1. You’ll go broke trying to save money on a horse.
When you find the right one, buy him no matter what he costs. For years, I was lucky. When Jake Long and I started out, I had one really good horse. I didn’t understand how to maintain my horse and make him last. When he needed relief in the middle of the summer, I would run out of horsepower. When Reno starts, my horsepower was already going downhill.
It’s four quarters of a football game, and you can’t be out-mounted. Buying Carmen, the horse I ride from Reno through the end of the year, changed my game. I ride him from June to the end of the year, and that keeps my horsepower going all summer. That’s allowed me to be successful the last few years.
In the beginning, I would try a horse if it fit my budget. But probably the best quote I’ve ever heard is, “God doesn’t give you dreams that fit your budget. He’s not checking your bank account, he’s checking your faith account.” Now I try every one, if they cost $3,500 or $135,000. In the past, I would buy four or five horses that weren’t up to snuff and try to get by on them. I would take them to the jackpots, and not long ago I added up my fees. I was losing money when I wasn’t mounted good enough. If you make a living doing this, you’ve got to have it. Things usually fall into place. I didn’t have two nickels to rub together when I bought the most expensive horse I’ve ever owned, and somehow it worked out.
2. You’re never competing against anybody, just the steers in the chute.
A good friend of mine told me, too many times we get caught up letting the clock run in our head trying to beat somebody. At home when you practice, there’s no clock. I try to set the run up as best I can with my partner. At the end of the day, it’s a competition between me and the steer. I can only make the best run on the steer in the chute. If times are fast, it’s a fast track. Making your run is good enough. Don’t let the times and the competition get the best of you. So many times we can beat ourselves before we even back into the box.
3. Remember peoples’ names whenever you’re asking for a trade.
It will get you in a bind calling down the trade list. Make notes of who you called so if someone calls you back, you remember that you called them. You will need trades. Try to help people when you can. Sometimes you trade the best spot to help someone, but that will come back to you. Everybody is going to have two weeks when they don’t get what they want, so remember that you get trades out and you get trades coming in.
4. The fees are absolutely due on the last night of the last performance, or it will end up costing you $100. Pay your fees early, those $100s add up.
I have to pay good attention to my member services. The little rodeos will sneak up on you, those are what get me in a bind anymore. The big ones that you enter a month ahead of time, you’ll pay those. The little rodeos that end in the middle of the week, they’ll sneak up on you, and the fine is still $100. Those $100 fines will cut into you buying that horse we talked about earlier. In my case, it takes away from my honeymoon destination, and I’ll have an unhappy fiancée. If I’m on social media in a couple months talking about going to the Waffle House by the local golf course after the wedding, you’ll know I forgot to pay some fees.
5. Nothing you do in the arena makes you better or worse outside of it. Having strong character is the most important.
Your happiness can’t come from inside the arena. You’ll never win enough to allow your happiness to be performance-based. Roping is a job. It’s what we do for a living. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to do this. I get to travel all across the country with my favorite horses, and my fiancée gets to fly in and out to see me. It’s been a choice a lot of people have had to sacrifice to make available—parents, partners, sponsors, family. Losing can get us soured on rodeoing. If it isn’t your choice to quit tomorrow, and you have to, your attitude would be different. If you have good character and are positive about it, and remember it’s just a job, you’ll make it. I’ve had to work hard and work long days, and now I can be out here rodeoing. It makes me appreciate that I get to do this for a living.