Aldo Garibay, 40, grew up in the Mexican state of Sonora—a few hours south of Arizona’s border—on his family’s ranch, where they raised cattle and crops. As Aldo explains it, team ropings and rodeo abound in northern Mexico, particularly in the neighboring state of Chihuahua, and it wasn’t long before his father was finding opportunities for his sons, Sergio—Aldo’s senior by eight years—and eventually Aldo, to become skilled competitors.
The Garibay brothers would come to dominate the Mexican rodeo world and would each earn a record-breaking number of World Champion titles—10 for Sergio and then another 11 for Aldo.
Among the Spanish-speaking roping community of the Americas, he’s been referred to as “The Trevor Brazile of Mexico,” and published news articles illustrate the willingness of his students to travel from all over Latin America to train in person with the champion. Tens of thousands of fans and ropers follow his social media pages for training tips and videos from Aldo, where his viewers can see he proudly wears patches from sponsors like Classic, Heel-O-Matic and Wrangler.
North of the border, in the United States, Aldo is not yet as well known among the English-speaking roping community, and it’s high time that changed.
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The Roper / El Lazador
As a cattleman, Aldo’s father would travel to the border to trade, where he made a connection that would set the trajectories for his sons’ roping ambitions.
“My dad used to send cattle to the border, export cattle,” Aldo explained with his impressive handle on the English language. “The guy who bought the cattle from him in Nogales, Arizona, told my dad, he said, ‘If you want your son to learn to ride the right way, I know a guy who is the top 15 in the world, and he just lives in Tucson. I’ll introduce you to him and I bet he can teach your kid the right way.’ That guy was George Aros.”
Four-time NFR qualifier Aros, who’s been running his Tucson arena for the past 35 years, knew enough Spanish to help young Sergio with his roping technique, and what began as a one-week schooling opportunity in the 1980s blossomed into lifelong friendships and roping opportunities for both boys in the decades since.
“They came over for a week of roping lessons and Aldo was just a little guy,” Aros recalled. “I’m thinking his brother wasn’t 12, maybe 13 years old. And he had a little bit of an idea. He could swing a rope, but they’d never seen organized team roping before. This was back in the day when videos were a new thing, and I had a video of the Tubac Pro Roping and we watched the whole video. We sat there and we watched these guys run up there close and rope the steers, all the pros at that time, and they watched in fascination.”
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As Aldo developed as a heeler, he roped aggressively across Mexico, but he made a point of entering up in the States, too, and he enjoyed a number of successes, including roping at the 2005 USTRC Southwest Regional Finals in Albuquerque.
Aldo went to the border a week before the event to put his horse in quarantine and pay the several hundred dollars it cost to get the horse into the United States. In the meantime, he was bucked off another mount and suffered an injury that turned his leg black. By the time the event began, Aldo was in rough shape, but rode anyway since he had gone through all the effort to compete with his own horse.
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“Back then I was a number 6, so I entered the #10, and the #11, the #12 and the #13. And I got to win money, a little bit, in every one of them, so at the end, I was on the list for the high point winner of the weekend. I was excited because I didn’t even know. I won the high-point winner with my horse, Emilio, and it was pretty cool because that was the first time I got to rope on him over there. I almost broke a leg and my leg was black from the bruise, but I was taped, and maybe that’s why I roped so good because I was so worried about my leg that I forgot about the money!”
Around the same time, he and Aros also went to the BFI three times, though success eluded them there.
“Bold statement, but I always thought he had the same talent as Junior Nogueira when he first came out here,” Aros said of Aldo, now an 8 roper. “If he could have just moved onto the next level. That was his own choice that he didn’t. I don’t think it was a talent issue. I think he had the talent to go as far as he wanted to.”
The Teacher / El Profesor
Aros is right. Aldo does not suffer from a lack of talent. Rather, his talents outsize the rodeo arena, and have deeper roots, too.
“I had a nickname during the rodeo business, when I used to compete,” Aldo said. “They called me El Gigante, [pronounced he-gon-tay]. ‘The giant.’ I’m a little tall. In Mexico, that’s very tall. They call me El Gigante de Caborca. That’s my hometown. But my students don’t really know me like that.
