Whitney DeSalvo is first female heeler in decades invited to BFI
In the same arena last year as the BFI and just a couple of days after it, Whitney DeSalvo of Wilmar, Arkansas, hammered 11 of 12 steers on the second hop in the Charlie 1 Horse All-Girl in Guthrie, Oklahoma – and if her mare, Becky, hadn’t bucked on the first one, she’d surely have batted a thousand.
That’s why, this year on the day of the roping, she’s liable to get up at 6 a.m. and start loping that mare, she said.
“Heck, I might be up all night not able to sleep; I might saddle her the night before!” said DeSalvo with a laugh.
That’s because, this year, she’s roping in the actual 44th BFI against the 130 best teams in the world. Becky, on which DeSalvo placed first through third at that Guthrie roping to rake in $29,000 last year, might not get the call at the BFI. DeSalvo could also ride a 6-year-old gelding she calls Lil Snort that she bought last year from Paul Eaves.
Over the years, DeSalvo, 26, has purposely worked for NFR heeler Shay Carroll and Eaves, the reigning world champ. She’s perfected her craft to the point she was given an 8 handicap last year – the only woman who can say that. And now, she’s earned one of the most prestigious invites in roping, as the only female contestant in 2021.
“I’ve been entering Opens here and there this year,” she said. “I figured I was ready. But I might still not be ready. It’s kind of like I won’t know until I go.”
DeSalvo will heel for Clint Wallace of Little Rock. The 7 header roped with Jared Fillmore at last year’s BFI. Back home in Arkansas, Wallace and DeSalvo have known each other for years and rope weekly or at least monthly together.
“Clint rides an awesome horse and heads really good,” said DeSalvo. “We rope a bunch together.”
The pair practiced hard in late February before DeSalvo was scheduled to spend more than a week competing at the Lone Star Shootout and other ropings in Texas. Although she entered a qualifier for RFD-TV’s The American, her partners missed the third steer.
“What I like about Clint is that he’s a real high percentage guy,” said DeSalvo. “I couldn’t think of any one I’d be more confident to spin me six steers. I just want to think about catching steers out there. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little nervous. I’m trying not to let it blow my mind.”
DeSalvo, who will also enter the Charlie 1 Horse All-Girl again with her partners she won first and second with last year, joins a handful of female BFI contestants over the years who include Bobbi Williams, Cathie Twisselman, Beverly Robbins and Tammy West-White.