Meet the Member Karlene Gonzales
story by Julie Carter Karlene Gonzales left the 2022 NMRA Finals with an armload of buckles and awards that were the fruits of a rodeo […]
story by Lindsay King
Born and raised by natives of New Jersey, Rob Frassanito didn’t have rodeo in his blood from day one. Despite this, the sport crept into his heart just the same. He said he is simply a product of his environment. “I was born and raised in New Mexico. My friends were into rodeo in high school, so I learned how to swing a rope,” said the Cave Creek, Arizona, resident. Attending New Mexico State University allowed Rob to perfect his loop on the front lawn of his fraternity, Alpha Gamma Rho. After graduation, Rob served a short stint in the Army, but once he was out his focus was on getting a rodeo horse.
“I started out in the bull dogging. I didn’t have to own a horse and I loved it. But as more bones started breaking, I got into the calf roping.” Blessed by generous friends, Rob found himself riding several different solid calf horses in the years that followed. Not all were suited for him, but they taught him lessons just the same. “Dick Aronson got me my first horse. He almost killed me, but then I got some better horses after that.” The horse that took Rob to the next level came from his friend Cody Hurt. “So many people have helped me over the years, that’s what I love about rodeo.” Anybody throwing a loop in close proximity to Rob has been peppered with questions. Even today Rob never passes up the opportunity get a tip or two from other competitors.
The list running through Rob’s mind when he’s backing into the box is never ending: get to the front of the saddle, keep your eyes on the target, swing over the calf’s back. Rob loves everything about calf roping, even all the items running through his head at warp speed. “I love the technique it takes and the adrenaline rush I get from it. I like that it’s a combination of a timed event and that I don’t have to stay on my horse. I don’t ride very well, so I have to get off at some point.” For Rob, much like other rodeo athletes, the sport is all in his head. The good and the bad. “I fight my head a lot and I probably wouldn’t so much if I had more time to practice.”
As a pharmaceutical salesman, Rob covers a large territory. He’s responsible for dermatologist offices from El Paso, Texas to Las Vegas throughout Arizona and New Mexico. He spends a lot of time on the road, but not for the rodeo trail. Not only does Rob lose out on calf roping practice, but he is also away from his family. “Watching my kids accomplish their goals makes me happy.” Megan, 20, is a junior at Arizona State University while Robby, 18, is a senior in high school. Neither have been bitten by the rodeo bug quite as hard as their dad, but both can rope the dummy and ride but have never put the two together. “My son is just now starting to show a little more interest in roping, so we’ve been practicing on the dummy in the yard. Both of my kids are soccer players.” When Rob is on the road for work, his wife, Marta, not only keeps the home firing burning she also cares for the calf horses.
Despite living in Arizona, Rob continues to rodeo in his home state through the NMRA. “It’s about a four-hour drive to the border and then most rodeos are in the central part of the state so they are all pretty easy to get to. Getting out of Arizona in the summer is always nice.” As an incentive roper, Rob usually gets to enter up twice. He warned that the incentive roping isn’t for the weak of heart. As the four-time world champion in the Armed Forces Rodeo Association, it’s clear Rob has some grit between his teeth. He’s surrounded by the best of the best, both young and old. “I am competing against people I grew up with or have known for years. It’s always like a mini reunion when I go to a NMRA event. It’s a good association filled with good people.”
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