This’ll be the 28th time in my career that I’ve set new goals and set the mark so I have something to shoot for. Everyone wants to make the (Wrangler National) Finals (Rodeo) or be a world champion. I’ve set that goal 28 times. You have to keep up with the times, look to the future and ask yourself, “What am I going to continue to do to rise above the field?” You need to get the rigs, horses and sponsorships in order. You’re always looking for something to give you that edge. You’ve always had to have an edge to be successful in this sport, but now there are a lot more guys who are competitive. I don’t care how good you rope these days-you have to rope good, draw good, have a good partner and a good horse. All the cards have to fall into place for you to have a chance.
To stay ahead on the food chain, you have to work harder. It’s kind of like a computer that you have to keep updating and upgrading. You have to see the future, and what it takes, and try to keep coming up with something better and different. You have to have an advantage-a great partner, a great horse and great ability, for starters. You always have to go back to the drawing board in order to stay on top.
We’ve always practiced. But that’s not enough anymore. You have to study it, and hone your skills down to a science. Even if you do that, there are no guarantees you’re going to make it. But if you don’t do that, it’s almost a guarantee that you aren’t going to make it.
I’m going to approach my new year a little bit differently this year and try a different plan of attack. I’m going to cut down my travel a little bit, and pick and choose a little bit better. The guys with families have to battle to be home. We’re looking to balance our schedule a little bit better, so we don’t have to be gone as much or as long.
I’ve got a good horse. Peppy Doc’s been a good horse for me. But I’m still looking. I’m always looking. That’s the hardest one of all. That’s everyone’s problem. It’s a constant headache. One good horse is hard to find, and one isn’t enough. I had high expectations that Barney (his great gray horse) was going to come back this last year, but that didn’t happen, so it was disappointing. But that happens. That’s why the search never ends
You always have to be looking ahead in the rodeo industry. If you wait until you need to make a change, you’re way behind. You have to plan who you’re going to rope with, which rodeos you’re going to enter, what horses you’re going to ride. There are guys who’ve been planning their 2008 partnerships from the middle of 2007. You want to have a game plan, and you want to have things mapped out, but sometimes you get a curveball and have to regroup and make adjustments.
I’ve never settled for just saying I’m going to make the NFR. My goal every year since I started is to try to win a world championship. My thought on that has always been that if I set my target at the top, at least I’m going to hit the middle of the target. If you only shoot to just make the NFR and come up a couple holes short, you’re home in December watching it on TV. I’m always excited to start a new year. It’s always refreshing to start with a clean slate. The chase for the NFR and world championships has been a 28-year career race for me. Everyone looks at it from year to year, but this has been a 28-year race for guys like me and Clay (O’Brien Cooper), Allen Bach and Tee Woolman. It still gets me fired up. I look forward to jumping out in the lead and being the frontrunner all year. It doesn’t happen like that every time. You can’t throw a touchdown every play. Sometimes you fumble. Then you go to the sidelines, regroup, strap your helmet back on and give it the best you’ve got.