Four years ago, Stephanie Colli of Hamiota suffered a rodeo accident while competing in Alberta. She injured her neck and shoulder, resulting in the paralysis of some of the muscles in her back and right shoulder.
Against all odds, the 28-year-old has battled back.
Coming off a stellar 2018 season of Heartland Rodeo Association (HRA) action, with split-second times, Colli drove away from Grunthal in September with an abundance of prestige and hardware, and the right to compete at Las Vegas, Nevada in December.
“Based on results achieved at 11 rodeos, I secured my spot as Breakaway Roping Season Leader, and combined with the points won in team roping, secured my position as High Point Cowgirl for 2018,” Colli said. “I was first in the Saturday performance at the Finals, roping in a time of 2.4 seconds — the fastest time of the weekend, and 3.4 on Sunday to finish first overall and winning the Breakaway Finals Champion Buckle.”
Colli achieved all this despite being told by University of Calgary specialists the damage caused by her injuries was irreversible and she would never rope again. But with a lot of determination and an amazing team of health professionals the impossible has become possible, although she’ll have a lifetime of chronic pain.
Uplifted by the slogan “Just Rope,” which the Colli sisters — Stephanie and twin sister Chantel — live by on the HRA trail across Manitoba, it is basically code for “don’t overthink it, take your best shot, and you’ve got this.”
With years of experience, the Colli sisters are among the Manitoba High School Rodeo Association alumnae now competing at various levels of rodeo, and the amateur to semi-pro level of the HRA sees action at events within Manitoba for youth to adults.
Both Colli sisters settle in the saddle cinched to the back of Spiderman — one outstanding rodeo steed. The 12-year-old grade quarter-horse gelding bred by Kevin and Julie Bridgeman of Binscarth, won six of the 11 regular season HRA rodeos. Spiderman’s fame was as big in 2018 as it was a year ago when he had the highest number of points earned by a breakaway horse in HRA history, claiming the Breakaway Horse of the Year status once again.
Stephanie Colli will be competing in Las Vegas in breakaway roping. It’s similar to calf roping in the male domain, except riders don’t dismount, and the rope has to come off the saddle horn to mark an official run and time.
“Over the past year, there has been a big movement to bring breakaway roping back into the spotlight in professional rodeo,” said Colli. “It was announced that the event would be recognized in more associations in the near future. Part of that movement was the creation of the Rope for the Crown event being held at The Plaza on Dec. 8.”
Honoured to represent her rodeo association, her community, her province and her country, Colli will be one of two Canadians among the top 60 breakaway ropers in the world. Competing over three long go’s and a short one, results will crown the World Champion — Queen of Breakaway Roping.
“I have worked hard to get to where I am today in the sport, but I still have a lot of fundamentals to work on, as the competition down south will be steep and the calibre of ropers outstanding,” said Colli, who is hoping to find sponsors to offset travel, accommodation and entry fee expenses.
Breakaway roping has females roping as fast as 1.5 to 2.0 seconds with no room for error. The timed event is about detail, luck of the draw, and the day itself, as one one-hundredth of a second could mean the difference between securing some prize money or not.
“Rodeo is my life, it has taught me to work hard and stay humble. Through rodeo I have met many lifelong friends and mentors,” said Colli. “I strive every day to be a better person and competitor than I was the day before. I have learned that there are a lot of days that will not be easy, that will not go as planned, and that will test me, but I have also learned to persevere, stay dedicated, and never say never despite the odds.”