Times have changed in the roping industry. I've been competing since I was 10 or 11 years old-about 37 years now-and there's been so much change in the industry. As I grew up roping, and even starting my professional career, you could buy a pretty decent horse for a few thousand dollars. And when you got a good one, you rode him awhile. When I was young, you got every inch out of your ropes and saddles, too, until they completely broke down. These days, you can't afford not to have a good horse, and you can't afford not to use the latest and greatest equipment available. I'm always trying different horses and new equipment, from saddles to pads and overreach boots. I'm always trying to step up my game. We live in different times now, and you can cost yourself money by not upgrading. The technology's better now, so why not give yourself every edge? I experiment with everything from the horses I ride to how I ride them and what equipment I use. I study the game, and always strive for more. You have to change with the times to have longevity in this sport.
Some people change their equipment for a new look. But just looking cool isn't a good enough reason for me. Is it going to make you or your horse perform better? You always need to keep an eye on what's new out there. People are constantly coming up with ways to improve the equipment we use. If my horse will work better, whether it's a bridle, pad or whatever, I'm going to try it.
So many team ropers acquire their equipment because it's a prize, whether it's spurs, a pad, a bridle or a saddle. Either that, or they don't buy something new unless their equipment fails and completely breaks down. I'm not saying that buying a bunch of new equipment will automatically make you better. I weed through the stuff I see as snake oil, but there's a lot of truth to some of this equipment truly being better. There are a lot of gimmicks out there that are just get-rich-quick schemes. But that doesn't stop me from keeping an open mind and trying new things. There's no law that says I have to keep using something if I don't like it.
People who are really wanting to improve their roping can get so much good advice these days. Roping videos are some of the cheapest information you can buy. Same with Spin to Win Rodeo. I'm not just trying to promote my videos and my magazine here. I'm talking about all videos that have to do with roping and horsemanship. If you don't agree with this or that guy's teaching style or don't like him personally, turn the volume off and watch what he's doing. Then video yourself, and see how you compare. I'm a big fan of improving through watching yourself rope in the practice pen and in competition. Videos don't lie.
I'm a one-bit man. I'm so high on chain bits for head horses, because I haven't found many of them that don't work the best in a chain bit. And I'm a Paul Petska chain bit man. That's all that I ride. You can make them as severe or as light as you want them, depending on how tight you make it in a horse's mouth. It's just the most productive bit I've used over the years. I'm going to guess that 80-90 percent of the top guys use Paul Petska chain bits. You need to use what works best for you and your horse. But the best feel I've ever had on a head horse was using one of those bits. And no, this is not a paid endorsement.
Your horse can't talk. So you need to be open minded about what's out there, and always thinking about what might help him do his job better. I'm not saying you need to buy everything new on the market, but I'm always looking for that edge. I don't care if it's a new bit, glove, rope or whatever, if there's a chance it'll make me a better roper, or my horse a better horse, I'm going to give it a shot. Keep an eye on what the guys at the top are using. There's probably something to it.
A lot of people are proud when they win a trophy saddle, which is understandable. But sometimes those saddles don't fit your horse. Don't give up a saddle that fits for one that's prettier. Always try to improve your equipment, but don't downgrade on the functional front just because something's fancier or newer. It still needs to fit you and your horse or it's not an upgrade.