This issue marks the first time I’ve gotten to write my editor’s letter after the conclusion of the National Finals Rodeo and the Ariat World Series of Team Roping Finale, giving me the chance to really reflect on who won what and how brilliantly all of our teams worked together to give you every ounce of coverage you could hope for from Las Vegas.
To World Champs Tyler Wade and Wesley Thorp: You guys, thank you. Thanks for keeping us laughing your entire careers and especially across 10 days in Las Vegas. TWade has come a long way from bull-dogging rogue weanlings in my driveaway (thanks for that, though), but there’s still nobody better to make us laugh until our cheeks hurt. Someone who knows a thing or two told me before Round 10 that Tyler Wade will be a great world champ, and I know for sure he wasn’t wrong. Thorp has already proved himself a great one, and he’s just solidifying his place in history from here on out.
Almost a decade ago, one morning Tyler Wade showed up in my driveway. Lucky for me, he’s come back every summer since. I don’t pick favorites, but I’ll always cheer for the kind of guy who’d keep my kid company so I could ride my horses or fix dinner in peace.
Derrick Begay and Colter Todd also were willing to take us along on their ride. There’s a chance I can quit now, because I don’t know that I’ll ever get to tell a better story than the year and the friendship that these two have had. Watching their mastery of the cowboy craft over 10 rounds—and watching their mastery of class outside of the arena, too—was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, one I am so grateful for and will write about someday when I look back on my career.
Across town at the South Point, where our crew makes its home when we’re not at the rodeo each night, we saw roping history again with the largest payout in the sport’s history in the #9.5 (see page 18 for a conversation with the header, and Finale roping stories start on 39).
What’s more, we saw thousands of ropers coming together to enjoy the sport they love, with record numbers of friends and family in the stands. We saw our teams working like well-oiled machines to run three arenas at the Finale and two outside at the Mathews Land & Cattle qualifiers, producing ropings from sunup to sundown with top-of-the-line cattle and staffing. The millions upon millions doled out reinforced the health of the sport, showing the entirety of the horse industry the unprecedented growth that’s possible with the right team and the right mission.
Thanks for sticking with us, and here’s to more in 2024.