Kendra Santos: You’re 27, and it seems like you became a household name in the roping world in relatively recent times. Where were you hiding out, and what were you doing?
Aaron Tsinigine: I lived everywhere and anywhere, and I didn’t have any good horses. I hung out in Fort McDowell (Ariz.) for a long time, then I grew up and got more serious about it. In 2012, when I roped with Caleb Twisselman, that was the first year I actually decided to try this for real. I went last year, too, so I’m hoping the third time’s a charm. It took me awhile to line everything out and get my ducks in a row.
KS: You spend a lot of time with Derrick (Begay) and Erich, right?
AT: We all live within five minutes of each other in Fort McDowell right now. We see each other every day, and we all practice together.
KS: You’ve won some ProRodeos in the last few years with guys like Erich, Cory Petska, Chase Tryan and Caleb. Last year, you won a few rodeos with Jhett Johnson before roping with Clay O’Brien Cooper starting at the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.—which you won. After roping with Cole Davison, Kyle Lockett and Jhett Johnson, your 15-rodeo fall run with Clay was crazy good. What sticks out most about that time with Clay?
AT: Every time I turned a steer he caught two feet. Anytime you have a guy back there who can do that, it boosts up your confidence that much more. Clay and I got along good and had a lot of fun. I talk to him a lot about my roping now. He became my mentor. Every time I’m down, he helps me get out of it. He says little things that make a lot of sense.
KS: Did finishing 17th in the world last year bum you out or inspire you?
AT: It inspired me, but I didn’t have a really good winter and spring. I think I’m ready. I think I’m heading better than I ever have before, and I feel ready to do good. I feel like I have a chance. That’s what makes the top headers great. They stay at the top of their game day in and day out.
KS: Did you learn anything new roping with Clay?
AT: Clay O’s a businessman, and his life is all about roping. Most of the time when he isn’t talking he’s really focused in on what he needs to do. I observe those top guys. Last year, before we started roping, Clay and I were texting. My year was kind of up in the air. Clay said, “God won’t let you starve, so look at the bright side.” Rodeo’s hard, but at the end of the day Clay’s right—you always get by.
KS: Was Clay the first guy to call you Spinigine?
AT: Yeah, he started it. He was the only guy who called me that, then Derrick put it on his Facebook page and it stuck.
KS: How about you winning the ProRodeo in Scottsdale earlier this year heading for Derrick while he was still wearing his pickup-man chaps?
AT: If I had a say-so I’d have made him take those chaps off. I didn’t count that rodeo (as one of his official rodeos toward the world standings). Derrick said if I had he might have taken his chaps off. Neither of us had a partner, and the rodeo’s 10 minutes from the house. That was Derrick’s first ProRodeo heeling win. Seven years ago, when I was fresh out of high school, he won his first ProRodeo heading buckle with me (and Tsinigine won the Turquoise Circuit Team Roping Title heeling that year, in 2006).
KS: Who’ve you been roping with and how’s it been going this year?
AT: I started the year with Walt Woodard, then started roping with Kory Koontz from San Antonio through the California run. I started roping with Ryan Motes the week of Silver City and Clovis, N.M., in June. It’s been a roller coaster this year. I’ve done good, then gone on a dry spell. I’ve got a little ground to make up, but I like it when the rodeos get outdoors and you have to go chase ’em down.
KS: What’s your goal as far as roping goes, and what’s the plan for getting there?
AT: My goal ever since I was a little kid has been to make the NFR. Getting to rope there one time is all I’ve ever dreamed of. I have a really good horse now (his bay horse, Smudge), and I’m working really hard day in and day out. My plan is to work as hard as anybody out there. Sticking to that plan has made me that much better.