6 Steps to Winning The Wildfire XXI with Jake Long
Back-to-back Wildfire Champion Heeler Jake Long talks through the six runs that netted him and Clay Smith $30,000 at the Wildfire XXI in Hamilton, Texas.

Long coils up his non-core Whistler by Cactus Ropes in Round 1 of the 2019 Wildfire Open aboard his three-time AQHA/PRCA Horse of the Year Colonel. Olie’s Images

A jackpot situation—especially at a six-header, enter-once roping like the Wildfire—can throw a little bit of everything at a guy. Against so many of the best teams in the world, you need to stay aggressive if you want to win first. At the same time, you’ve got strong steers that can be really unpredictable. The key for me is to determine what position I need to ride and focus on that, as well as keeping my rope speed consistent, so I’m ready for whatever the steers throw at me. 

Round 1 Olie’s Images

Round 1

That was probably the toughest steer we ran the whole day. Clay is so good at keeping steers moving around the corner, but for whatever reason when Clay went to get a hold of him, he fought it, threw his head up and threw his back end down himself. You can see that I’m a little bit too close to him. But Colonel is so good at keeping his feet moving, as long as I kept my swing speed moving through there and keep the plane of my rope consistent, I’m okay. it’s so easy to let off of your rope and slow your swing down to look for him, but I kept swinging and waited for Clay to pull him up out of there. That allowed us to get by a steer that could have taken us out of the roping. Colonel really let me get him heeled. 

Round 2 Olie’s Images

Round 2

That day, those steers were big-framed. A lot of them weren’t just coming out of there the cleanest. Any time you’re roping really big steers, you want to set your horse up for the jerk. You want to set your delivery up for you to get a lot of rope through the legs. To do that, I really wanted to make sure my horse’s head never went past the steer’s tail head going down the arena. There was no heel barrier, so I could have run up close to the cow. I was really trying to keep my horse back running down the arena to keep my momentum through the corner and allow him to take the jerk. I’m being patient, staying in my lane, and when that steer finishes turning I will have plenty of momentum to be in a good spot to heel him fast. 

Round 3 Olie’s Images

Round 3

This was the second-toughest steer we ran that day. Once we got past this steer, it was pretty easy. This was the tester. That cow really ran, and he pushed to the right. I didn’t do a very good job of keeping him off the fence, as you can tell. But if you want to win first, you have to take a chance or two throughout the roping. We drew two or three tougher steers that, if we had just been catching, wouldn’t have allowed us to win first.

When that steer pinches me off, to stay in the right spot, I’ve got to stay into that turn farther. If I let my horse turn in too early, I’m still two swings away from throwing my rope. It’s going to take just a little bit longer to shape up.

If I had backed off, it would have taken our chance of winning first out the window. I did push up there and take a gamble, but I set the shot up. I asked my horse to stay in his lane, and he’s got momentum. I’m up to the front of my saddle, but I’m not crawling up over his ears. I’m asking him to get me to the steer. 

Round 4 Olie’s Images

Round 4

That steer was slower, and the one we’d been looking for all day. We’d drawn on the stronger end of them to that point. But when Clay turned him off, he took long, high hops. I was having to fight to stay behind him, and then I had to stay with my delivery to get him roped. I was a little out of whack. I’m a fan of roping the saw horse, so mentally, in that split second, I went back to my delivery on the saw horse and give my loop time to develop and stay in there. My horse is doing a great job of letting that happen, too. If he’d have punched his front end into the ground, I’d have slipped a leg or missed. He allowed me to really extend and give my loop time to develop. 

Round 5 Olie’s Images

Round 5

What’s unique over the course of a six-head roping when it’s go once, it seems like you tend to get thrown different scenarios and you have to do a lot of reacting. We’d had one that went right, one trashy in the corner, one slow. This steer was pretty good speed-wise, right in the middle of the herd. But he stepped to Clay about the time Clay went to rope him, and I was a little bit late reacting to that. I was a little too relaxed, and it took me a second to send my horse. Clay had his head early because he stepped into him, so I had to be patient and use my horse to catch up to the cow. It was critical that I not try to outrun my horse with my body or my rope. I really sat up and asked my horse to get me to the cow. It’s easy to get to just leaning with our body and trying to catch up with our rope. I’m still two swings away from catching back up to the cow because my header is helping me. I’m taking my medicine for being late, and I’ve taken away my chance to heel him fast. I just have to hustle my horse over there, have good rope speed and be ahead of the hop. We ended up being a mid-to-long 7 on that steer. It put us tighter into the short round, but that steer dictated the play more than I was able to.


Short Round Olie’s Images

Short Round

That was the same steer we had in the fourth round. He was really slow, with those long, high hops. By me really knowing him this time, I gave him a head start at the beginning of the run. It was basically a one-header between the top three callbacks, but we had the best steer. I’m trying to keep my horse back, really push and drive into that shot to set the run up and heel him fast. The first time he got me strung out. But on this one, I knew what to expect. I’m not extended; that’s pretty well perfect posture. I’m driving the bottom strand onto the ground and am able to finish the run good. 

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