“Nod. Swing. Throw.”
Watch stops, rodeo announcer excitedly broadcasts: “1.9-seconds moves Hannah Hughes into the lead in breakaway roping.”
Three steps required to be one of the very best cowgirl ropers in the country seems simple to a reader.
Spectators in the rodeo bleachers who blinked at the wrong second may have even missed the truly remarkable feat.
“It takes lots of practice, a great horse and everything has to be right to get that time,” Hannah admitted.
However, the Fort Scott, Kansas, cowgirl has stopped the clock on several different occasions at such breakneck speed.
“Obviously, not near all runs are like that,” the 20-year-old college student insisted. “Still hearing the crowd’s applause and taking home a winning check are always nice.
“I’ve been successful competing in several rodeo events since I was five-years-old, but I like roping best,” she said.
Nodding for the calf simultaneously as mount lunges after, one rope swing and throwing a catch loop requires precision. “Your horse is essential to get a fast time, and my 21-year-old sorrel mare Effie does her part,” Hannah appreciated.
Majoring in ag business and equine management, Hannah is a sophomore at Northeastern Oklahoma (NEO) A&M College in Miami, Oklahoma.
“I have a scholarship to be on the rodeo team at National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) competitions,” she said. “That helps with the cost of my education while giving me the opportunity to be in the college rodeos.”
Although the coronavirus has reduced her college competition this year, Hannah has done well in jackpots and several other associations. She won 19-and-under breakaway competition at Roy Cooper’s Junior Roping Championship during July.
Finals qualifications include Mike Johnson Junior World Championship, Tuf Cooper Junior World Championship, United Rodeo Association and American Cowboys Rodeo Association.
“My rodeo coach Kolby Ungeheuer has helped fine tune my roping in the jackpots and team workouts,” Hannah appreciated.
An honor student, Hannah is the only child of Rod and Donna Hughes. “My parents both competed successfully in professional rodeo and are my best coaches and biggest supporters,” she added.
Rod is in the steel building construction business and Donna is an accountant. “Mom doesn’t compete any more, but Dad continues to team rope at jackpots,” Hannah noted.
Starting out riding her Mom’s bay winning barrel horse Minnie, Hannah credited, “She was a great baby sitter.”
Competing in barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying and breakaway roping, Hannah won her first trophy saddle as a 12-year-old. “That was in the Christian Youth Rodeo Association and still one of my proudest times,” she smiled.
Moving on, Hannah rode in the Kansas Junior High Rodeo Association and then the Kansas High School Rodeo Association.
“I was just out of the top qualifiers several years, but then finally won the state breakaway,” she related. “At the National High School Rodeo Finals, I placed in every round and ended up fourth in the average.”
Continuing to compete in goat tying and barrel racing as a college freshman, Hannah now concentrates on perfecting breakaway roping.
“Effie is a solid horse for me especially coming out of the box,” the cowgirl reiterated. “I have a seven-year-old sorrel gelding called Ziggy as a backup horse. He’s continuing to get better as I rope on him for practice and at jackpots.”
Practice helps make perfect, according to the one who knows. “I rope the dummy for 15 to 20 minutes every day. Then I rope live cattle at least two or three times a week,” Hannah said.
“Do you ever miss?” was the loaded question that brought a hesitated reply. “I sure don’t ever want to. There’s no reward if I don’t rope the calf,” Hannah declared.
“My horses have been working better since I’ve been using BE Saddle Pads,” Hannah said. “The BE pads create a more correct fit for my saddle so my horse has a more positive response.
“Bill and Jana Barcus of Paola, owners of BE Saddle Pads, are one of my rodeo sponsors. I really appreciate all they do for me,” Hannah pointed out.
“I also want to thank Total Equine as another of my sponsors,” she added. “They have made my horses look great and perform to the best of their abilities.”
Upon graduating from NEO this coming spring, Hannah is undetermined about her direction.
“I’m considering Oklahoma State University or possibly somewhere in Texas. I want to take advantage of the best scholarship opportunities for both my education and college rodeo,” she affirmed.
Likewise uncertain about her career plans, Hannah said, “I’m interested in equine rehabilitation such as swimming horses. I might complete my degree in that direction.”
Whatever she does, rodeo will be included in her lifestyle. “I mess around heading some, will possibly do more of that, probably barrel race again along with breakaway,” Hannah commented.