Doug Rich began college with a rodeo scholarship to Western Oklahoma State College after taking the all-around, tie-down and team roping titles at the 2013 Illinois High School Rodeo Association State Finals. Rich is in his final semester at University of Tennessee at Martin, after representing both schools at the College National Finals Rodeo three times in those past four years. In July, he and header Morgan Jones qualified for The American 2018 when they took first in the average with 31.56 seconds on four head at the USTRC’s Eastern Regional Finals in Murfreesboro, and most recently Rich won the #15 heeling and the #12 heading at the USTRC’s Central States Showdown in St. Louis.
Q: How did you get started roping?
A: I guess I was about 4 or 5 years old. My dad used to rope a bunch, and we had an arena there at our house and that’s where I got started. But really, there were actually quite a few people who helped me out. I’ve been lucky. A lot of people have done things for me that helped me get to where I am.
Q: Do you have any big plans lined up for after graduation?
A: I’m majoring in ag business and farm and ranch management, and I know there are a lot of job opportunities, but I haven’t really looked into very many of them. I’d like to try to move to Texas or somewhere like that when I get done with school.
Q: From Illinois to Oklahoma to Tennessee, where do you like roping the most?
A: I’d probably say Oklahoma has the most ropings, but there’s quite a few people that rope around Tennessee. I also go to Alabama a lot and rodeo with Morgan Jones, who I qualified for The American with. I lived down there most of this summer, and there are a lot of ropings that go on down there, and a lot of people who rope, and rope really good.
Q: How did you start roping with Morgan?
A: We started roping together a couple of years ago. I’d always known who he was but had never talked to him that much until he came to a jackpot up in Missouri, and we talked about rodeoing together. Four weeks later, I went down there to Alabama and stayed with him for a while. That’s when we kind of got started.
Q: Was The American on your radar before this year?
A: Oh yeah. I’ve tried to qualify for the past couple years. I never had any luck.
Q: So aside from finally snagging the qualifier, what would you consider your greatest accomplishment inside the arena?
A: I would probably say winning the #15 Shootout twice at the US Finals. I won it the first year with Cole Wheeler in 2013, and then in 2015 with Wesley Thorp. That second one, with Wesley, I remember he got him a good start and he didn’t throw just the greatest head loop, but it went on anyway. His head loop kind of scared me a little bit, but I seen it went on and I was just hoping I didn’t miss. I was giving him a hard time afterward, but it all worked out I guess.
Q: I’d say so. Is there an aspect of your training that you focus on the most?
A: My horses. Making sure they’re working best. I feel like that’s the biggest thing in roping or team roping or anything—if your horse ain’t working good, then it makes your job even harder. So, when I practice, or anything, when I ride my good horses, I make sure that they’re doing everything right and working the best that they can.
Q: Speaking of good horses, your horse was the NIRA Horse of the Year in 2015.
A: I’ve got three different heel horses and all three of them are Dual Pep bred. They all work pretty good. I got that buckskin, Bucky Dual Pep, when he was 4. I still ride him; he’s 10 now. That’s the horse I rode both times I won the #15 Shootout. I don’t ride him much at the smaller ropings. I just ride him at the bigger jackpots and the bigger rodeos. Then I got a half brother to him, a little roan that’s 6 or 7 years old now. I’ve been liking him a lot and starting to ride him a bunch, too. I call him Snort. His name fits him good—he don’t kick or nothing like that, but he’s kind of wild on the ground.
Q: What do you want out of your horses?
A: With the heel horses, I make sure that I get the same look every time in the corner and that they don’t get too close or don’t stop before I throw, and just make sure they stay real honest right there through the corner. That way, I can have the same kind of look every time, which makes the feeling a lot easier.