Last season, one girl rose above to achieve new goals and set new records. Sawyer Gilbert from Buffalo, SD, breaks down her road to success, from a good string of horses to a mental plan.
Her pedigree is made to have success in the rodeo arena, being a 6th generation rancher and with a father whom was a successful PRCA cowboy. Showing a huge career at a young age, Sawyer had many success in the arena. From winning the national title in the Breakaway at the NJHSRA finals to winning state titles in high school rodeo in the Goat Tying and Breakaway. After high school, Sawyer attended Weatherford College where she was the Reserve Region Goat Tying Champion, and was on the Champion Girls Team.
After her first year of college, Sawyer hit the PRCA road and decided to make it her full time job. “I didn’t want to split my time between college and ProRodeos,” Sawyer says.
She has been rewarded for her decision to pursue the sport of rodeo. In 2019, she won the Rope For The Crown and the long go at The American. She then went on to win Rookie of the Year in the Badlands WPRA Circuit, as well as being the Tie-Down Rookie of the Year. In 2021, Sawyer won Cheyenne Frontier Days, Pendleton, and finished off her 2021 season by winning the NFBR Average and World Title.
Sawyer’s success comes from riding good horses. This season she rode three that she attributes to her success. Miss Popular Resort (18 years old), Gotter Dun (12 years old), and Straight Smoking Docwood (17 years old). She utilizes each horse to her advantage for every run.
“Miss Popular Resort was my main mount all year until she suffered an injury at Cheyenne Frontier Days. She’s made for any set up, from being 1.4 on her back to back in Cowtown to placing in the slack in Cheyenne,” Sawyer explains.
Gotter Dun, owned by her brother Grey Gilbert, is the horse she used in Cheyenne, Pendleton, and Salinas. “This horse is really great for long scores. His athletic ability, speed, and great stop make him insane to rope on,” she says.
Of her third horse, Straight Smoking Docwood, Sawyer says, “All the credit goes to him, he has given me more life lessons than I could have asked for. I won my first saddle, buckles, and titles off of him.”
When Sawyer isn’t on the road, she is spending quality time at home in South Dakota. “Its hard being gone so much from home, but rodeo is my career,” she says. When she is home, she enjoys a routine. Roping the dummy and exercising gives her an advantage over the others in her competition. She says, “Working out makes me feel like I have an edge, and if you think you do, then you probably do.”
She makes it a priority to slow down and get the mechanics right when she is roping at home. Spending some time on younger, upcoming horses or seasoned ones daily, she tries to get all her practice in. “It is always my daily goal to better myself.”
She could not do it without the people in her life that go above and beyond. “My inner circle is what keeps me going when the going gets tough,” she explains. “Rodeo is my priority, and my friends and family sometimes feel the strain because of it.” Sawyer spends lots of time on mental control in the sport of rodeo as well. “When I can’t go home and hit the reset button, my mental game has to come on and fix the problem as I drive. The hardest thing for me is to forgive myself for the mistakes.”