Charmayne James and Scamper in their famous 1985 bridleless win
|Birth name||Charmayne James|
|Born||June 23, 1970
|Lifetime achievements||career earnings $1,896,568 through 2002|
|1984 WPRA Rookie of the Year
2017 ProRodeo Hall of Fame
Charmayne James (born June 23, 1970) is a retired barrel racer who was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1992 and the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2017. The August 2017 ProRodeo induction ceremony is the 38th annual event, but carries historic significance in that marks the first time in ProRodeo Hall of Fame history that the class of inductees includes barrel racers from the Women's Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA).
Throughout her career, James won more World Barrel Racing Championships than any other competitor in the history of the sport. She is barrel racing’s all-time leading money earner, and the first person to surpass a million dollars in prize winnings. James earned national recognition after winning the WPRA World Barrel Racing Championship consecutively from 1984 to 1993 riding Gils Bay Boy, a 1977 American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) gelding known by his nickname, Scamper, and again in 2002 on a horse named Cruiser. James and Scamper also won the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) Barrel Racing Titles in 1984, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, and 1993. James qualified for the NFR 19 times with five different horses prior to her retirement in 2003, and was also a gold medalist at the 1988 Calgary Olympics Rodeo.
Scamper received the 1992 AQHA Silver Spur Award which is "the equine world's equivalent of the Academy Award". As a gelding, Scamper was incapable of siring progeny, so James had him cloned in 2006 in an effort to preserve his genetics. James named the resulting foal Clayton. James retired Scamper in 1993, except for an occasional race, and he died July 4, 2012, at age 35.
James was born June 23, 1970, in Boerne, Texas, and grew up in Clayton, New Mexico. She started riding horses at age three. By age six, she was running barrels. She said, "It was all I wanted to do." She began her rodeo career by joining the Rabbit Ear 4-H Club. Barrel racing was customarily the only event that women competed in at Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) sponsored events, and it is the second most popular event after bull riding.
As a young girl, James ran barrels on her horse Bardo. They competed at amateur rodeos for about two years when Bardo shattered a bone in his leg and had to be euthanized. James considered Bardo her best friend and found it difficult to replace him. Eventually, she set her sights on Gils Bay Boy, an American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) registered gelding her father purchased as a 4-year-old for $1,100 to sort feedlot cattle. At first, James encountered behavior issues with the horse but with dedication and proper training she overcame those issues, and made him the horse she needed for barrel racing competition. He became notable as Scamper, a nickname that originated from her father's comment when watching them run barrels: "He sure wants to scamper around those barrels."
By the end of 1983, James and Scamper had competed as a team for approximately three years on the amateur circuit and advanced to the pro circuit. James filled her permit for the WPRA following a win at a competition in Dodge City, Kansas. "Filling a permit" is when a contestant fufills the requirements to become a WPRA card holder, which includes purchasing a permit and earning a minimum dollar amount at sanctioned rodeos. As a card holder, a contestant is allowed to compete in finals events and gain official ranking.
1984 was the first year James and Scamper competed at the professional level. By the close of the season, James won US$53,499 and the titles of 1984 WPRA World Champion Barrel Racer and NFR World Champion Barrel Racer. James also earned the title of WPRA Rookie of the Year.
In 1985, the pair earned US$93,847 and their 2nd WPRA world championship title. They won the world championships and NFR Average again in 1986 with total earnings of US$151,969, achieving professional rodeo's highest earnings ever in a single-event season. Another first come in 1987 at the NFR where the pair won their 4th world championship with earnings exceeding US$120,000. That year, James also became the first woman ever to wear the coveted number 1 on her back in a national finals rodeo, indicating that she entered the event as the highest money-winner for the regular season. In 1988, the pair won their 5th world championship with earnings of US$130,540—the most money earned that year by anyone in professional rodeo competition, exceeding the earnings won by the men’s all-around world champion.
In 1989, Scamper sustained a cut to his coronet band at the beginning of the NFR. James recalled how the wound caused her to change Scamper's normal conditioning routine, which cost the pair a few go-round wins; but they still managed to win the world championship title with $96,651 in season earnings. In 1993, James and Scamper qualified for the NFR yet again. James also set her sights on a tenth WPRA World Championship title and recalled how anxious she felt under such pressure. She wanted that win so she could retire Scamper undefeated while he was still in his prime. That year, the pair won both the NFR and WPRA world championships, securing Scamper's place in barrel racing history.
