Competitive team roping, at any level, comes with an inherent amount of pressure. This pressure to win is ultimately what drives all of us to compete. You throw in the love of horses and the people, and the mix is perfect for the high-stakes, high-reward platform that we all enjoy especially at premium events.
But there is a whole hidden, behind-the-scenes world driven by a group of individuals who feel the pressures of team roping—but from a whole different set of angles.
“These things are pressure cookers!” laughed Shanon Hunt, Director of Software Engineering and Solution Architecture for Equine Network. “You have all of these ropers, the staff in the office and the announcers all relying on your software to work flawlessly plus handle all of the money and handicaps. Yeah, it can be a lot of heat, but that’s what has created such a great program and team of developers. All of whom have worked to make it what is today thru battle-hardened efforts and 30-plus years of event experience.”
Hunt and his development team of Dwayne Keith and Eric Kilburn, all from central Texas, are the ones responsible for conceiving, creating and updating the most trusted, dependable and user-friendly team roping event software in the world.
“Today we call it GEMS or Global Event Management Systems, but it has had many iterations over the years, all of which were building blocks to the system used today by event producers all across the United States and Canada to payout nearly $100 million in 2022 alone,” Hunt said. “This software isn’t just the best team roping software. I would venture to bet it is the best in all recreational sports.”
Since 2002, Hunt has worked to build the event management software and handicap software, guiding it through all the changes and evolutions requested first by USTRC, then the World Series of Team Roping and now Equine Network/GEMS.
“So back in the day, they would run a roping all weekend off of paper sheets, and then those sheets would be sent back to the office where a team would basically recreate the roping on the computer and manually re-enter all of the names and times,” Hunt said. “So, for years, every roping was done at least twice. Real-time, and then once again starting Monday morning. When I came in late 2002, my first job was to tackle an entry system that could be stand-alone, didn’t depend on the internet and was 100% dependable for the office staff when it came to handling handicaps and the money. Before we ever launched the program, I would literally sit at ropings, in the event entry office, and just BETA test the code over and over. I always had it in the back of my mind that whatever could go wrong would – so we had to play heads-up ball and build the program while anticipating unforeseen situations.”
Over the years, the software and databases have been constantly updated. Central Entry was created to handle the business end of entries and payouts while managing the database of ropers, and then Score was the front-end side for the announcers and actually running the live events.
Today, GEMS is the product of years of hard work and knowledge all rolled into a beautifully designed interface that is simple to use yet extremely powerful for everyone from the office to the announcer’s stand, all the way to the ropers holding a cell phone viewing runs on TimeTracker (available on the GEMS mobile app to watch/view times in real-time).
“Just for a reference, TimeTracker had 1.3 million impressions in the last 20 days and nearly 10,000 individuals opened their phone or followed along at ropings in that time.” Hunt said. “DeWayne has done an amazing job with not only the design of TimeTracker but on developing the technology to tie everything together seamlessly on the back end to create a user experience for ropers that makes sense and is easy to use. Now you add in Eric who has rebuilt multiple roping websites and creates all the pages that interface with GEMS to take entries, provide up-and-coming events, and allow logins for ropers to enter online and check their draws at the Finale. When you really look at how all of it ties together, it is pretty amazing, and I’m awfully proud of the whole development team.”
The Team Roping Journal has boasted the Ariat WSTR numbers in past issues, but to think that hundreds of thousands of teams and tens of millions of dollars run through the pipeline created by the GEMS team, brings into focus how the years of experience, the hours spent at large events and the hiccups along the way have chiseled GEMS into the absolute best roping solution out there.
From the number of individual ropers and handicapping management that relies on all of the data from every roping across the country that uses GEMS, to the game-day operations, announcers’ interface, and payouts, it is sometimes easy to think that this is all really simple. The trick here is the team behind GEMS has made it look simple but their fingers have bled to make it that way for all of us.
The Ariat WSTR Finale paid over $16 million. The GEMS software was used over the course of the entire year, tracking who qualified, who was eligible then moving on to the process of entering and pairing teams, tracking all the changes in partners, draw outs, and swaps, before the first times were recorded in the system. That’s when TimeTracker comes into play letting each individual watch the event unfold right on their phone. This event was viewed millions of times AND every single run videoed at the entire Finale was delivered to every roper who signed up or was a member of the Key Card program. So, millions of dollars, millions of views, twenty thousand video clips, and everyone walked away knowing that the event was the most fairly handicapped, correctly paid, and flawlessly executed event possible. The bottom line is, none of that would have happened without GEMS and the team behind the magic.
Thank you, to everyone who works countlessly on the databases, coding, design and development. And to the staff who has put in the hours of database building, manual entries, and hours of consultation from entry offices and announcer stands across the country. Your tireless work and commitment to making GEMS the best software possible for any producer from the backyard jackpot to the Ariat WSTR Finale. We appreciate you.
If you are a roping producer or simply wish to put on a backyard jackpot, we encourage you to give GEMS a try. By simply offering your competitors inexpensive membership options, you will instantly have access to the absolute best entry and event software in the world. The team at GEMS is always available to answer any questions and to help ensure you have a great roping event. For more information and to connect with a GEMS representative, please contact GEMS at firstname.lastname@example.org.