Clay Tryan’s BFI Winning Edge
The Bob Feist Invitational’s six-head marathon on a long score with fresh cattle is just as much a mental test as it is a physical feat. Clay Tryan, who has won the Bob Feist Invitational three times and amassed $214,111 in earnings there alone, has built up the kind of mental endurance it takes to battle the best in the business in Reno’s Livestock Center the third Monday in June and come out on top, time and time again.

Weeks Before

The first two times I won the BFI, in 2005 and 2008, I would have been in Montana before going to Reno. There, I wouldn’t have been able to jackpot as much, so I would have been in the practice pen, really focusing on making sure my horse scored, letting the steers out, and being consistent. Even on my practice horses, I’m making sure they’re in my hand and scoring and running to the steer.

I do less mental preparation now than I used to, because there are so many ropings leading up to the BFI here in Texas, so you’re in jackpot mode. Now, I feel more ready each year because I’m roping every day against those guys.

Night Before

When the BFI was in Reno, the NBA Finals were usually going on during the BFI. There’s a pizza place in town. I would get a pizza, sit at a round table, and watch the NBA Finals. I’m a huge basketball fan. It’s boring, but that’s who I am. I like watching greatness. LeBron James. Steph Curry. Keven Durant. I only watch sports; I don’t watch the news or reality TV, or anything else. I like watching people who are good at their craft, who have spent their lifetime mastering it. I’ve always loved to watch sports, so that really helps me prepare to do it the next day.

Morning Of

I get up at 5:30 or 6 a.m. and feed my horses in the trailer. I don’t eat breakfast before I rope. I usually never do. The BFI starts at 8 a.m., so I saddle at probably 7 a.m. I try to find the right rope. I use my ropes brand new, so I’ll pull it out of the twisties, find a fence post, and stretch it. I’ll go look at the steers. If they have smaller horns, maybe I’ll get a softer rope, or if they have big horns, a stiffer one.

The Start

It’s not hard to catch six steers in a row, but it is hard to win. You have to make six good runs. It’s a long day, and you have to stay mentally prepared for every steer over seven or eight hours. Before, it was easier—as far as just catching. It’s easy to go catch six steers. The top 30 ropers in the world in the practice pen can go do that. But if you have to be 6.8, and you let him out and he takes a big step left, then that’s a different story.

Between Rounds

If I’m watching, it went terrible. If I’m doing good, I stay down below. I might watch some of the runs and get a feel for the pace of the roping on the TV down there. It’s the longest day of the year, but I don’t eat during the roping. The older you get, the less you can eat anyway. I’ve thrown some loops before it, but not during the roping. And I don’t switch ropes unless it gets ruined somehow.

At the End

Every time I’ve won it, I went to bed because I was so drained. On the days you do well there, it just seems like you get in a good groove, and roping is simple. I’ve been on the other side, too, where it’s so hard to make a good run, no matter what you do. When you can rope good, that’s the best mental game. If you don’t rope good, it doesn’t matter what you’ve read or thought about. You have to be good to make your mental game good. TRJ

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