As we put this issue together in mid-September, we're all busy preparing for the big ones-the USTRC Finals, (ProRodeo Tour Championship Finale in) Dallas and the NFR-and looking ahead to making quite a few practice runs to get ready. Speed's (Williams) got his new place built, including his new arena, and we've roped in it several times. We're going to start roping at least four or five times a week. He's got six or seven head horses, and I have about five heel horses, so we're going to get lots of runs in so we feel prepared when the big money's up. You can win as much or more at the last few finals as you can all year long, so we need to be ready. And good practice sure helps your confidence. Making that effort-getting out there and getting after it every day-sharpens your reactions and will put me on the same page as Speed as far as being able to read his turn. It also gets our horses prepared so they're in sync. It's work, but it's the fun part, too. Our weather's just starting to break a little bit. It's been so hot, but it's starting to turn now, which gives us a little reprieve. It's a nice time of year, and an exciting time of year. There are a lot of prestigious events that pay a lot. The competition's tough, but this is what a professional roper looks forward to-getting out there, mixing it up and butting heads.
Most of our upcoming runs will be in little bitty buildings, so we're going to cut our arena down and make it smaller after the USTRC Finals. We'll be making a lot of fast-tempo runs, where we hang it on them in a hurry to put ourselves in the rhythm and timing of where we'll be running at the most money. There are a few in our herd that really run, and Speed will let them out to where they're boiling the ground and we run them down and get them caught, just to change it up a little bit. (This shot was taken during Speed and Clay's winning spree at the Pace Picante ProRodeo Chute-out in Tulsa this spring.)
Speed and I have been roping some 300-350-pound muley calves. Speed likes them because they're really light, so he has to have control of his horse to handle them so I can heel them. Plus, they're not hard on his horses. For me, they're pretty waspy and pretty fast, so it gets me sharpened up on the heeling end, too. I get good dallying practice without putting stress on my horses, and Speed gets to work on things like facing. The muleys we rope are good quality, strong and hard-running, and they stay on the end of the rope.
Right before the Finals, we'll get a little set of horned steers, so Speed can reach at the horns. It's pretty hard to reach at the necks, so the last couple weeks or so before the NFR, we'll bring in the horned cattle. (Jake and Clay shown here.)
We're going through our horses right now, getting them in shape because we've been home quite a bit here lately, and getting them tuned up. Speed's been trying a few horses and has some new ones, so he's excited about making runs on them and seeing what they're going to do. Keeping our horses up to speed is a constant work in progress.
Another thing we try to do that Speed's really good at is putting different scenarios into our practice sessions. He tells me what kind of run we're going to try to make, and sets different scenes before each run. For example, we pretend it's the last steer at the USTRC Finals, and that all we have to do is be 7. Or it's the last one at the Finals, and we have to be 4 flat. Every time we back in the box, we're trying to make a certain kind of run, instead of just going and making runs with no thought process to it. We change it up quite a little bit, which is what we'll need to do in competition.
It's nice to be able to practice with your partner and make so many runs together. All those years ago, Jake (Barnes) and I lived next door to each other and made 60-70 or more runs together every day. We worked at it extremely hard, and those were the years we did so well. To be able to practice together all the time makes a big difference. Speed and I being less than an hour apart now makes it accessible and possible to rope a lot. It's good to feel prepared.