“I still compete a little bit because in team roping, you don’t retire ever I think. But I think the clinics, with all this traveling, I don’t get the time to practice and be in shape and all that. And usually, I’m booked months ahead. I used to move my clinics around competitions … but I really enjoy teaching. I don’t miss competition as much as my students think.”
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For Aldo, teaching is a calling—an innate instinct that bubbled to the surface through his roping.
“I found, one time, a paper I did when I was in high school. I was 16, and you had to draw what you wanted to become or what you wanted to do, and I drew myself standing in front of a lot of kids holding ropes and there was a dummy in between them and me, and I was in my cowboy hat with a rope teaching them how to rope.”
In addition to visualizing teaching, Aldo also found himself practicing teaching before he ever even had his first student.
“I remember when I was a number three, and I was roping my sawhorse at my farm on the big Alamo tree. I remember myself talking while I was raising traps on the sawhorse, just like if I was talking to somebody, telling them how to do it. But there was no one there, so I was just trying to rehearse the way I would teach somebody to do it.”
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Naturally, Aldo knew that to attract students, he would have to prove himself in the arena—a hefty task for a 3 roper, and one that required the same kind of persistence he now inspires in his students.
“I was an even number 3 for 10 years. That means that, now, you know how you’re not supposed to get! When people are not able to accomplish an exercise, I’m trying to tell them I understand. You need empathy. It’s like I can be in their shoes. Then I can say, ‘Yes, you’re going to get there, but you’re going to have to take another road that’s a little longer and it’s going to take patience and it’s going to take discipline, but of course, you’re going to make it.’”
He remembers practicing his speaking at the sawhorse so many years ago.
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“Sometimes, I would say the same speech every day, twice or three times, and I do it with the same enthusiasm. I stood in people’s shoes and I know that what I’m saying is important, so I try to say it with that emotion and the same excitement to be able to get them get the spark.”
As Aldo transitioned into teaching, he began running team roping camps for kids, but eventually transitioned away from that to offering roping schools through his company, Team Roping Intensivo, or T.R.I., which brings students to the ranch he leases for the clinic in Polotitlan, in Central Mexico, about two hours northwest of Mexico City, for an immersive week at a time.
“It’s a six-day clinic and, the first three days, we rope dummy, Heel-O-Matic, cattle in the morning; dummy, Heel-O-Matic, cattle in the afternoon; and, on the fourth day, I hire a bus and it will take us around beautiful places. Here, we call them magical towns.”
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Pueblos Mágicos are towns and villages recognized by the Mexican government as bearers of Mexican culture and legacy. For travelers, and for the 20 students Aldo accepts for each clinic, they are physical representations of the country’s true character.
“I am from the north part of Mexico,” Aldo said, “but the north part of Mexico doesn’t look like Mexico and it doesn’t look like United States. It’s missing an identity. Even people from the north part of Mexico, when they come to my [clinic,] ‘Man, I feel like I’m in Mexico,’ they say, even though they’re Mexicans. So, it’s the beautiful towns in Mexico with the architecture and [what] we call the Mexican Spirit.”
Back at the arena the next day, participants saddle up to rope again in the morning, but spend the evening listening to Aldo’s presentation on roping under pressure, which he has developed after many opportunities to speak at various functions and conferences.
“Then, the next day, which is the sixth day, they compete for buckles in four different categories, and the high-point winner will get a buckle. After that, we have a banquet where we will give the buckle away to the winners, and gifts for everybody who entered.”
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Then, for those who haven’t gotten their fill, on day seven, even though the clinic has technically ended, everyone is able to enter up in a local jackpot to really put their newly acquired skills to use.
“I’ve been getting people here in Mexico from Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and from Colombia,” Aldo said. “And this year, I think we’re going to have people from Puerto Rico also coming to my courses. So, they get to rope a lot here. They get to go visit places and rope and they meet people and now they have friends from a lot of countries after that.”
The Ambassador /El Embajador
In addition to hosting schools in his hometown, Aldo also travels throughout his country and greater Latin America, too, giving clinics as he goes. Recent posts from his Facebook page, Aldo Garibay Fanpage, show him roping in the Mexican States of Sonora, Chihuahua and Nuevo Leon, as well as in Colombia and Costa Rica. He is a true ambassador to the sport of team roping, and its products.
“I think we’re just really lucky to have him,” said Classic’s Chief Marketing Officer, Billie Bray. “We’ve endorsed him for several years and they distribute our product.”
