Q: What do you do for a living?
A: My family owns sugar cane plants, where we make sugar and also ethanol fuel for cars. I’m the president of our company, Usina Alto Alegre, and I work for the board. I meet with the partners and owners of the company once a month. My brother Jose is the CEO, and he runs the company.
Q: How much does your job allow you to rope?
A: I ride and rope every day. We raise about 30 colts every year, so they keep me busy.
Q: So you mostly heel?
A: Yes, now. But I used to rope calves, too. I moved to Joe Beaver’s house in 1999, and rodeoed in the U.S. for three years from 2000 to 2002. I heeled and roped calves at the rodeos, and was the runner-up Resistol Rookie of the Year in the all-around, heeling and calf roping in 2000. I won the all-around at Sisters (Oregon) and the team roping at Omak (Washington) in 2000, and the calf roping at Sheridan in 2001 or ’02. I also placed at the Cheyenne Frontier Days when they team roped muleys.
Q: Tell us more about the Joe B. connection.
A: I made my first trip to America when I was 14. We flew into Miami, and went to Disneyworld. A few years later, Joe put on a roping school in my hometown in Brazil, and I won the jackpot at the end. I went to a second school of his, and he told me if I won that second jackpot, he’d give me a free month of roping with him in Huntsville. That’s what got me roping in the U.S. the first time.
Q: Who did you team rope with at the U.S. rodeos?
A: I roped with another Brazilian, Joe Sores, the first two years, then with Brett Fleming from Montana in 2002. At the end of 2002, my dad got sick. So I sold everything I had in the U.S. and came back home. I quit roping for 10 years. Then in 2012, I started horse showing with Rafael Paoliello, who was already showing at the AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) shows in Brazil. I made my ranch a roping horse ranch, and developed a breeding and training program using horses I brought to Brazil from the U.S. I built the program with Rafael and J.D. Yates. They find good young horses, then train and show them. They are my eyes, my trainers and my friends. Rafael is the Brazilian J.D.
Q: How’d you get hooked up with J.D.?
A: I first met J.D. at Brazil’s biggest rodeo in Barretos in the 1990s. He needed a partner on the last day of the rodeo, so I let him rope with mine. After that, I always stopped at the Yates place in Pueblo when I was rodeoing in the U.S.
Q: Tell us about some of the successes you’re most proud of.
A: We had a couple of our mares win world championships at the World Show last year. Weavers Playgem won the 2018 senior heading with Dustin Rogers, who works for J.D., riding her. And J.D. rode Shine Blue Brandy to the 2018 junior heading world championship. Weavers Playgem was also the 2016 amateur world champion heel horse. I rode her for that. In 2014, I rode my stallion Mr Fritz Wood to amateur world championships in the heeling and tie-down roping, and won the reserve amateur all-around that year.
Q: Sounds like roping has played a huge role in your life.
A: Yes, I started roping my first year of college in Brazil in 1992. I had some bulldogger friends, so I started bulldogging. After a few times in the practice pen I decided bulldogging was not for me. In Brazil back then, we practiced bulldogging on muleys, and there were so many wrecks. I decided roping was for me, and I started roping calves. I started heeling two or three years later, then I moved to the U.S.
Q: Compare rodeo life to the horse show world.
A: Rodeo is for when you’re younger and want to travel a lot. Horse showing is more fun. No more all-night drives to rope one steer, and you get to hang out with your friends. I love these horses. I bought the sire of the mare J.D. won the junior heading on last year from Dean Tuftin two or three years ago—Shiners Lena Chex—and brought him back to Brazil. He’s sired six world champions in heading, heeling and calf roping. I’ve been shipping frozen semen to the U.S., because he’s such a good producer.
Q: How often do you come to the States these days?
A: Typically, a few times a year to qualify horses for the World Show, then again for the World Show. But I need to have a hip replacement this November, so no World Show for me this year. I’ll rope at our Brazilian rope horse futurity in October, then have my hip replaced.
Q: What’s the difference between a good jackpot horse, a good rodeo horse and a good show horse?
A: In the heeling and calf roping, the good ones are basically the same and you can win on them anywhere. You can rodeo on a really good show heel horse. The head horses get a little closer and set a little more at the horse shows.
Q: How big a deal is team roping in Brazil?
A: It’s huge. Me and Rafael started a rope company here in Brazil—Tomahawk Ropes—and we sell almost 5,000 ropes a month. There are thousands of ropings here in a year now. They’re mostly lower-numbered ropings and not many opens, like in the U.S.
Q: How big a deal is Junior Nogueira in Brazil?
A: Junior’s a big deal, and his dad (Lucinei) was a famous cowboy in Brazil, too. They’re from the same hometown as me, and I’ve roped a lot over the years with both Junior and his dad. Junior and I talk about once a week—in Portuguese, of course.