Trio of Cowgirls Race for 2021 Great Lakes Rookie Title

Great Lakes Circuit Rookie Anna Clayman. Photo Courtesy Anna Clayman

The Women’s Professional Rodeo Association’s Great Lakes Circuit Rookie of the Year race has been an exciting one throughout the 2021 season. When the dust settled on the regular season, three rookie members finished amongst the top 12 and will be hauling to Louisville, Ky., for the Great Lakes Circuit Finals (GLCF) November 11-13. Get to know each of these ladies, their equine counterparts, and the roads that led them to where they are now.

Anna Cate Clayman

Coming out of the regular season in the No. 1 seat in the rookie race is 28-year-old Anna Clayman. The Naylor, Mo., native has won $6,381 so far in 2021 and is seated No. 7 in the circuit. This cowgirl is a third-generation champion in the Great Lakes Circuit. Her parents, Amanda and Phil Clayman, have a combined 31 GLCF qualifications, and her family has more than 100 combined GLCF qualifications, with nearly every rodeo event covered by somebody in the family. Her cousin, Clay Clayman, is also headed to his first circuit finals in the team roping in 2020. 

Clayman’s 11-year-old mare, FamousFirewater Anny, whom she calls “Anny,” is by Dash Ta Fame and out of Firewater Fanny. Firewater Fanny is the horse that Clayman’s mother took to the National Finals Rodeo in 2004. Anny’s maternal granddam was also ridden at the GLCF multiple times by Amanda Clayman. Anny was raised by Clayman’s grandfather, Harry Blackwell, which made her qualification even more special. After her grandfather passed away about a year ago, Clayman came back to Missouri to process his death. After taking some time away from horses, she decided to channel her grief into the sport that Blackwell was so passionate about and purchased her WPRA card. This year, Clayman had the opportunity to bring various family members on the road with her, and that made the year extremely memorable. 

Clayman is going to be competing fiercely at the GLCF, but she will be at peace no matter the outcome. Rodeo has been her space to heal from her grandfather’s death, and she explains, “Poppy, as I referred to my grandfather, wanted to see us enjoy ourselves on these horses and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. I have stayed patient, practiced and prayed for peace and have ended up with a great group of horses that love to make me smile. I’ve already accomplished my own personal victory for the year, so bringing home the rookie title would just give a nod to the countless bruises, tears, miles and sweat it took to get back to the barn.”

Clayman also holds down a career as an audiologist and enjoys giving her patients of all ages the gift of hearing and interacting with the world around them. 

Austyn Tobey

Bemidji, Minnesota’s Austyn Tobey has qualified for the GLCF in the No. 10 position with $5,966 won. This 20-year-old is a full-time student at Bemidji State University and is a biochemistry major enrolled in a pre-med program. 

Great Lakes Circuit Rookie Austyn Tobey. Photo Courtesy Austyn Tobey

This year was full of laughs for Tobey, as she was fortunate to travel up and down the road with her best friend in 2021. She learned some mechanical knowledge on the side of the road on more than one occasion, and the girls became karaoke pros on long drives. 

“The biggest lessons I learned this year are to season your young horses on the good ground, and haul with somebody who is supportive and wants to see you succeed,” she said.  

Tobey’s biggest win this year came from Ponca, Neb., aboard Cindys CD. “Cindy,” as Tobey calls the 18-year-old mare, was used as a cutting horse in her younger years and is now a seasoned rodeo veteran. Tobey also had multiple placings aboard her 5-year-old mare Design In Red, known as “Frosty.” Frosty pulled checks at rodeos from Rapid City, and Mitchell, S.D., among other wins. 

Tobey looks up to Jane Melby and Cayla Melby-Small, as they have been her mentors in rodeo. She also looks up to Fallon Taylor because of her positive outlook on life. Winning the rookie title would check a huge objective off this cowgirl’s list of goals, so look for her to be ready to make a move up the standings in Louisville. 

Sara Winkelman

After traveling to just 16 circuit rodeos in 2021, Sara Winkelman slides into the GLCF in the No. 11 position with $5,780 in earnings. However, after her 6-year-old gelding, Fairway Ta Fame, whom she calls “Rory,” was injured in August, Winkelman’s circuit finals mount is still up in the air. Rory, a son of Streaking Ta Fame and out of Fair Lady Perks, handled his first year of rodeos exceptionally well. The team showed out at the futurities last year, and Winkelman says his only flaw is learning to scale back and take care of himself when running on less than desirable ground. 

Great Lakes Circuit Rookie Sara Winkelman. Photo Courtesy Sara Winkelman

This Big Lake, Minn., native stays busy when she isn’t on the road. Winkelman is a speech pathologist and works primarily with pediatric patients. She also trains barrel horses and is a proud mother of two. 

“Hauling with both a 2-year-old, and a 3-year-old will definitely keep you on your toes,” she says of traveling with her two children. 

This cowgirl grew up in a barrel racing family but is the sole competitor currently. However, she has a very special guardian angel: her stepmother who was a WPRA cardholder before her death in 1999. Winkelman is hopeful that someday her children will share her love for the sport of rodeo and compete alongside her as she did with her family growing up. As for her circuit finals plan, Winkelman plans to show up and do her best, no matter what horse she ends up running down the alleyway in Louisville.