We all learned to rope by focusing on catching cattle consistently. It was all about average ropings, and 4- and 5-second runs were unheard of, even at the rodeos. The conditions were different back then. The scores were longer and the cattle were bigger. If you got all your cattle roped clean, you won something. So basically you learned to be conservative and not make mistakes. In the last eight or 10 years, the cattle have gotten a lot smaller. Theyre lighter and they have smaller horns. The new generation of ropers go for broke every single time. Its natural for them to rope aggressively. Nowadays, you have to be 4 at just about every rodeo to win something.
If you want to be competitive, you have to learn to rope the new-wave style of roping. It goes against my train of thought not to teach beginners the fundamentals of catching from a close position, getting steers on a short rope and handling cattle. But you can’t be competitive like that if you’re going to go very far. You’ve seen it coming on for the last 10 years-each new generation of kids takes it to the next extreme. Each new round of ropers that comes along adds their own little wrinkle to it, and it gets even faster. It amazes me, and makes me wonder just how far it can go. What’s next-throwing from the box?
This is a timed event, so the faster you can get it on a steer and get him turned, the better. But how do you do that consistently and keep your horse running and working? The further you reach, the more likely you are to wave it off a steer’s horns. It’s just more likely from way back than from a close distance. You’re also more likely to rope a front leg when you reach. But so often these days you have no choice but to take a chance.
You obviously have more control of a steer when he’s on a short rope than when he’s out there on a long line. Learning to handle cattle when you reach is an art all its own. It’s kind of like baking a cake. You can read the cookbook all you want, but until you get the experience, do it a lot and master it, it’s hard. Roping’s the same way. You have to take it to the practice pen and experiment with what you need to do to make it work in today’s competitive environment.
A lot of kids these days learn to rope fast first, then work on their consistency later. It looks to me like more of a pride deal than anything. They start off really competitive with each other and want to see who can be the fastest. They go at every steer. It’s not really about trying to make a living at it for them, so they’re just going full blast every single run.
Young people don’t have families and a mortgage. All they have is a truck and trailer payment, so they’re going for broke every single time. I realize I’m old school. But when I see guys trying to be 4 on their first one at the National Finals that just amazes me. It’s like a no-fear attitude
These days, you even see guys being aggressive at the average ropings. You used to have the luxury of running up in there, making sure you got your horse in position and setting things up for your heeler. Now headers rope steers running up on them. They’re rolling to them, sticking it on ’em and rolling out of there. Headers used to soften up that corner and heelers roped steers on the third or fourth jump. Now headers are rolling out of there and heelers are roping steers on the first or second hop. It’s just progressed that much. There are enough guys taking chances that if they happen to click you aren’t going to beat them. When you rope that fast, you’ll be forced to make mistakes. It’s a numbers game, and the odds for consistency drop dramatically when you’re going all out. The beauty of roping is that it’s creative. Someone’s always thinking outside the box and trying new things. That’s why this sport just keeps evolving.