockin’ K Rodeo
story by Siri Stevens Tony Keeton started his company, Rockin’ K Rodeo in 2017. It’s not his only full time job. Tony has worked for […]
story by Michele Toberer
Defending IPRA World Champion Breakaway Roper, Brianna Dunbar, is looking forward to competing at her seventh International Finals Rodeo this January. Although this season has been riddled with challenges, including an injury to her horse in shining armor at the beginning of the season, she is hopeful that she can continue to finish the year off strong and leave Oklahoma City with a second, consecutive world title at the end of it all. “Last year was a fairy tale year for me. My horse, Ringo, was named the IPRA Breakaway Horse of the Year, and I won the 2017 World Champion Breakaway title. This year has had its challenges, and I’m just grateful to have made it back to the spot I’m in. I’m going in to the finals in 2nd place position, and I have a chance.”
Brianna has competed in the IPRA since breakaway roping was added to the event list 8 years ago and has qualified for the finals each season but one. Breakaway roping has been her main event from the beginning, when her dad, Mike Dunbar, began laying the foundation of roping skills down for Brianna and her older brother Cody. Mike, who works for the State of New York, Department of Transportation, is a longtime calf roper. “My dad has rodeoed since he was a kid, so my brother and I just grew into it. My mom, Laurie, doesn’t ride but is our dedicated videographer and is at every rodeo to support us.” Cody, 27, is a heeler, and Mike has begun heading in recent years, so they sometimes team rope together. The three Dunbars are often entered at the same IPRA rodeos and enjoy time competing alongside each other as a family. Brianna’s competitive career began early, and at just 12 years old she was the American Professional Rodeo Association Rookie of the Year, on a sorrel mare named Holly that was trained by her dad. “I was actually able to do any event on her that I wanted and be really competitive, which is so special.”
Working up the ranks, Brianna competed in the New York High School Rodeo Association, qualifying for national finals each year before graduating from Hudson Falls High School. She then went to Southeastern Oklahoma State University, where she competed on the college rodeo team while studying business management. Her sophomore year, 2015, Brianna found Ringo in northern Oklahoma, “He had 1,000 tiny little quirks; he hated to be shod, set back, and was an annoying little bay horse. But slowly I got with him, and last year we finally clicked, so it was a really strong year for both of us.” After changing her major to nursing and finishing another year of college in Oklahoma, Brianna came back to New York, where she attends nursing school at Suny Adirondacks College and will graduate as an R.N. in December 2019.
The 2018 season started out promising, however after Ringo popped his hock out, a three-month recovery was a discouraging twist to their tale. “By July I hadn’t won much and was so discouraged, thinking I wouldn’t even make the finals, but Ringo and I got going again and although we didn’t start strong, we are finishing stronger, thank God.” Brianna credits lessons learned from Lari Dee Guy about staying mentally strong, for helping her turn things around this season, as well as the support of her family, and boyfriend Tyler Waltz. “Tyler is an IPRA bareback rider and he has been wonderfully supportive to me this year as we have traveled to all of the rodeos. He’s going into IFR 49 with a really strong lead and should win his first World Champion title this year.”
Brianna hopes that she and Tyler will both be leaving with world titles this season but is already looking forward to next year. “I have a new sorrel horse, Slinger, that I would like to get going well, and I’d like to have a final year with Ringo before I retire him after next season. I’d really like to have a Rockstar year in 2019.”
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