Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill haven’t had the year they’d have liked to have—even though they’ve won more at this point of the year than any other team in recent years.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t grateful for every dollar they’ve won and every run they’ve made. These two just don’t ever rest on their laurels. The duo spends countless hours in the practice pen perfecting their swings and their horses. The partners have made team roping an almost scientific formula, one that’s paid off time and time again.
“I get told a lot to not be so hard on myself because, ‘You can’t catch every steer,’” Corkill said. “I already know you can’t catch every steer. But I trick myself into believing I can because if I think I can’t catch every one going into it, then why would I work so hard at my roping? What else is there to work toward if I don’t think I can.”
The uncompromising competitor mentality isn’t lost on Tryan, either. He’s been known as one of the fiercest competitors on the rodeo road his whole career, and roping with Corkill hasn’t put a damper on that.
“I believe my heeler will catch two feet every time,” Tryan said. “I just think if I get out of the barrier and turn him, we’ll win.”
In Redding, their formula was simple. They roped two great steers in the two-header rodeo, the first in 5.5 seconds to earn $1,478 a man, and the second in 5.6 to earn $879 a man.
“We drew two of the better steers there,” Tryan said. “It felt easy. We just caught two and held on to win it. That is a great rodeo because they run it back to back and they add equal money.”
For their win in Redding, Tryan rode Sadie, a 12-year-old mare he got from Blake Hughes, while Corkill rode AQHA/PRCA Horse of the Year Caveman.
One part of their formula is the horses. On top of Sadie, Tryan has Dew and Kate, his two long-time top horses. As for Corkill, he’ll haul Caveman and Switchblade this year, and he’s always searching for the next great horse to help him win another world title.
“Jade’s got great horses, and as far as the horse deal goes, the best ropers seem to have the best horses,” Tryan said. “My theory on horses is if I have a great horse, I can win money every single time. Maybe on a mediocre horse I can win somewhere once. But at a place like the BFI or the NFR, I can back into the box with a legitimate chance to win every time I nod my head. On an OK horse, you might be able to win it once, but not every time.”
For Corkill, he never has to worry whether his partner is giving it all as far as his horses. He’s never had to give Tryan’s efforts to have the best horses a second thought, because he knows how much his partner is putting toward the equine side of the equation.
If horses are one part of the equation for Tryan and Corkill, another undeniable part has to be their mental game, though it may be different than many others.
“I fix problems by knowing what the real problem is,” Corkill explained. “I’m real with myself, and I take the blame for what I do. That way, I can figure out where the problem is and fix it.”
For Tryan, his confidence in himself and his partner is unmatched, in part because he knows how hard Corkill takes a loss.
“I like his competitiveness,” Tryan said. “He’s got the fire and the want to, and if it doesn’t bother you when you lose, something is wrong I think. It’s our job, our livelihood. It’s what we grew up doing. When you’re giving your all and there’s no more to give, and you still fail, that’s hard to take. And I know Jade and I are giving our all every chance we get.”
Their mentality is eerily similar, and the more you talk to them, you realize how much sense their roping together makes, talent aside.
“Anything in roping works better off of reaction,” Corkill said. “If you have a partner with the same thought process, who goes about roping the same way, you never have to try and think about what your partner is going to do when trying to also think about what you’re going to do. I can just react to him because of how similar we go about roping. We don’t talk about our runs, we don’t talk about the situation. I know whatever I’ve done and what he’s planning to do.”
For Tryan, having a partner as strategic as Corkill is a huge asset that takes some of the weight off of his shoulders.
“Jade is a smart guy,” Tryan said. “He enters us, handles the trades and figures out how we get around. I was always like that before, for probably 15 straight years. Now I feel kind of useless because I know how much work he puts into it.”
With a big lead on the rest of the pack ($10,000 for Tryan, $8,000 for Corkill at press time), Tryan and Corkill won’t ease up or enter any fewer rodeos than if they were outside the top 20 in the world looking in. They haven’t eased up on jackpotting, either. Tryan just won the first three holes at the Windy Ryon Memorial (see page 25), while Corkill entered once but made that count for a second-place check with Tryan. They’re at it every chance they get.
“There’s only so much backing off you can do,” Tryan said. “I don’t have 15 great years of rodeoing left. I’ve got to capitalize.”
Corkill agreed. “To me, when I think about the rodeo year, it starts and everybody wants to cross the finish line first. Any time you do good early on, people ask, ‘Are you going to take it easy or back off?’ If you start a race, and you’re getting chased by a lion, are you going to slow down and let the lion catch up to you, or are you going to keep running as fast as you can?”
Their practice plan will stay the same—rope together once or twice a week, while both practicing separately daily. Corkill has roped more legs than he’d like to so far in 2014, and he’s spending his hours in the practice pen fixing that. He’s still feeling the effects of a burn to his left hand in Round 1 of the 2013 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“People don’t understand my intensity sometimes, because if I don’t do well, it makes me want to try even harder,” Corkill said. “If I mess up, I try harder to do better, and if I win, I try harder to win more. The one thing I get told the most is, ‘Man you just need to relax and be happy with the way you’re roping.’ And I appreciate all the advice I get, and I need advice and I listen to it all. I process it. But deep down, the way I work, I feel like the day I just relax and be happy with the way I’m roping, that’s the day I’ll quit.”