As soon as the gates opened and the calf’s muzzle passed the entrance, Cassie Bahe and her horse, Roy, moved in sync. Leaping into motion, the horse surged forward while Bahe whirled the lasso above her head.
In a fraction of a second, Bahe’s mount snapped the thin line marking their waiting area just as the calf broke the loose tether to its pen. Bahe’s lasso had time to complete another one and a half revolutions before she extended over her horse’s neck and placed the lasso’s wide loop in the path of the fleeing calf.
A few tenths of a second passed while Bahe confidently pulled up and the lasso tightened around the calf. As the rope drew tight, it broke away harmlessly from the saddle and the calf continued its run. The entire sequence took just 2.3 seconds.
The blindingly fast event, known as breakaway roping, is just beginning to find acceptance in professional rodeo. This particular competition was the first at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo and Bahe, an alumna of Utah State University, earned the distinction of first ever Women's Pro Rodeo Breakaway Roping Champion at the event.
Bahe’s victory also won her more than $23,000, a prize that will help her and her sister, Anna, to continue traveling and competing at pro rodeos nationwide.
“Right now I'm focusing on my rodeo career,” Bahe said. “In the meantime, I’m going to continue to apply for jobs in biological engineering, but for now I'm just gonna have fun and rope until it's not available and then I'll get a real job.”
As a member of the USU rodeo team, Bahe competed in barrel racing, breakaway roping, and team roping, but the opportunities that attracted her to USU were academic, not athletic. After two years as a student at the College of Southern Idaho, Bahe was accepted into a summer internship program with USU’s Department of Biological Engineering.
“All of my family are farmers and ranchers,” Bahe said. “When I first came to USU, we were working on using biological organisms to create drought-resistant wheat. That kind of caught my eye because I really like the agricultural field, and applying engineering to agriculture was really cool to me. That’s when I decided to go to USU.”
Bahe graduated in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in biological engineering. She remembers her time at USU fondly, but said she stood out among many of her academic peers.
“Engineering is usually a field dominated by guys, so it's actually really cool to be a woman graduate of an engineering department,” Bahe said. “Breakaway is a new event in pro rodeo. Usually, the only girl event in pro rodeo is barrel racing, so I think it’s cool how women are rising in both fields.”
Bahe’s recent success is noteworthy because it represents the growing acceptance and inclusion of breakaway roping in professional competition. In 2019, several national rodeos began including breakaway roping in their event rosters and prize pool, including The American, World Champions Rodeo Alliance’s Windy City Round-Up, Days of ’47 Cowboy Games and Rodeo, and Cheyenne Frontier Days. While breakaway roping has traditionally been a women’s event, several large rodeos have prizes for both men and women, and some have co-ed brackets.
For now, Bahe will continue to rope and ride as long as she can.