I Was Almost a Team Roper: The Steph Fryar Tales, Part 2

If you've ever wondered how a devastating loss and a couple years in the team roping pen can lead to an NFR barrel racing qualification, this is the part of Stephanie Fryar's journey you're going to want to hear about.
Stephanie Fryar team roping

It’s no secret that NFR barrel racer Stephanie “Steph,” Fryar is up for a potential $1 million payday at Rodeo Corpus Christi if she can clinch the win this May 2024, but with all the hype and commotion, people are quick to forget the journey that brought the cowgirl to this moment in her career.

BarrelRacing.com sat down with Fryar so that she could tell her side of the story, including what horses, personal experiences and portions of her journey in her faith have impacted her life and career, so you can get to know before the world watches her head down the alleyway in Corpus Christi.

Look back on Part 1: Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

Part 2: I was almost a roper.

Stephanie Fryar: In Part 1 of this series, I told you about losing Romeo. But what I didn’t tell you is that part of the reason I knew I could come back from that loss was because I’d done it before.

I came out of the arena at the National High School Finals Rodeo, stepped off and led my horse away after a run, and he had an aneurysm and passed away. Right in front of my teenage eyes. And being that my family didn’t have the funds to go and buy me another barrel horse, I swapped my focus to the horse that I did still have on the trailer.

That horse happened to be a really jam-up head horse. So, I ran barrels on him, but I also team roped a lot. I had a natural swing and was good at it. Plus, I had the likes of some pretty up-and-coming ropers like Patrick Smith and JoJo Lemond that lived just down the road and needed somebody to turn steers for them.

I took the same approach to roping as I do to barrel racing, really. I wasn’t ever going to spin them foolishly fast, but I was going to get in position, stand up and rope and give you a good, steady handle every time. We were going to catch, and I could let those ropey guys clean them up as fast as they needed to on the heels.

Stephanie Fryar breakaway roping

Then one day, I sat and thought about it. They were starting to raise my number, so I was going to have to step up my game if I wanted to keep up and win at the higher numbered ropings. But really, I knew I wasn’t going to ever make the NFR in the team roping, but I wanted to stay in horses to make a living. Breakaway roping was something I could do, but it was years away from being a full-time career option, and anyway, my neck catch wasn’t the cleanest or most consistent.

So, I made my way back to the barrel racing arena. My mom and I went and bought three colts off the track and jump-started futurity training. Eventually, I got back in the groove on the barrel side and sold my really great head horse. I used that money to buy Sail On Lena, “Selena.”

And spoiler alert, Selena and I went to our first NFR in 2008, a few years down the road. But we’ll get more into that in Part 3.