LOVINGTON – Tibba Smith was all smiles Friday night.
And why wouldn’t she be? Smith began the day with a 2.2 score aboard her borrowed horse Jellybean in the first round of the Lea County Rodeo’s Ladies Breakaway, qualifying her to compete again that night.
And did Smith ever compete after the sun went down Friday. She lassoed her way to a 2.3, which put her into the lead, besting the previous top scores of Bradi Good and Las Cruces product Nicole Baggarley, who each posted a 2.9.
All that for Smith, and a short commute. Smith lives between Hobbs and Carlsbad, where she’s lived her whole life, so she had about a 45-minute ride to her house, once owned by her great-grandparents – the pioneers of rodeo in her family.
Speaking of family, Smith had the chance to perform in front of them. Pretty good night.
“It’s my hometown rodeo,” Smith said. “I don’t have to go very far; I can sleep in my own bed. It pays good. My family gets to see me.”
And Friday, Smith’s relatives were treated to a quick but successful rope.
“Man, that calf was pretty good,” Smith said. “I love doing good in front of the hometown crowd. I actually just came from Cheyenne.”
Where she roped in $8,400. “So with this run here in Lovington, I’ll actually have a chance to make the breakaway finals,” Smith said.
By Saturday’s conclusion of the Lea County Fair & Rodeo, Smith’s combined times were still the best, giving the Hobbs native the Lea County Fair & Rodeo’s Inauguaral Ladies Break-way title.
Smith finished tied for second in the first round, winning $833, and won the second round for another $457. For taking first overall in the event, she picked up another $1,788, giving her a grand total of $3,078.
To have those recent successful ropes, Smith has counted on the kindness of friends, Reid and Tierra Zapalac of Lovington. Smith’s own horse Harley was crippled, so she needed a replacement ride. For Cheyenne, the Zapalacs lent the services of their horse Festus – good for eight-grand plus.
For the Lea County Rodeo, the Zapalacs allowed Smith to ride Jellybean to another successful breakaway performance. “And it’s all because of them,” Smith said.
Thankfully for Smith, she didn’t have to jump onto strange horses. “I’ve actually rode all their horses before,” Smith said. “We’ve placed together, we’ve gone to rodeos before. I knew how good they were. So when you know your horses, it’s not that hard.”
Smith has been roping as long as she can remember. Growing up on a cattle ranch, she has roping memories that reach as far back as the age of five.
The sport was handed down from Smith’s great-grandfather to her grandfather to her father to her own generation and beyond. Smith’s sisters and brothers-in-law rope, as do her son and nephews. In fact, her son Shane Smith and nephew Cason Hatley competed in the county team roping the opening weekend of the Lea County Fair & Rodeo.
Success at roping came often as Smith’s life progressed. She won events in college, competed in the WPRA finals.
Just last month she reached the finals of the WCRA Days of ‘47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo in Salt Lake City, Utah. And though Tacy Kay Webb of Madisonville, Texas won the gold-medal-round loot of $25,000 thanks to a time of 1.95 – and won $26,600 total – Smith did come away from the event with $1,733.33, not a bad piece of change.
She followed that up with her big win in Cheyenne and this weekend’s effort in her own backyard.
But Smith’s season is growing short. In addition to roping, she works as a secretary of the Southwest Region College
Rodeo Association, and as an insurance adjuster and will return to work in mid-September.
“I’ve only got about 10 rodeos I can enter between now and then,” Smith said, “so I’ll make the best of it.”