By Jolee Lautaret
West Friendship, Maryland — It's a veteran move to know when you and your horse need a little break from the rigors of the rodeo road, a chance to recharge the batteries and line out again. Heather Constantinople is a rookie in the WPRA but she figured that one out this summer.
"I earned my card at the first Cowtown (Woodstown-Pilesgrove, NJ) rodeo of the season on Memorial Day. I filled my permit and immediately bought my rookie card," she says. "I got into a little slump, maybe I was trying too hard, but we weren't winning."
"So I took a couple weekends off [from the rodeos] and just took him to some different arenas," she adds, noting that the break was just to help both jockey and horse get their confidence back and regroup.
Constantinople is competing in her first season as a WPRA card holder but the cowgirl grew up in the rodeo business on the East Coast. Her dad, John Constantinople, set a record in the First Frontier Circuit, winning 10 circuit bull riding championships and becoming a regular at the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo when it was held in Pocatello, Idaho.
"It's just a family trait," she laughs of rodeo. "My mom ran barrels a bit too."
Though her dad spent many years going down the road, Constantinople teasing about his influence on her career.
"He tried to [give me advice] but I just remind him he's a bull rider; I'm a barrel racer," she laughs. "No, he's really supportive of me and he watches my dog when I'm gone to the rodeos."
Constantinople bought her horse, Streakin for Chicks, aka Joe, five years ago from former Wrangler National Finals Rodeo cowgirl Gail Hillman. Her trainers, Judy and GiGi Dahoda, had an older brother to the gelding that Constantinople really liked.
"He's out of Gail's stud, DTB Can't Touch This," she notes of the now nine year old gelding. "I bought him through watching a couple of YouTube videos. He'd had 30 days of riding. I just fell in love with him."
Constantinople got the gelding a few months later, in the spring because winters are so harsh in her hometown of Prospect, Conn. She put him to the pattern and has done the training and seasoning to get Joe ready for his first full season on the pro rodeo trail.
"We placed at Gerry, N.Y., which was our second or third biggest rodeo last year while on my permit and at Cowtown," she explains. "We were just getting him used to the differences from the jackpots, the different rodeo ground . . . just getting him seasoned."
After a tough start to their 2015 campaign, Constantinople took a break after a few weeks without a check, returning in time for the Howard County Fair All American Pro Rodeo held in West Friendship, Md.
Although the fair has been held for 70 years in the small community just northwest of Baltimore, this was the first year for a professional rodeo to be part of the festivities. In years past, a bull riding event has been held along with fair events that include an antique tractor pull, skid loader rodeo, pie eating contest, mule pulling and many others.
Rodeo producers elected to have two, one-day rodeos held August 10 & 11, 2015. Although each was a separate event, the committee gave a buckle to the average winner from each event as added incentive to come.
"It was nicely done," says Constantinople, who traveled from Connecticut with a friend, making a stop in Cowtown for the Saturday night weekly rodeo on the way. "All aspects of the rodeo were great; they had a hospitality, breakfast, lunch and dinner."
"It was new and it was fun," she adds. "We got to come and hang out for a couple days. It was nice to be able to park and just hang out. Most of the time, we come in and run and leave."
The time off seemed to be just the ticket for Joe too. After winning a solid check at Cowtown, he and Constantinople took the victory lap for winning the rodeo on Aug. 10 with a smooth run of 14.75 seconds. She earned $595.
"It was my first PRCA/WPRA pro rodeo win so it was very exciting," she says.
Constantinople won a total of $825 for the weekend, moving to 22nd in the Ram First Frontier Rodeo Circuit standings and reigniting her season.
"I jumped back up for the circuit rookie title," she points out. "My dad told me I need to go for it so I'm decked out, all ready to go hard the rest of the season."
The First Frontier Circuit goes right up to the end of the rodeo season on September 30, with six more stops at Cowtown along with other rodeos including a pair in Constantinople's home state of Connecticut at Hebron.
"Dad's going with me on the next weekend," says Constantinople, who works from home for the Hartford Insurance Company. "He misses it from his days of rodeoing so it's nice to take him with me now and then."
Constantinople is just about $660 behind leading rookie Jaime Williams and less than $1,300 from the top 12 and a possible shot at her first Ram First Frontier Circuit Finals Rodeo, held annually in Harrisburg, Pa.
The average buckle for the two-rodeo series went to Pedricktown, New Jersey's Amanda Lloyd. Lloyd won the second rodeo with a series best 14.66 second effort after placing in a tie for eighth, ninth and tenth on day one. Her two-run time was 29.78 seconds. She won $655.
Kristine Roy and her horse Kenzie were the high money winners, running two 14.91's. She shared third and fourth on day one and was fifth on day two to take home $706.
For more information on the Howard County Fair All American Pro Rodeo, visit them on-line at www.howardcountyfair.org.