Hailey Burger Follows Her Elders
By JOE KUSEK
July 14. 2022
Hailey Burger understands full well of respecting your elders.
It’s her elders who are taking her places in the rodeo arena.
The 16-year-old Burger is that rare place in rodeo where her horses are older than her.
For breakaway roping on the Mountain Health Co-op Tour, Burger rides Sniper, a 21-year-old bay. In barrel racing, she steers Radar, an 18-year-old sorrel.
“I like older horses … experience,” said the Helena cowgirl who will be a junior at Capital High School this fall.
The two have carried the friendly teen to second in the breakaway roping standings and among the top five for the all-around cowgirl standings. She is the youngest competitor among the all-around contenders, a category filled with former champions.
“I am very surprised,” she said of her 2022 season. “After making the Finals last year as a rookie, the goal is again to make it back to the Finals. It doesn’t matter what place.”
Burger finished eighth in the final 2021 breakaway roping standings.
After a second-place finish in breakaway roping at Big Timber, she took over the standings lead with a fourth at Ennis and a win at Choteau to close her Fourth of July run.
Burger also placed third in barrel racing at Choteau to put herself in the all-around race.
She tied for ninth at a very wet East Helena for a check in barrel racing. “Radar, he loves the mud,” Burger said.
Burger has had times of 2.6, 2.7 and 3.1 to earn money in breakaway roping and credits Sniper for the success.
“We’ve had him about two years,” said Burger. “My brother Dylan used him but they didn’t quite connect. Dad (Steve) said, ‘Why don’t you try him?’ We just clicked.
“He’s probably the fastest horse I’ve ever rode. We don’t get out-run by many calves. He loves to do his job.”
Sniper has one quirk, according to the rider.
“He does one rear up in the box. Just one time, then he waits for his run,” Burger said.
And she made sure to mention another crucial element to her team.
“I couldn’t do it without my mom (Jill),” said Burger. “She’s always there to video and support me and my brother.”
The family lives on 20 acres outside of Helena. Steve Burger is a team roper. “That’s where I got my start,” said the daughter. Burger also competes in basketball and track and field at Capital. But when push comes to shove, rodeo is the priority.
“My coaches have been great about it,” she said.
Paige Rasmussen of Bozeman won the breakaway roping at East Helena for $1,404 the biggest check for the event this year to become the new standings leader. Burger trails by just $210 with more than half the season remaining.
“I know there are a lot of good girls roping,” said Burger. “It’s a matter of getting little checks along the way … trying to stay in the top 10.”
Competing on the Mountain Health Co-Op Tour has had an impact on her high school roping.
After competing in slack at Three Forks on Friday morning, Burger will head to Gillette, Wyoming to compete at the National High School Finals Rodeo. She has qualified in breakaway roping, goat tying and team roping. She will rope with Briley Anderson of Belgrade. Burger also competed in barrel racing and pole bending during the high school season.
“I think it does for sure help,” she said. “In the NWRA, you have to have a clean head catch. Not in high school. You have to rope faster and sharper.”
And the lessons go beyond throwing a rope.
“Seeing those girls rope and how they react has a much more impact on your attitude,” said Burger. “It’s about learning to forget it and go. And every time you rope, the girls are sharing information on calves and are out there cheering. That’s pretty cool.”
There’s another part that motivates Burger.
“After the rope breaks off the saddle horn and you can hear the crowd and the announcer tells them the time, that’s pretty cool.”
The appropriately named Spur Owens didn’t have to travel very far to be a double winner at a muddy East Helena. Owens shared first place in both bareback riding (with Trevor Kay) and bull riding (with Caden Fitzpatrick.
Rachel Ward of Philipsburg edged former all-around champion cowgirl Tammy Jo Carpenter of Kalispell by two-hundredths of a second in barrel racing.
Other winners at East Helena were: Garrett Cunningham, saddle bronc; Riley Joyce, steer wrestling; Nolan Conway, tie-down roping; Shawn Bird and Zachary Schweigert, team roping; Paige Rasmussen, breakaway roping; Julia Hoagland, junior barrel racing; Blaise Bolich, junior breakaway roping; Paul O’Hair, rookie saddle bronc.
Cunningham continues to be the man in the hot seat. The Broadus cowboy won the saddle bronc at Malta, his third consecutive win of the season.
Ben Ayre showed the youngsters how it is done, winning the steer wrestling in 4.0 seconds, the fastest time of the year. Lincoln Yarama won the tie-down roping in 8.7, the second-best time of 2022.
Other winners at Malta were: Bucky McAlpine, bareback; Daniel Plant and Justin Scribner, team roping; Brittney Cox, barrel racing; Kiera Hougen, breakaway roping; Kenzie Kallenberger, junior barrel racing; Brooke Billingsley, junior breakaway roping. There were no qualified bull rides.
The Mountain Health Co-Op Tour continues with stops in Havre and Three Forks.
The Great Northern RAM Rodeo in Havre is July 14 and 15 with 7 p.m. performances.
Three Forks will go July 15 and 16 with 7 p.m. shows.