It had been 25 years since I won the Bob Feist Invitational, and before going to Guthrie this year, I did some reflecting on how aggressively I used to rope, how I set up my shots and where I put myself in the run. There were little things as I got older that I took for granted about my roping, and I had slipped into riding a position that was way safer and cutting to the inside and having to take another swing or two or three if things didn’t develop just right. All of these different things were causing me to not be the old me who used to win these ropings. So before the BFI, I’d been working to change that. Here’s how.
1) I’d decided I was going to be more aggressive—put myself and my horse in a position to rope the first or second hop. Not necessarily a do-or-die shot. Not up there to where I had no choice, but more like I used to be, where I could take the shot every time if I had it and if I didn’t, I could still push through and get another hop. My mindset, really, was to be more aggressive and not get caught picking up and doing the safe thing.
2) By doing that, I’m expecting myself to use a little more talent and use a little more of that mentality of roping to win the darn thing—not just roping to try to get by. In my mind, even at my age, that’s what I’ve been working on: How to rope the roping and how to put myself in a position to win. I even told Jade (Corkill) the other day—he asked what I was working on—and I said I still feel like I can compete. I still feel like I rope good enough—I just haven’t been winning. I’m roping to win now. After the BFI was over, he said, ‘Well, I guess you proved you can still compete.’ That’s been my mindset.
3) I’m riding a more aggressive position, a little farther up the arena. You can see in this photo, Manny is roping the steer and I’m up beside the steer. My horse’s head is almost even with the steer’s head. That’s not normal for me—I’m typically back a little farther so, when the steer turns, I’ve got a clear angle to come to the inside to move with the cow.
4) After the first round at the BFI when I just laid up a shot, I reminded myself that I was there to win and needed to get more aggressive. By the last steer, I pushed up there, when Remix crossed over, and that steer hit and separated from me, I had it waiting on me. I crossed over and lost momentum and when that steer took his jump I was going to win it and look great or take that shot and look stupid. It happened to work. Remix worked amazing. I could see the hop coming clearly. There was hesitation in my last swing so I could open my loop up. Remix is free enough and fast enough, and the older he’s gotten, he will not hardly go by the corner—he wants in because I’ve taken him to the inside his whole life. He knows where he needs to get to. Exactly where I put him determines just how much momentum I lose when he has to cross over.
5) This is obviously a shot I took on a finished, older horse. But if you don’t ever show a young horse that shot, they never learn it. But, that’s not the first thing you teach them, either. You teach them to be farther back and wider, but by the time they’re seasoned, they should be able to push up farther to let you ride to the end of it and rope to win if you have to.