A lot of ropers practice one way and compete another, or else they don’t really maximize their time in the practice pen. Just making adjustments to how you practice—not how much—can really make a big change in your roping.

Roping Just to Rope

Before the NFR, I got to running steers—hundreds a day—just to run steers. I wasn’t getting as much out of my practice as I’d have liked, and my horses weren’t either. Recently, I’ve been setting up a schedule with each horse, and I’ve been sticking to it. On one horse, I’ll run five steers, score 10 or 12, long-trot him a mile then call it a day. That’s what he needs, and he’s been better than ever for it.

Know Your Horse’s Weakness

I set up my schedule to rope on each horse based on how they’re performing. If I’ve got a horse that isn’t running to the cow and is getting too strong, I might rope a few then follow five or six out. If he’s too free, maybe I’ll rope a couple then steer stop a couple to make sure he’s listening to me. I don’t want to be throwing my rope just for the sake of it on each horse—whatever I’m practicing, I want it to be improving myself or my horses every run.


A lot of people go to the arena and drink beer to hang out with their buddies. That’s fine, but really, if you want to take your roping to the next level, you’ve got to practice how you compete. Say you’re getting ready for a World Series qualifier. You can rope four steers as soon as you start your practice with your partner to give yourself a baseline of things to work on over four runs, just like at the roping. Gauge where you are, what each partner can do better to make the run come together easier, then try again on another four steers. If you practice in four-steer increments, just like at the jackpot, you’ll be easily able to track how you are doing in that scenario.