Mother-daughter barrel racers embrace competition at San Angelo Rodeo
If someone told Jennifer Driver that her daughter was competitive and opinionated, the champion rodeo competitor and Tarleton State University Rodeo Hall of Fame member would put her arm around Jordan and say, “That’s my girl!”
Jennifer Driver and her 18-year-old daughter will compete against each other at the San Angelo Rodeo this year. It will be just another day on the ranch for the barrel racing duo out of Garden City, Texas.
Jennifer, a former College National Finals Rodeo all-around cowgirl and Women’s Professional Rodeo Association member, will kick off the Driver family’s competition in the first performance Friday, April 9.
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Jordan, the reigning Texas High School Rodeo Association Region II all-around champion cowgirl and barrel racer, competes Saturday, April 17.
It won’t be the first time the two have competed against each other in the arena. Or really anywhere for the competitive family that spans generations of ranching on both sides.
“Oh gosh, I think we have competitions over everything: who can tie her shoes faster,” said Jordan, a senior who is also a two-time medal-winning hurdler at the UIL State Track and Field Meet competing for Garden City High School. “I mean, it’s just a constant in the house, and I think that’s why I’ve been able to play sports at the level I am is because everything is a competition.”
“We are very competitive,” chimed in mother, who was inducted into the Tarleton Hall of Fame in 2015 after a collegiate career that saw her qualify to the CNFR all four years. “It’s been that way since she was little bitty; a card game or, like she said, tying our shoes. We made everything a game and she always wanted to win. We’re very competitive, but we try to keep it fun.”
Jordan is the only child of Jennifer and Dane Driver, who are as steeped in the ranching and rodeo life as possible. The Driver Ranch was homesteaded in 1878 and is in its sixth generation. Jennifer’s family ranch is in its fourth generation. Both parents competed in junior rodeo and met as teammates at Tarleton.
The Drivers poured all they knew and loved into Jordan’s raising.
“This is what we do, and we hoped she would do that,” Jennifer said. “She’s been riding since she was 3. She really didn’t start competing until she was like 7. We went to a few little play days, and she liked riding in the pasture and things like that, but we really didn’t know if she was going to do (competitive rodeo) or not. Of course, we pushed her towards it, but it was one of those things, we both said, if she just doesn’t love it, we’re not going to force her to it.
“But when she started competing and liked it, man, it was really fun for us.”
Garden City girl is an athlete, on four or two legs
Attending Glasscock County ISD schools, always-competitive Jordan was bound to find her way into the athletic department – and succeed there too.
It’s been a mega time commitment for the Driver family, as Jordan has been an integral part of the tradition-rich girls athletic program at Garden City, where she earned all-state honors in two sports.
It is now postseason competition time in track and field. Jordan competes Friday at a Class 1A area-round meet in Garden City and hopes to return to the state meet a final time after the entire season was cancelled last year due to COVID.
Dane and Jennifer will watch Jordan until it’s time to head to San Angelo for Friday’s performance. Jordan will follow a little later to watch her mom compete.
Jennifer said there was no way she and Dane could deny Jordan an opportunity to compete in everything she wanted to try.
“We used to get it all the time, that ‘Well, you’re just gonna have to make her choose. She can’t do all of it.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, we’ll make it work,’ " Jennifer said. "We’ll do whatever we have to do. If we’ve got to finish one thing and get in a pickup or a plane and get her to the next one, that’s what we’ll do. If she wants to do it.”
The more taste of competition, the more it whetted Jordan's appetite. Just like her mom, who has qualified to some of the same national and state events, Jordan will continue her rodeo career at Howard College in Big Spring, where she can work toward her degree while simultaneously competing in both the college circuit and the WPRA events.
The Drivers will try a test run this summer to see what rodeos would fit best into the busy schedule and where Jordan can compete as a permit holder, saving her pro rookie year for a little later.
Big goals on the horizon
With a knowledgeable support group, Jordan has big goals.
"I'm going to keep rodeoing in college and transfer to a university after that to finish my degree, go into pro rodeo and try to win my rookie (year) and make it to the (National Finals Rodeo) one day," said Jordan, who has turned down offers to run track in college.
The experiences of her ranching family have also made Jordan more aware of needs for the future, she said.
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"I’m going to get a degree in ag business, and then I'm going to try to get into (Texas) Tech Law School," said Jordan, whose family has sought legal advice to preserve their land and mineral rights pitted against the always-economically important energy sector's use of the land.
There seemed to be a need for more agricultural-related law practitioners, she said.
"Some ranchers and farmers have to fight for their land. That’s what they do for a living for generations, and that's what really brought out the fire inside of me," Jordan said. "I've always wanted a debate team at Garden City because I love to argue and make my opinion heard. And we have a really good lawyer, and I watched her and how she helped our family and really liked her a lot."
Like many rodeo competitors from West Texas, the San Angelo Rodeo is a "home game" for the Drivers.
"There is going to be lots of friends and family, and they know we compete all the time but they don't get to see us actually do it, so our main goal is to go out there and make a good, respectable run and make our friends and family proud," Jennifer said.
It's (not) her first rodeo
While it's Jordan's third pro rodeo, it's her first to make it into a performance.
"I’ve been, gosh, everywhere and I’ve seen it, and I enjoyed watching it, but I’m glad I’m finally going to get to go under the lights and get to perform," Jordan said.
Jordan admits to wanting to beat her mom in her specialty.
"In rodeo, you compete against everybody, whether they’re related to you or not, so it’s kind of just one-on-one with everybody, and that helped me to understand and keep myself competitive," she said.
Jennifer believes Jordan has already won.
"She’s been a great athlete and so fun for us, way more fun for me to watch her than to do it myself," Jennifer said. "To get to do it together, to compete against each other, and help each other, it’s really rewarding to her dad and me. I love winning first, but if it’s Jordan that beats me, then I’m the happiest person out there because that’s what we raised her to do — to succeed — and that’s the ultimate as a parent."