In 1992, she was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, honoring not only her multiple consecutive wins, but also topping the men in money earnings.
In 2002, James returned to win an 11th WPRA World Barrel Racing Championship on her new horse, Cruising on Six, known by his nickname, Cruiser. It was that event which secured her a place in barrel racing history. Guy Clifton, sports writer for the Reno Gazette-Journal and ESPN.com stated, "Anybody that doubted her abilities, she just proved her abilities by winning with another horse.”
The bridleless win
In 1985, James and Scamper qualified for the NFR and won five go-rounds at the event. James recalled that it was Friday the 13th during the 7th go-round of the barrel racing competition when Scamper's bridle fell off his head during the run. Upon entering the arena that historic night, Scamper caught his bridle on the edge of the gate which dislodged the Chicago screw that held the cheekpiece of his bridle to the bit. On approach to the second barrel, it was obvious the bridle was coming off. At some point during the action of turning around the barrel, the loose end of the bridle swung around and hit James below the eye. Scamper spit the bit out of his mouth, causing the bridle to drop to his chest, but he kept running full speed ahead. While running down the home stretch after the third barrel, James had nothing but a single rein around Scamper's neck with which to control him. Despite these occurrences, the pair crossed the finish line with a time of 14.4 to win both the round and the 1985 World Barrel Racing Championship.
Since breeding Scamper was not an option for genetic inheritability, James spent several years researching the possibility of cloning. She chose ViaGen, an animal genetics corporation based in Austin, Texas, to perform the cloning procedure for US$150,000. James registered the resulting colt born in 2006 with the American DNA Registry under the name Clayton, who is an identical genetic match to Scamper. The dam of the colt was a surrogate mare that was chosen to receive the cloned embryo. At age 2, Clayton became a breeding stallion and his services were offered to the public at a fee of US$4,000. Clayton sired healthy progeny, many of whom have inherited Scamper's genetics. Of special note, the AQHA does not register cloned horses; however, breed registration is not required to compete in barrel racing or other PRCA and WPRA sanctioned rodeo events.
James announced her retirement from competition in 2003 after winning a record 11 WPRA World Championships. She came out of retirement to compete in The American rodeo, referred to as the "world's richest one day rodeo", which began with the inaugural event in 2014. The event is held every year in February at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and televised nationally on RFD-TV. In 2016, she again stepped out of retirement as a member of Elite Rodeo Athletes (ERA) to compete in "the inaugural ERA Premier Tour against 87 other world-class athletes that represent 135 world championship titles", held May 20–21 at Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The WPRA has recorded the following earnings for James:
- 1984 – $53,499
- 1985 – $93,847
- 1986 – $151,969
- 1986 – Leading money earner in professional rodeo
- 1987 – 1987 – $120,002
- 1988 – $130,540
- 1989 – $96,651
- 1990 – $130,328
- 1990 – Charmayne crosses the million-dollar milestone
- 1991 – $92,403
- 1992 – $110,867
- 1993 – $103,609
- 1995 – $50,345
- 1996 – $49,995
- 1997 – $54,442
- 1998 – $116,325
- 1999 – $88,520
- 2000 – $146,000
- 2001 – $129,270
- 2002 – $186,405
- 2017 ProRodeo Hall of Fame
- 2016 New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame
- 2002 Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame
- 1999 St. Paul Rodeo Hall of Fame
- 1996 "Scamper" inducted into ProRodeo Hall of Fame
- 1992 National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame
- 1988 Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame
- 1986 Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame, Amarillo, Texas
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- Charmayne James & Scamper – 1987 NFR Rounds 9 & 10
- Charmayne James & Scamper – 1988 NFR Barrel Racing
- Charmayne James & Scamper – 1992 NFR Rounds 8, 9 & 10
- Charmayne James & Scamper – 1994 Tribute Clip
- Wrangler NFR Greatest Moments: Charmayne James Loses Bridle … Wins
- Rest in Peace Gill's Bay Boy aka Scamper