With the spring rodeo run underway, professional team ropers are re-evaluating their partnerships with some changing directions before the regular season heats up for summer.
In 2009 David Key and Rich Skelton ended their rodeo season placing fourth in the PRCA World standings after winning two rounds and placing in four others. After roping with Martin Lucero in 2015, Key decided to step away from the rodeo trail and focus more on making a living at home.
"I've been doing a whole lot of lessons and schools," Key, nine-time Wrangler NFR qualifier, said.
[Read: Young Guns with David Key]
Now after a three-year break Key is cracking back out with Skelton (eight-time World champion heeler). Skelton, who roped with Resistol Rookie of the Year Nelson Wyatt at the winter rodeos, called Key to see if he would head for him.
"Well, honestly, Rich just called and said he needed a partner," Key said. "I've figured out how to make a living without rodeoing for long enough that I wasn't interested for a couple days. It was intriguing to have a good partner and get to go again, so after two or three days of debate I told him I would go."
[Read: Young Guns with Rich Skelton]
Key's debate with himself involved thinking about the opportunities that would come with going back out on the road with Skelton.
"I guess what made me go was the just the opportunity and to have a really good partner and be able to try to make the Finals again, as much as it pays now," Key added.
Key and Skelton's first run back will be at the Clark County Fair & Rodeo in Logandale, Nevada this weekend.
Another new team on the block is 2018 National Finals Rodeo Average Champion and 2015 World Champion Aaron Tsinigine and two-time World champion Patrick Smith.
“I’m really excited about starting with Tsinigine,” Smith said. “I’m roping and working at it like I did five or six years ago, and I’m making sure I’m prepared and ready to do whatever I have to do.”
The duo won the 2017 Wildfire Open to the World together and have occasionally roped as second partners.
Smith has been roping on Western States Ranches’ great dun stallion Hesa Dunofa Lena, also known as Rooster. Smith will have Rooster and a dun gelding, Turbo, to heel on in the 2019 rodeo season.
“Having Rooster has really given me clarity on some things,” Smith said. “I didn’t realize how much mobility Amigo had lost. He was such a great horse for so long, but it was a slow fade. I could still get on him in the practice pen and feel great, but when the money is up and stuff is sharp, he can’t make the moves he used to. I tried to squeeze every last drop of him I could. Now having Rooster and Turbo, it feels easier to me. They’re not the horses to me that Amigo was, with his career, but Rooster and Turbo are amazing. I’m ready to get out there with them.”
Tsinigine opted to rope with Smith after his early 2019 partner, Kyle Lockett, won $50,000 at RodeoHouston with Ty Blasingame to clinch his NFR birth in March. Lockett, who didn't rodeo aggressively last year, didn't get into Houston until he and Tsinigine won the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo.
By that time, Tsinigine was already entered in the rodeo with another partner, so Lockett roped with Blasingame, who also didn't have a run, to win the rodeo.
Lockett will head home to California for most of the year, with plans of roping with Lane Karney.
Charly Crawford (nine-time NFR qualifier), who was heading for Smith, will crack out with 2018 Hork Dog Champion heeler Logan Medlin in Reno, Nevada.
"Charly and I are pretty good friends," Medlin, two-time College National Finals Rodeo champion heeler, said. "We've talked about it a little bit in the past that someday we'd like to rope together if it worked out. The circumstances just kind of fell to where it lined up for us to rope, so we decided we would go ahead and give it a shot."
Crawford and Medlin have only partnered up at jackpots, but plan to enter local rodeos before they head out to Reno for the Bob Feist Invitational.
"We've jackpotted some together, but I don't think I've ever entered a rodeo with him," Medlin said. "Whenever I get back from California we are going to sit down and get a game plan on what we are going to do. We're going to practice and get our run together and try to get things lined out for Reno."
Medlin notes that Crawford's heading will help his job to clean up two feet on the back end.
"I think he's got a good style," Medlin said. "I think any guy that's made the Finals as many times as he has, he obviously knows how to win and can help me out in certain situations on what to do where. He's got good horses, and I'm looking forward to heeling behind him because he sets them up good and turns lots of steers. As a heeler, that's what you hope for."TRJ