On The Trail with Jayco Roper
Written by: Michele Toberer< Back to Articles
When your grandma is Betty Roper, the winningest barrel racer in the International Professional Rodeo Association, the announcer often mentions her when introducing you to the crowds. Jayco Roper has grown accustomed to hearing the announcers rave about his grandma and her six world titles as he is getting things just right in the chutes before they break open the latch for his bareback horse to bolt into the arena. Especially when Jayco is at an IPRA or IFYR rodeo, where the Roper name has a longstanding history. Jayco has competed at the International Finals Youth Rodeo for the past two years and is looking forward to going this July for his third attempt at winning it all. “I’m ready to make a big appearance this year, so they can remember my name.”
As with many fourth-generation Oklahoma cowboys, rodeo surrounds Jayco on all sides, and with multiple family members traveling rodeo roads both currently as well as the past, rodeo is as much a part of the milestones in life as learning to walk. Jayco and his sisters, Jaylie, 23, and Jernie, 8, have had plenty of examples set before them, as their dad, J.W. competed as a team roper for many years, and besides their grandma Betty’s successful barrel racing and horse training career, their grandpa Jimmy Roper was a well-known and accomplished steer wrestler. Betty and Jimmy grew up with rodeoing parents, and, Jayco’s mom, Nikki, had grandparents that rodeoed back in their day as well. “I’ve lived in the rodeo environment my whole life, and both my sisters are hardcore barrel racers. Jaylie competed at the IFYR in barrel racing when she was younger and has trained some great barrel horses; and Jernie lives, eats, and breathes barrel racing.”
At just 17, the Epic Charter School, homeschooled high school senior started his rodeo career riding sheep at 3 years old and stepped up the rough stock ladder to calves, steers, and mini broncs when he was 6 years old. Although he comes from a family of mainly timed-event competitors, Jayco had a passion for rough stock from the very beginning at the Ward Rodeo Company rodeos he would compete at. Jayco’s first year in the Oklahoma Junior High Rodeo Association led him to a national title as a seventh grader, when he left the NJHSFR in Des Moines, Iowa as the 2015 National Champion Bareback Steer Rider. Leading up to that, he had won the Oklahoma bareback steer champion title and champion rookie cowboy title. Jayco placed 4th in 2016 at the NJHSFR. He stepped up to bareback horses when he was about 14, and soon he was riding with all the big boys on full size broncs. Jayco won the 2017 Oklahoma High School Rodeo Association Champion Bareback Rider title his freshman year.
Learning the bronc riding ropes has been easier with the help of neighbor Justin McDaniel. Justin competed in the IFYR in 2003 and 2004, winning the all-around championship in 2004 after topping the earnings board with money earned in both bareback and bull riding. He was inducted into the IFYR Hall Of Fame in 2014. “Justin has been a huge help to me over the years. He lives about 25 minutes away from our place in South Muscogee and he comes over to help me alot. He is always there to help fix my rigging and give me advice; I really look up to him. And, I never ride a horse without praying to God first.”
Jayco keeps up a very busy schedule, competing in the American Cowboys Rodeo Association, Cowboys Regional Rodeo Association, and the All Indian Rodeo Cowboys Association. “My dad is my big-time manager; he takes care of everything. He schedules what rodeos I’m entering, and I hop and don’t ask too many questions. I take what I do very seriously and work hard to step-up my game to ride with the big guys at these associations.” Jayco spends much of his time practicing on his spur board, preparing for rodeos, and goes to the gym at least three times each week. “I like to run and do a lot of core work and powerlifting at the gym.” He does make some time for fly fishing occasionally and enjoys going fishing for trout with his bulldogger friend, Shylo Glover.
Jayco’s dad works for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, and his mom works as a schoolteacher at the Oklahoma School for the Blind. J.W. is happy to be a big part of Jayco’s rodeo aspirations, and enjoys the time they spend on the roads, knowing that the next transition is already beginning; and that is Jayco hauling with other rodeo competitors to rodeos. Currently, Jayco is starting to travel with his calf roper friend, Glenn Jackson to some of the local rodeos. This transition will let J.W. naturally progress into focusing his energies towards his ball of fire youngest, as she makes her way through the rodeo ranks as a star barrel racer.
J.W.’s mom, Betty, lives next door to the family and at 70 years old, is still riding every day. “Grandma Betty is still healthy and gets around like a 40-year-old. She’s never sitting down unless they’re eating lunch.” Betty has helped both granddaughters with their barrel racing and imparted much of her training knowledge on the girls as they work with her. “Jayco hasn’t slacked up at all since he started riding, it has been non-stop. Jernie is riding a chestnut gelding named Cantina that my mom started, and she is rearing to go. She’s already been winning at some junior rodeo associations, and once I get Jayco going on his way, it’s about time for me to focus on her rodeo career,” explained J.W.
Getting ready for the IFYR competition is building anticipation in the Roper household. “IFYR is the next big thing. It’s a great competition where you can win a lot of money and our family has a lot of history with both the IPRA and IFYR. Sometimes I joke with my grandma that I wish she wouldn’t be the center of attention all the time when I’m there. But really, I think it’s cool, and I want to keep working towards my goals to be one of the great ones. I’d like to win as many world champion titles as she has so that one day, they may be talking about me when my grandson is getting ready in the chutes.”
Jayco appreciates his sponsor, Up North Outlaws, for keeping him looking great with their clothing line.