Austin Robertson of Robertson Hill Ranch announced this August that he will personally guarantee the cattle he sends to the 25 or so ProRodeos for which he’s under contract, a bold move that turned the heads of team ropers and contractors alike.
Beginning at the Lawton, Okla., ProRodeo, Robertson posted a numbered list of steers he sent to the rodeo along with a ration of medium, medium plus or medium minus, a move he plans to continue at any ProRodeo to which he sends cattle. Then, if a roper believes he’s been fouled by the stock, he can email a video of his run to Robertson for review. If Robertson deems his cattle to be unfit for that herd, he will refund the cowboy’s entry fees.
“Ropers and timed event cowboys have dealt with this forever—the roughstock riders receive re-rides if the judges feel that animal did not give them a chance to place,” Robertson explained. “They’re able to call and find out what they drew before it starts, and if it’s not worth going, they don’t go. For the timed event, it’s always been luck of the draw. I’m definite- ly on the side where I don’t think there should be reruns in the timed event at rodeos—on the stock contractors end, it’s our job to provide the stock the cowboys can compete on. I want us at Robertson Hill Ranch to stand behind what we provide. This is a way to say we are providing the best stock. I don’t want a contestant with a $300 entry fee on the line to be responsible for a steer he has no chance on.”
Robertson will limit this rule to the ProRodeos because he can be confident that the ropers there aren’t causing a steer to set up, go left hard or drags, the three main trouble spots he’ll be looking for in the review videos. At jackpots, it’s the pro- ducers’ and flaggers’ job to decide if a team deserves a rerun, Roberston explained.
“It’s a neat concept,” Jake Long said. “For years the rough- stock guys have gotten rerides if their horse doesn’t performed. It’s nice that at least you can get your financial investmentback from that particular rodeo. We showed up at Lawton, and it was great to know what each steer did. It made it more of a roping contest than a drawing contest. I don’t know how many other contractors will get on board with that program, but it’s sure neat that he’s doing it. It would be nice if it were that way everywhere. It would be nice to get a rerun if a steer were that bad you couldn’t be competitive on him, but it’s the nature of our sport. It would be hard to govern reruns eventually. Appear- ances can make the cattle look worse if you miss the barrier bad or something weird happens.”
The Robertson Hill Ranch crew ropes through every steer before it leaves their arena, Roberston said. Because they rope them in a large, open indoor, Roberston knows that despite his best efforts, there are circumstances that can make a steer perform abnormally.
“Two years ago, at Weatherford, Texas, Coleman Proctor and Jake Long had a steer, and JoJo LeMond and Dakota Kirchen- schlager had him the next day, and he should not have been in the draw,” Robertson said. “That was one of my thoughts behind this new rule. I feel terrible to this day, and I want to do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen to guys.”
Robertson is looking to do right by ropers—he heads for Jake Cobb at the ProRodeos and knows how much is on the line when you nod your head. But he’s also hoping to get the atten- tion of more rodeo committees looking to contract their team roping cattle and other contractors in hopes of raising the bar on the quality of cattle in rodeo.
“I want to definitely start a trend,” Robertson said. “Some- body’s got to jump out there on the edge first. Hopefully this makes other contractors want to provide the best stock they have as well. Hopefully they see this that see we’re standing behind our word and we get additional calls because of that. Contestants are wanting the best steers, fans are wanting the best runs. So hopefully it makes contractors across the board start providing better stock. I could definitely receive some negative feedback on it—but that comes from somebody that’s negative about everything. But I haven’t yet, though.” SWR