We all need to be honest with ourselves in every area of our lives when it comes to evaluating how things really are and where we want to go. Roping’s no different, and every roper needs to ask himself, “Am I willing to change to become a better roper?” The thing I see in so many ropers is they talk the talk, like they want to get better. But what keeps so many people at certain levels their whole career, in my eyes, is an unwillingness to change.
It seems crazy to me when someone stays a No. 2 roper all his or her life. How can that be any fun? Why not study your game, go to a school and work at it? It seems to me that just about any activity I can think of is more fun the better I get at it. Roping is no different.
I see so many people with mental blocks on certain aspects of roping. They might refuse to handle their slack a certain way, or to feed their rope a certain way. I’ve actually seen ropers who won’t even try something new. They put up a wall and refuse, saying, “This is how I do it.” People get in a comfort zone and decide it’d be too hard to change.
A lot of people aren’t willing to step over a boundary to change for the better. But they’re a No. 2 anyway, so I don’t see them having anything to lose. You might see experimenting as a setback, but it’s only a temporary, short-term situation. I hate to see people fall into that trap, where they aren’t willing to try something new that would make them better in the long run. I’m not criticizing lower-numbered ropers here, I’m just being honest and trying to help you get better.
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There are all different kinds of ropers. There are coffee-shop ropers, who are hobbyists. A lot of those people go to a roping school for a conversation piece. Then there are people who come to try and prove that they can outrope us. Oddly enough, others come to a school with no intention of absorbing any of the information. They can afford it, and just go through the motions. They look at it mostly as lots of runs. A small percentage does listen to everything we say and will try it all. They’re willing to change, and are the students you see the most progress in.
As an instructor, it’s really frustrating to see people who aren’t willing to go through all the steps it takes to progress to the top. I’ve gone through it all myself, and I don’t understand people not being willing to do the same, if they truly want to improve.
There’s always a chance that when you try new things it’ll get your game as you know it off for a while until you get the new-and-improved way ironed out. You have to be willing to go out on that limb for the greater good. I’ve heard it a thousand times: “I was roping everything before I came to this school.” But if you rope verything, you aren’t a No. 2. Again, be honest with yourself. It’s the only way to get there.
Taking your roping to the next level also involves horsemanship and the mental game. You have to be willing to learn in those areas, too, in order to be stronger. It was bone-crushing to me in years past to hear criticism about my horsemanship. It’s true, though, I did ask a horse for his life every run earlier in my career. But I’ve worked at it, and have tried really hard to improve in that area.
I was a world champion, and was willing to listen to constructive criticism. I could have bowed up and blown all those comments and all that feedback off, but it was true. There was room for improvement, so I took that on.
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Clay used to have more of a temper with horses, too, but he’s become a great horseman. He’s learned, like I have, that you can get a lot more done by taking it easy on one and allowing him to enjoy his job than by forcing him to do it.
We all want instant success. I’ve played a little golf, and what I’m talking about here applies to everyday life, too. So much of it is discipline, and that’s what so many people lack. You need to discipline yourself to do things right. If you aren’t exactly sure what the right thing is, get the help you need from someone who does know. I play golf two or three times a year, and when I took my kids golfing the other day I noticed I was giving them advice, as if I had any business thinking I was a golf instructor. Roping’s the same way. Get help from a true expert.
During the rodeo in Clovis (Calif.), I had a couple days with nothing to do. I decided to get a couple buckets of balls. The main thing I decided to concentrate on was not hitting the ball hard, just hitting it as straight as I could. I shot 11 over par, which is awesome for me.The next day, I did the same thing. I wasn’t worried about the score, just about hitting the ball straight. I shot 11 over par again. I was just so amazed by what happened when I didn’t try to do too much, and just stuck to trying to do things right. The next step in golf for me, if I decide to take it that far, would be some professional help and getting better at the mechanics of the sport.What I’m saying here relates directly back to the game plan when I roped with Clay. “Around the horns and two feet will win you so much money”-that was our motto. Do that day in and day out, and you’ll be a pretty successful team roper.
It’s easy to abandon the fundamentals. If you don’t have instant success, you fudge and find a way to make it work. It takes a lot of willpower to do things right.