The American reunites with PBR March 5 – 6 for a legendary Western weekend in Arlington, Texas.
When the chute opened, Madison Outhier atop her horse Rooster ignited the rodeo arena in Arlington, Texas, as a calf in front of her blazed a path across AT&T Stadium, the same venue where the Dallas Cowboys battle it out for a spot in the Super Bowl each year. She held Rooster’s reins in one hand and spun a rope above her head with the other, moving her wrist in a rhythm she’d been perfecting at youth rodeos across Texas and in her family’s arena at The Waters Ranch in Utopia, a paradisical place in the Texas Hill Country. Her father, rodeo champion Mike Outhier, had been preparing her for this moment at The American’s first-ever women’s breakaway championship in 2019 for most of her life. They practiced together every day. He says he isn’t as bad as hall of fame basketball coach Bobby Knight — not as bad, but “dang close.”
Her long, dark hair flowing behind her black cowboy hat, Madison looked determined, fierce yet graceful, a trait she no doubt inherited from her mother, Kristy Waters Outhier, a former U.S. polo champion. She’d beaten 480 other ropers in the semifinals in Fort Worth to earn this chance. But she didn’t have much time to secure her win when the chute opened — only a couple of seconds because, as breakaway champion Jackie Crawford explains in a YouTube video from March 2020, “hundredths of a second come down to thousands of dollars.”
In just 2.29 seconds, Madison’s run was over. She caught the calf, just as she’s done a hundred times before. She was sitting atop Rooster when she learned she had won the $100,000 grand prize and the first-ever breakaway champion title at The American. She was only 16.
Her dad couldn’t have been prouder. “That was the first time I’d ever seen him cry,” she says.
Three years later, Madison plans to repeat her success at The American. The event offers another chance for her to compete against the top 10 ropers in the breakaway competition on March 6 if she beats the hundreds of ropers who will be vying for the same opportunity at the semifinals in Fort Worth. With no athlete claiming the $1 million grand prize in 2021, the grand-prize money on the line in 2022 doubles to $2 million.
The American brings together top professional rodeo athletes and cowboys and cowgirls in a winner-take-all showdown to crown the world’s finest champions, sending the hardworking winner home with what could be the biggest single-day paycheck of their careers. It features competitors in all eight rodeo disciplines: barrel racing, breakaway roping, steer wrestling, team roping (heading and heeling), tie down roping, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, and bull riding.
Team USA Eagles celebrates winning the 2020 PBR Global Cup.
This year, The American Weekend is even more star-spangled: On March 5 the 2022 PBR Global Cup USA bucks into AT&T Stadium in Arlington, making for a weekend of nonstop entertainment. The American and PBR last united for a historic weekend of Western sports at AT&T Stadium in 2018, when PBR set a record for the highest-attended single-day event in its league history.
The landmark partnership between Teton Ridge and PBR promises to deliver another premier weekend for fans.
The partnership comes on the heels of Teton Ridge’s recent move to bring The American under the brand’s umbrella and elevate the richest single-day rodeo in the world to new levels in 2022, including an unmatched total purse, nonstop rodeo action, live music, and entertainment. The industry-leading event is the centerpiece of the brand’s Western sports portfolio and pays homage to the rich heritage and values of Western sports while broadening the event experience to welcome new fans.
Teton Ridge visionary business leader Thomas Tull describes the acquisition as the latest in a series of strategically planned moves to help elevate America’s iconic Western sports and the nation’s Western culture to a greater level of prominence around the world.
Two-time world champion Jess Lockwood rides for Team USA at the PBR Global Cup.
“The American is a beloved event in the world of rodeo, a true showcase for our nation’s most treasured way of life and the sports that grew out of Western culture,” Tull said in a September news release announcing Teton Ridge’s acquisition of The American. “No matter who you are, no matter where you grew up, at one time or another virtually every little boy or girl has aspired to be a cowboy or a cowgirl, and that still holds true today. We want all those kids to dream of winning a gold buckle or a saddle or a giant check on the dirt at The American and give everyone the opportunity to compete on a world stage for their chance to win big.”
The American has offered Western sports athletes a rare purse of a million dollars for the one-day event now being hailed as The Crown Jewel of Rodeo™.
But when it was established in 2014, it was an unfamiliar concept in the rodeo realm and sounded too good to be true — which is probably why not as many cowboys showed up to compete in the inaugural event.
Richmond Champion wasn’t one of those cowboys. Now a champion bareback rider, he’d only been riding bareback for a few years when, at 21, he found himself walking through the home of the Dallas Cowboys with his cowboy hat pulled low and his rig slung over his shoulder. Then a student at Tarleton State, he’d drawn Salt, a fairly nasty bronc that had bucked him off before the 8-second buzzer sounded at a rodeo in Fort Worth. He knew the bronc would buck one of two ways: either a hard trip and jump out a few feet and circle back to the left, pretty strong and hard, or another trip that, he says, is strong but a lot easier and a lot more fun to ride.
Salt chose the latter, and Champion held on for the ride of his life until that 8-second buzzer sounded. He won the million-dollar prize, something he calls a life-changing moment and still struggles to put into words. He attributes his success to Mark Eakin, his rodeo coach at Tarleton State, who called after Richmond won and said, “So I guess you’re not coming back to school on Monday.”
“It’s a huge opportunity,” Champion says. “There is nowhere else in the sport where you have that kind of money. It truly changed my life, and if it’s doubled, it can change it even more, and that is incredible and does an amazing thing for the sport.”
Both Champion and Outhier plan to be there, thrilling the crowd with their skill and determination to face off against the best in the rodeo industry. They’ve been practicing and mentally preparing themselves. They both represent the underdogs, which is exactly what The American was created for.
“Since its inception nine years ago, The American has truly changed lives,” says Teton Ridge executive vice president of sports Ellen Newberg. “We want to continue that tradition and elevate The Crown Jewel of Rodeo™ to even further extraordinary levels by treating fans to champion-caliber rodeo action, world-class entertainment, and much more.”
From our February/March 2022 issue