story by BreAnne Benson Muldrow, Oklahoma, is home to the talented cowgirl, Hazlee Mckenzie. The 16-year-old junior is a standout member of the Oklahoma High […]
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Meet the Member Jesse Hopper
story by Lindsay King
Now the two-time state bull riding champion in the OHSRA (and in the Tri-State High School Rodeo Association), Jesse Hopper confidently bought his PRCA permit this summer. This Mangum, Oklahoma, bull rider entered some of his first professional rodeos while he was preparing for his second and final high school nationals. Jesse kept up his hot streak throughout the year on his way to the state title but also recognizes he had a lot of tough competition that made him truly work for it. “I didn’t end up having the best state finals, but I still managed to hang on to the number one spot,” said the 19-year-old. Two of the three bulls at state got the best of Jesse, but he didn’t let that get to him. Jesse managed to make the short round at nationals and finished 20th when it was all said and done.
Following in the footsteps of both his dad Doyle and 21-year-old sister August, Jesse has been a bull rider from day one. “At one time I was going to try and rope, but I am left handed so that is about where that started and ended,” he said with a good-natured chuckle. “I have always liked the challenge of riding bulls.” After realizing his bull rope was too small for the full-sized animals, Jesse had to borrow a rope when he climbed on the big guns for the first time. “I fell off, but I have always liked the challenge of riding a bull and it’s fun to me.” Jesse grew up watching his dad rope and ride but also watched the professionals from the comfort of the family living room. “I said that’s what I wanted to do so my parents got me started on sheep and I have been going ever since.”
Rodeo is a family and community sport for the Hoppers. “My dad helps me out the most because he owns all the practice bulls and he can help correct my flaws.” His older sister is always there to pull his bull rope while his younger sister September, 16, is the official videographer. “They are a pretty supportive little bunch. My mom (Lisa) comes to watch me practice but she also volunteers at the medical tent at rodeos because she is a registered nurse.” The oldest Hopper sibling – Kenny, 25 – is more of a ball sport fan but still supports his brother from afar.
The recent Mangum High School graduate is working in construction while attending as many PRCA rodeos as he can. “I will miss all my high school rodeo friends that are younger than me because I won’t get to see them every weekend anymore. I will also miss all the stock contractors and bull fighters.” He is thankful for the high-quality stock the OHSRA provided this year. “The high school bulls were all really good; the boys from Oklahoma should have a really competitive edge on the bulls at nationals.” Jesse just takes it one bull at a time and said the best part of a ride is stepping off on his feet after a good one.
With his sights set on making this year’s circuit finals, Jesse draws on vast experience on stages of all sizes. “When we lived in Texas, I came into the tri-state finals trailing by 30 points with only 40 points on the line the whole weekend.” Getting bucked off his first bull didn’t make the task any easier as he still needed 28 points of the 30 available. “I needed to win the next two rounds to win the year-end, but somehow I did it.” This was back when Jesse was a freshman. He’s also made the YBR finals for the past six years, but he’s eager to take it one step further. “I think I got eighth at Garden City, but I have won a few checks at PRCA rodeos so far. I am shooting to win rookie of the year in 2020.”