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Meet the Member Sawyer Gilbert
story by Siri Stevens
17-year-old Sawyer Gilbert left 150 first calf heifers at home in Buffalo, South Dakota, to go to the Junior American at Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas. She made the 13.5 hour trip with her dad, Lloyd, and her horse Roger and a backup horse, Big Enough. “I just tried to keep a level head and not expect to win or lose,” she said of her mental game. “Practice like you’ve never won and perform like you’ve never lost.” she said. She knew there was going to be tough competition amongst the 480 girls entered.
Her efforts paid off as she won second at the Junior American, which increased her bank account by around $5,000. Sawyer qualified for the Junior American at Chris Neals Rising Stars in Las Vegas and also at her place in Buffalo, South Dakota, where her family produces a breakaway roping once a year. She qualified for the open American in Bowman, North Dakota, and Arthur, Nebraska.
“We couldn’t do this without my dad’s parents, (Linda and Ray Gilbert) who live four miles away – they never get to go to any of the rodeos, they are here taking care of the place,” she said. “We have an indoor barn and an outdoor pen. We rope all the time – like today, when we’re waiting for cows to calve, we rope. My dad knows it’s important to me, so we do it.”
She has been roping since she was 6 and won South Dakota Junior High Rodeo Breakaway in 2016, went on to Nationals and won that as well. She won the state championship breakaway her freshman and sophomore years too. Her main mount is an 11-year-old paint named Roger, a horse she’s had since sixth grade. “He’s been everywhere – he’s an amazing personality. He knows exactly what he wants. We bought him when he was just broke, and he is my main rodeo horse. ” She runs cross country in the fall.
She has a younger brother, Grey (14), who is her team roping partner. He made Nationals in chute dogging, ribbon roping, team roping, and tie down roping. Along with team roping and breakaway roping, Sawyer competes in goat tying and cutting. “I’m home schooled so when I’m not roping, I help my family ranch.” Her mom, Patty, is a general PA and her work is an hour and 45 minutes away. Her role in the rodeo is her background in sports medicine and allergies.
“I concentrate on the health – the sleep and diet. We work on exercise programs – stretching and flexibility. We research nutrients for both the horses and human since it’s such a team effort. I do the paperwork, organizing. My role is more of the background.” Grey had state wrestling for the weekend of the American, so Patty and Grey flew down after that to join Lloyd and Sawyer. “When you see your kid’s face light up, that’s payment enough for all the hard work.”
Patty grew up ranching, Lloyd rodeoed through growing up and continued amateur, going to college on a rodeo scholarship and joining PRCA as a steer wrestler. Once Sawyer was born, he stayed close to home and focused his attention on his family.
“It’s definitely a group commitment to practice and ranch – we get up at 4 in the summer to practice and then work all day.”
Her plans for the future include college to college rodeo. “I know I want horses in my life, and that be the center so I’m not sure what I want to do. I’m a junior and I have time to figure it out.”
“How truly blessed I am that my family allows me to do this – they don’t have to haul me when they are so busy at home. I also want to thank my grandparents for taking care of the ranch.”