Women’s History Month Interview Series: Q&A With 2-Time Cutting Horse World Champion, Sawyer Burmeister
The traditional roles of women and men have changed a lot in the last 20 years. However there are still small bastions of tradition, particularly in sports that remain the domain of men. This was the case until certain women, who look at life and opportunity differently, enter those places and change them forever. The obstacles they overcome make them more a champion for achieving the best in their specific field of endeavor. Sawyer Burmeister is just such an athlete and for what she accomplished in horse cutting to the tune of two World Championships , World Show Qualifier, and 4-time NFR South Point Girl, makes her one to celebrate for Women’s History Month. And she’s far from done.
1- It’s always an obvious question when a woman participates in a sport that is perceived as a male sport, what drew you to the sport and did you think this was something you could make a living at?
I grew up on a ranch in Weatherford, Texas where my stepdad was a trainer and my mom raised horses and I was fortunate enough to be raised on the back of a horse. I guess I never perceived it to be a male dominated sport but now that I have grown older it indeed is. Fortunately there are a variety of classes within the association that allows women to not be forced to compete with the top-notch trainers.
2- They say that one is the product of their environment. Is that the case with yourself and did it impact your career choice?
You know that saying “you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl?” Well it is very much true for myself. In order to be successful within the sport there is a lot of hard work and long hours that must go into it. In my middle teen years I got burned out with the sport. I just had to get away from it and could care less to be on a horse. I tried to make myself something I was not. One day it just changed. I felt stronger about my lifestyle then ever before. Riding horses and being on a ranch doing what I love is who I am. You can’t be in this sport to get rich. Of course that is a strong possibility if you are successful, but you have to truly love the grunt of it all in order to be happy, and I am happy.
3- I understand you started working with cutting horses at an early age and found success early. Tell the mainstream fan what is involved in cutting horses and why did you have a talent for it?
Although I may have a bias opinion I find cutting to be one of the most interesting events because is involves a person, horse, and cow, which must all work together in order to have the perfect run. Like I said before I have been lucky enough to have my mom and stepdad raise and train some incredible horses throughout my life, which I have been privileged to ride and show myself. I suppose my horsemanship has grown with me through the years.
4- Your mother was quite a force in the sport, a hall of famer. Was this a case of following in mothers footsteps?
My mom was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1990. She went from being Miss Coors Rodeo, to bringing equal pay for women in the sport of rodeo to then becoming a very successful equine sports broadcaster. It’s funny because I have dreams to do all of this. I find myself saying “I want to do that one day” and it is usually something she has already accomplished. Just recently I have been working on set of the TNT show Dallas, and my mother worked on the original show. She has very much influenced me to want to do it all.
5- What type of competition do you base and some of the obstacles to a world championship in this sport?
The competition is extremely difficult. Many of these people do this for a living and have the advantage of doing this day in and day out. I have so many side projects that I am working with as well as trying to get a degree that I am unable to devote as much time as I would like to the sport. I have had a few horses that could without a doubt go and win a world championship, everything just has to go perfect to get there. I am looking forward to this year.
6- Rodeos are a staple of the culture of Texas among others. Why are they important and has anything changed and what has remained the same.
Rodeo is the American tradition. I do not believe that much has changed other than how much the sport has grown entirely and the amount of money that is up for grabs.
7- You attended college. What did you study and what drew you away from that path?
I am currently a senior at Tarleton State University studying Criminal Justice Pre-Law. The plan is to attend law school after graduating with my Bachelor’s Degree. Although I have a passion for showing cutting horses I do not plan to keep it a career but a continued lifestyle and a forever hobby.
8- What goals in the sport and beyond do you aspire to in 2014?
My goal for 2014 is to win the AQHA World Championship. In 2013 I qualified for the World Show and was just a few holes out from the finals. I hope to have some better luck this year.
9- What type of legacy would you hope to leave for women who aspire to pursue their dreams?
You may not be the best horseman, you may not have the best equipment and you may not even have the best horses, but if you put your mind to something you can succeed. My favorite saying comes from Calamity Jane who says, “I figure if a girl wants to be a legend she should just go ahead and be one.”
10- If you were to host a dinner with three women in sports (past or present), who would they be and why?
I was named after a close friend of my mothers, Fern Sawyer, who was also inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. She passed away one year after I was born. I have grown up hearing how I was a pistol just like her so it would be incredible to host her. Dale Evans is the epitome of a true American cowgirl, so she would definitely be on the list. And last but not least my god mother Tanya Tucker. Tanya has been a big part of my life and has taught me to never let anyone tell me I cant. Whether she be a country music star or in the arena riding horses with me she is a woman I will always look up to.
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