On The Trail with Justene Hirsig

by Siri Stevens

Justene Hirsig from Cheyenne, Wyoming, turned 21 a year ago, and it’s been a great year for her. She won The Wrangler Team Roping Championships All Girl roping with Jimmi Jo Montera as well as second with Lee Sherwood. “I was first, second, and third high call,” she said. She also took third place in the Central Rocky Mountain Region with her partner, Denton Shaw, and is currently sitting ninth in the nation in the college standings and the only woman in the top ten.

She started roping when she was in eighth grade. “My dad (Tom) let us start chasing calves around the arena when he was still tripping steers. My sister (Jordan) and I started when I was about 8 – that lasted for a summer, but I didn’t get into it until later. I didn’t like it too much – I played basketball.” Justene played point guard and several other positions during her time on the court. “That was my first love.” She did both rodeo and basketball, and was leaning more towards rodeo when she received an offer to play basketball for Casper College. “I wanted to see if I could make it in the basketball world. I knew rodeo would be there forever.” She hurt her knee during practice and had to sit out for the year. After knee surgery in January of her freshman year, she called it quits. “I had another surgery last November.” Basketball played a huge role in what she’s accomplished. “I’ve had some tough coaches and they taught me how to put aside everyone else’s thinking about you and perform well. I took that from playing college basketball to rodeo – it’s the same thing –if you don’t perform well, you don’t get paid. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. I’ve played in a lot of close games and you have to perform when things are tight and you only have a few minutes to pull it off. That’s helped in short rounds. I can talk myself into it’s just another steer.”

 

Basketball was Justene’s first love, before she started to rodeo - Courtesy of the family
Justene and Jimmi Jo Montera won The Wrangler Team Roping Championships - Olie’s Images
Justene, Debbie, Tom and Jordan Hirsig

The rodeo world is a very familiar place for Justene; she grew up going to Cheyenne Frontier Days. “My dad’s great great uncle (Charles Hirsig) was one of the cofounders of CFD. My family has been in the arena ever since. I’m carrying on the family tradition, picking up flank straps, or shagging cattle. I help where I can; I’m there every day.” Her dad is the CEO and President of Cheyenne Frontier Days. He is also the one Justene attributes her success in rodeo to. “He taught me how to rope and he knows so many people that have helped me – Tyler Magnus, Bobby Harris, JD Yates, Rod and Stephanie Lyman, and Rick and Jimmi Jo Montera – and he puts me on amazing horses.”

“The thing that always amazes me about Justene is how well she rides. She sits a horse picture perfect. That has always been her best attribute when it comes to improving her skills. Denton Shaw doesnt get the credit he deserves sometimes because he is amazing in his consistency and dedication. They have been partners almost their entire careers and is one of the biggest parts of her success. A great young man,” said Tom Hirsig. She works on her mindset by reading books – one of her favorite authors is Joel Osteen – and one of his that she reads often is ‘You Can, You Will.’ “My mom (Debbie) always gets me set up with books.” Her mom also helps with lots of other things. “Mom hasn’t missed church in more than ten years. Whenever I’m struggling, she encourages me to go to church and pray about it. She’s always praying for me as a person – my mother is the backbone of everything.” She also pulls the machine around, turns out calves for breakaway roping, and does whatever needs doing to help Justene succeed. “Without my mom, none of this would be possible. I’ll ask her to turn calves or steers and anytime of the day she says yes. If a horse needs reshod or hauled to the vet, she does it. Without her, we wouldn’t be able to do this. She sends me books to read and finds churches for me to go to on the weekends.”

 

Justene at Cheyenne Frontier Days - courtesy of the family
Justene heading and Denton Shaw heeling at the Gillette College Rodeo - Darsi Dale
Justene Hirsig - Andrew Birzer

“My dad gets me well mounted and I have that – and I’m blessed.” During the six-week long break at the University of Wyoming, after a short vacation, she and her dad headed to Arizona to rope for a few weeks. “My dad and I kept a horse for each of us in Arizona, and they were put on the walker every day and we’d fly back to rope. I think that’s a big part of my improving my roping.”

She transferred to UW two years ago, pursuing a degree in business financing. “My plan is to get a pretty good degree here so I can have the lifestyle that affords me to go to Arizona in the winters. I wouldn’t want to live there year round.” She has two years left on her rodeo eligibility and plans to make the most of it. “I sold horses when I was heading to basketball, and after two knee surgeries, the last year didn’t go so well. Now I’m roping with Denton Shaw – it’s been great. We roped together in high school for three years and qualified for Nationals, and we decided to rope together this year. We figured we did well in high school and tried it in college and we’ll rope at the CNFR.”

She sent her horses home so she could finish her finals. When she finished, she headed home to practice. “We have 22 to rope on. I have five head horses to practice on so I should be good.” She is excited to back into the box in Casper for the CNFR. “Making it is an end result of roping well in the college rodeos, and I’m looking at it as another rodeo. It’s going to be cool to make it there, but I’m going to rope like I always do – four more steers. I rope 50 a day if not more so that will be easy.”

Long term she plans to continue roping. “I want to be one of the best girl headers that’s on the road. I’d like to start getting into horse training and horsemanship – that’s something I want to work on. I don’t know what I want my job to be when I grow up – but I want to be one of the wellknown ropers.”

“Choose to dwell on thoughts that empower you, inspire you, and encourage you to have faith, hope and joy.”
“I’m around a lot of the people trying to make it to the NFR and it’s not something I’d be opposed to. If I wanted to try after college, I think it would be cool to do,” she concluded. “I have tons more to improve –and I just got moved to a #6, and I’ve worked hard to get there.”

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