Kendra Santos: Being the best possible bulldogger is obviously job one. How much do you really care about team roping and the all-around race?
Clayton Hass: I care about it quite a bit. Steer wrestling comes first. Bulldogging’s No. 1. It’s got to be, because it’s my job to take care of (their main mount) Cadillac and the guys in the rig.
KS: Last year’s gold all-around buckle came down to Round 10 at the NFR, and you finished just $3,600 behind Junior. How tough was that to take?
CH: Pretty tough. I showed up in Vegas with the chance to win two world championships. Then I missed that steer in the fourth round. After that, my focus went to just trying to win as much as I could to try and win the all-around championship. The all-around became my main focus. My theory going into the Finals was that if I gave myself the best opportunity to win one gold buckle I’d have a great chance at winning two. After missing that one steer, the all-around was more on my mind.
KS: I know you’re ranch-raised. How many different events did you work growing up, and which ones?
CH: All the timed events—calf roping, team roping and steer wrestling. I rode two junior bulls back in the day, and very occasionally entered the steer roping.
KS: When did bulldogging start to pull rank, and why?
CH: After high school. I won good in high school in the steer wrestling, but I always leaned toward the roping events. I was a roper. Once I started to pro rodeo, I started focusing more on the bulldogging, largely for financial reasons, because you can split the fuel more ways.
KS: You turned pro in 2005. Have you worked more than one event consistently since then?
CH: No. This year is the first year I’ve consistently worked more than one event. Last year, I team roped with Cody Doescher at a few of the winter rodeos, circuit rodeoed a little bit, team roped at three rodeos with Cody over the Fourth, and roped with John (Robertson) at a few rodeos in Montana (at the end of
the 2016 regular season) last fall. I bet
I roped at 30 rodeos last year.
KS: How hard is it to work multiple events when your top priority is winning a gold buckle in one of them?
CH: Trying to work more than one event makes it real tough. Getting up right in that second event is tricky. I have Ty (Erickson), Tyler (Waguespack) and Dakota (Eldridge) in the rig, too. Being in a buddy group of four, I can’t cross-event enter so I’m guaranteed to get drawn up in the same perf in multiple events. So I have to enter the team roping as a stand-alone event and try to make it work. I really have to consider those other three guys first.
KS: Will you rope calves or steer rope at any rodeos this year?
CH: I’ve been entering the calf roping a little bit and will probably try to enter some this summer at places like Cheyenne. Dakota, Blane Cox and Reese Riemer have let me ride their calf horses. I don’t have anything to ride in the steer roping.
KS: Do you practice every event when you’re home?
CH: I practice more bulldogging and team roping than anything else. I have calves at the house, too. I breakaway some and tie some down when I can work it in.
KS: Your heeler, John Robertson, is from Montana. (He’s also a brother to NFR heeler Matt Robertson, Bobbie Tryan and Arena de la Cruz.) How long have you two roped together, and how was that geographically unlikely match made?
CH: John and I have roped together since last fall. He called me when his partner got hurt and couldn’t go to Missoula. I was already entered in the bulldogging, so could team rope, too. We won Missoula, so we started entering the Montana Circuit rodeos.
KS: At about how many rodeos will you enter the team roping this year?
CH: Hopefully 75.
KS: Tell us about your head horse and how much you’ll be hauling him this summer.
CH: My black head horse, Indigo, is 13, and he gives me a chance every time. He’ll go all summer.
KS: What are your team roping goals?
CH: At this point, to win as much as we can and hopefully make the Finals. We’re in a good position. We’ve got over $20,000 won before Reno. We have a legitimate shot, if we can keep winning.
KS: Which headers do you make a point to watch, and why?
CH: Guys like (Kaleb) Driggers, Trevor (Brazile) and Clay Tryan. They rope smart and they use their horses. They reach when they have to. You don’t see those guys get into slumps much. They win.
KS: Which buckle is No. 1 on your wish list right now?
CH: The gold buckle in the steer wrestling. I’ve put a lot of time into it. I’ve given myself a couple opportunities to win it and have made mistakes. I’d like to put myself in that position again and be able to finish it. SWR