With spring beginning and summer approaching quickly, professional team ropers are taking a deeper look at their partnerships and making some changes.
Dustin Bird will crack out on the head side for 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo average heeler Trey Yates, who was roping with JoJo LeMond m, who is now staying home with his family and ranching.
"JoJo said he'd stay out here and rodeo but he thought that Bird was really prepared and has good horses–eager," Yates said. "He was willing to stay out here, but his main goal was to rope with me until I got a really good header. He told me that anytime I need him, to call him."
"He’s young and hungry," Bird said about Yates. "He is going to come to my house at the end of May so we can practice and go to Canada til Reno.”
Bird's mare, Dolly, is one that the crowd has grown to know and love, but he will be hauling two newer head horses on the rodeo trail this summer.
“I have two head horses that I’m really excited about, and I feel like Trey will catch a whole lot of steers, and fast," Bird said. "Puppy come from Chad Masters, he’s 8 and Doc came from Driggers, he’s 14."
Oregon's Hayes Smith will pick up Bird’s former partner, Russell Cardoza, beginning at the Santa Maria (California) Elks Rodeo.
"We roped at our circuit finals and won the average, then we roped through the spring," Smith, about roping with Cardoza in 2017, said.
Smith, who had been heading for Evan Arnold, decided that he wanted to stay home. That was until Cardoza called to rope.
"I was actually staying home," Smith said. "The Sunday after Clovis (California), I called him and told him I was going to stay home and then I texted Russell asking him if he needed a partner till Reno and then he called me that next Monday."
Hayes has two younger head horses that will be making the rodeo trail this summer.
"I got my little mare called Smooch (8)," Smith said. "The year I was 18, I cracked her out and she was really good. Last year, I took a step back with her because she's so young. This year she's ready to go again. Then I have an 8-year-old sorrel horse named Peso that I'll also ride a little bit."
Dustin Egusquiza, who was roping with Kory Koontz, opted for Jake Long.
"Clay Smith decided that he was going to rope with Jade Corkill, so Jake didn’t have a partner," Egusquiza said. "I thought that he would be a pretty good option for me. I like how fast he throws. We talked about it a little bit and he wanted to do it."
Egusquiza and Long have roped together before at the Open jackpots.
"We’ve jackpotted together before," Egusquiza said.
Unsure if their roping styles will click in the rodeo setting, Egusquiza is excited to rope with his new partner.
"I don’t know if we’re going to click good or not yet," Egusquiza said. "We’ve won a few jackpots together and the practice has been going really good. I’m pretty excited."
Their partnership recently kicked-off at the Mineral Wells (Texas) PRCA Rodeo where they were 9.3-seconds on their steer.
Koontz picked up Cory Kidd V to head for him after contemplating who he would pick up to head for him at the upcoming rodeos.
"I got a call from Dustin, that he was going to rope with Jake Long," Koontz said. "Then I had to figure out somebody that I could rope with. When I was looking, basically, at the list of guys that I thought had the experience and could do what it takes to get me back to the NFR and make a good team, I choose to ask Cory because he’s never made it before and our winnings were about the same."
Koontz's took the business side of team roping into consideration for choosing who he was going to opt for to head for him. Luckily Kidd V was in the right position in all aspects of the spectrum.
"We were real close in the standings, so that helped as far as getting someone that’s got way more won than you or way less," Koontz said. "One person could have one kind of a goal or a need and the other partner’s different. To me, that made a difference in me and him being pretty equal as far as how we move forward and if we get to a point to where I don’t feel like I have a chance, then he would basically feel the same because our money is almost the same. Then if things go really well then it’s a no brainer, but just from a business standpoint, trying to pick somebody that I felt like had experience, knows how to win, has that desire and going to put everything into it because he wants to make it and he never has. I ultimately have to make a living so I need someone that knows how to make a living. That’s how I came to that conclusion."
Kidd V and Koontz have roped together before in jackpot settings but never as rodeo partners.
"We’ve roped at a couple of jackpots but never full-time second partners, never very consistently, just at some smaller ropings," Koontz said. "If each of us needed a partner we would maybe team up. I would say we’ve maybe roped at two or three ropings total."
Kidd V and Koontz have both been around the rodeo scene to know what it takes to make it. They may have only roped together a handful of times, but they do plan to get together to make some practice runs to learn each others strengths and weaknesses.
"We’ll get together," Koontz added. "Both of us have been around to know that we’ll adapt and we can make it work. It is important to get in the arena to learn each other, to know each other’s habits, to be able to read situations. Basically as a heeler I need to know what my partner’s tendencies are as far as he handles them and what he does in each kind of situation so I know where to be so I can do the best job that I can do."
2018 World Champion Header Clay Smith, who started out the season with a heater with Jake Long, will start roping with Jade Corkill.
"He just text me one day a while back and asked if I’d be interested in roping," Corkill said. "I’ve known him for a long time and got to see him come from the start to where he’s at now which is at the top. We’ve always gotten along really good and I’m looking forward to the opportunity."
Smith is eager to have Corkill heeling two feet behind him for the duration of the spring run and into the summer run.
"I hope it’s good," Smith said. "You never know how it’s going to be until you start roping with somebody. It’s just on of them deals–only time will really tell. We obviously hope it’s going to work out good and we think it is, but you don’t know until you run thousands of steers together to see what it’s like. I think we’re both really excited."
Smith and Corkill have roped a lot together in the jackpot setting that it should be like second nature when they head to their first rodeo together at Mineral Wells.
"We both jackpot so much together," Smith said. "We’ll try to run some together, but we’ve roped enough together to where it’s not a big deal." TRJ