The “they” Bray refers to is Aldo and his wife, Gaby. According to Aldo, Gaby earned her stripes in charro competitions—“the girls with the beautiful dresses, you know, riding in circles and spinning and all that,”—and was, at one time, Mexico’s Reserve Champion. Today, she is the mother to their 10-year-old daughter, Alegra, and Aldo’s partner in all of his team roping ventures.
“My wife is the one is charge,” Aldo said. “There is nobody missing a Classic rope close to wherever we rope. So, we represent Classic in Latin America. Gaby does all the work. We provide ropes and tack for Colombia and Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Panama and Mexico right now. That’s what we do. We connect people with Classic. They talk to the people and then I go meet them and we try to find a better spot to get a dealer in the areas where the roping community is growing.”
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Additionally, Aldo also became a member of the Mexican Rodeo Federation, three years ago and was asked to take responsibility for a program which allows Mexico’s Junior High and High School Rodeo athletes to come to the United States to compete in the Finals for each division.
“We sent people for the first time in 2018,” Aldo said. “Then, we did it again last year, and we’ll send them this year.”
In the 2018 press release announcing the partnership between Mexico and the National High School Rodeo Association, MRF president, Guillermo Herrera, is quoted saying, “This is the best news for the MRF since signing on with the PRCA. I’m very glad to be part of this large youth association. It’s a great opportunity for the Mexican cowboys and cowgirls as well as for the Federation to increase the number of memberships and increase the level of competition.”
Aldo agrees. “It’s been fun and it’s been different. I think it will help Mexico grow with the amount of kids competing in the sport. And of course, it’s going to impact on the level of competition in years to come. Right now we have our National Champions ready to go next summer to United States and they have like 7 months to get money and paperwork and horses across and everything like that now that they know they’ve qualified. It gives them time to organize because it’s pretty expensive considering how much the family earns here in Mexico.”
For the kids, the experience is priceless.
“They’ve been making the short go in bull riding and team roping in both the high school and junior high. At least one did, but it gives them confidence. Right now, we have good team ropers. Our team ropers can do a pretty good job over there. Also, bull riders. And pretty good goat tyers. We have good goat tyers in junior high and high school. In the rest of the events, we really have to work because they’re tough. That’s a good thing because now our teams are going to train harder and they’re going to look at those kids and, you know, they follow them on the social media and they know that they’ve been training and how good they’ve been competing and they just want to keep up with that pace and it’s great for them.”
The Dreamer / El Soñador
Aldo’s rodeo kids aren’t the only ones with U.S.-oriented goals. His passion for teaching has already spread across the expanse of his home country and beyond, and he believes he has a lot to offer to ropers in the United States, too. Folks who’ve had the pleasure of meeting Aldo agree.
“I wish more people knew about him,” said Josh Love, who met Aldo through his partnership with Heel-O-Matic when Love was managing the company. “I think they’re missing out by not knowing about him. The guy can head, heel. He’s a great horseman. He can rope calves. He’s just awesome. You won’t find one better, really.”
Aros agrees, especially when considering the significant percentage of U.S. ropers who are lacking the same impressive handle on the English language that Aldo has mastered, as well as Aldo’s talent for getting low-numbered ropers over the hump to the next level.
“If you don’t speak English, this would be the one I’d recommend for sure,” he said. “I couldn’t recommend anybody better to show you and help you with your roping. He sounds 100% professional when he speaks. He’s very articulate. He’s very compassionate and certainly, a person who doesn’t know how to rope, or someone who’s a 3 or a 4 level, he’d be able to help them a lot.”
Bray also supports Aldo’s quest to be able to teach in the United States.
“He does a really good job,” she said. “He works really hard for what he gets. They try really hard and I’m pretty sure they’re not getting rich. But, he rides good horses. Takes care of his horses. Has a beautiful place and just does a lot of work. Just the fact that they help Mexico do the High School and Junior High Rodeo is a big deal.”
So, if you’re not yet familiar with Aldo Garibay, team roping’s champion athlete, teacher, and international ambassador, look him up, follow him on social media, and maybe, if we’re lucky, catch a clinic with him when he’s given the go ahead to come to the United States and share his teachings with us.
For more info:
Facebook: Aldo Garibay fanpage