Dear Roper

Documenting the Best Times: An Inside Look at the November 2023 Issue
The storied life of Jim Rodriguez Jr., the top 10 traits of a horse for lower-numbered heeler, Junior Nogueira's first big U.S. hit and more.
Photographer Clay Guardipee crouched in arena dirt with camera in hand.
Photographer Clay Guardipee at Sioux Falls. | photo by Chelsea Shaffer

Dear Roper,

This year has been a whirlwind for our staff, with more digital coverage of rodeos and jackpots than ever before (by a lot). We’ve churned out more podcasts, more coverage of tie-down over at, more can-chasing stories on, more breakaway roping news at, and way, way more video content over on Yeah, it’s been a LOT.

Clay Guardipee shot this month’s cover from the 2023 Pendleton (Oregon) Round-Up.

But somehow, each month, Gabby Schiavino, Eva Young, Kendra Santos, Abby McDougall and I manage to put words on paper for this magazine. And the linchpin, at least this year, has truly been the photography that’s made the words come to life. This issue’s cover is absolutely no different, as Clay Guardipee makes us all look good with his image of Derrick Begay and Colter Todd, in a shot that shows the brotherhood these two have had, through good times and bad, in all its glory at their Pendleton Round-Up victory lap. 

I felt this same absolute joy when the October issue hit our mailboxes last month, too, with the cover of Michael Jones on Jackyl and Travis Tryan on Walt. My long-time friend Dan Hubbell took that photo, some 16 years ago, and it timelessly documented the equine legends at Cheyenne. 

These photos help tell the history of our sport—and they’re treasures that we’re honored to print each month and share with the masses of the team roping population. For decades, great photographers like Gabe Wolf (see his photos on page 36, where I tell the story of Junior Nogueira’s Big Break in 2014) and the late James Fain’s work (on page 64, helping illustrate the life of Jim Rodriguez Jr. as told by Kendra Santos) have documented our world, and without them, we’d be much, much worse for the wear. 

Remember—always buy the photo. Whether you’re at a Mathews Land & Cattle Ariat World Series of Team Roping qualifier where Shelby Lynn does her best work or a JX2/NTRL event with Andersen/CBarC, the photos will tell your story. And someday, when we’re writing about you, we’ll ask if you have any photos you can send us. Way too often, the answer is no. But do us a favor and document the best times of your life in the arena with an image or two. You won’t regret it. 


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