Kendra Santos: This was your fourth year out on the ProRodeo trail. After winning $5,525 your rookie season in 2011, you finished 73rd in 2012 and 33rd last year. What’s the “X factor” that got you over the hump and into your first Finals in 2014?
Shay Carroll: Realistically, 2013 was the first year that I went to the big rodeos all summer. My goal was to stair step. The first year I just wanted to circuit rodeo, the second year I focused on trying to win the circuit (Mountain States Circuit), then the third year I wanted to go all summer long, because I was still in college. I rodeoed from May until August last year, then I went back to college. This year, I got to rodeo during the winter, then got to stay out there after May. So basically, this is the first year I got to go from beginning to end. I’d say the X Factor is the knowledge I acquired in the process, because had I just jumped out and gone all year from the start I wouldn’t have been successful.
KS: What’s been the most important lesson learned in the last four years?
SC: Definitely that you can’t take yourself too seriously, and that your life doesn’t revolve around roping. It’s what we do, but not who we are. Whether you win or lose, you’re still the same person. For the longest time, my attitude each day depended on how I roped. It’s gotten to where I love and enjoy roping, but I realize there’s so much more to life than roping. Once I was able to let go to that, I was able to start roping at a level I needed to to win.
KS: Name your main partners since you turned pro, and what sticks out most about roping with each of them.
SC: I’ve roped with different guys for a long time. A few of them over the last four years have included Tyler Schnaufer, Colby Siddoway, Speed Williams and Charly Crawford. Tyler and I were learning the ropes together. I learned a lot roping with Colby, too. I really started growing as a roper when I roped with Speed, as far as taking it to a professional level—handling my horses, my roping and my mental game.
KS: Who is the one person who’s most influenced your young roping career?
SC: Probably my dad (Dick) and my grandpa (Truett) equally. I don’t think I could pick one or the other. Together, they’ve been the driving force behind everything that’s happened for me. They’ve influenced me from the get-go.
Ks: What was their single most important piece of advice?
SC: There was a lot of advice over the years, but the main thing was work ethic. You can accomplish anything, as long as you put in the hours. The work ethic they instilled in me has been the biggest help in trying to accomplish my goal, which was to make the National Finals. It’s been our goal for three generations. Both of them have been behind me all the way.
KS: Like your dad and grandpa, you grew up roping a lot of calves, too. Did you feel like you had to give that up to focus on your heeling in order to turn the NFR corner?
SC: Yes, absolutely. There was a point where I had to decide which one I wanted to pursue. I didn’t have the resources to try and make it in two events. I had to sell my calf horse to buy more heel horses. We’ve talked about trying to get back into it, but at the professional level it’s so specialized these days.
KS: Are you still in school at Tarleton State?
SC: I graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing. Tarleton gave me a great place to pursue my college education, as well as my professional roping career in Stephenville, Texas.
KS: Tell me about the moment you realized you were in and your NFR dream was finally a reality.\
SC: It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I accomplished my dream, because nothing in my life has changed. Since I don’t know what to expect I don’t think it’s going to be a reality until I get there. Ellensburg is where we knew we qualified for the NFR. Winning that rodeo made the last month of the regular season enjoyable, knowing we were in.
KS: What excites you most when you daydream about opening night at your first Finals?
SC: Knowing three generations of my family will be there watching excites me the most. They know how much work we all had to put in for me to be there, and in that moment it’s going to be a reality for all of us.