I’m excited for the new year. The ultimate will be the new, bigger payoff at the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Junior (Nogueira) and I have a year under our belts as a team now, so—for his sake more than mine, with him being a rookie in 2014—I think and hope it’ll be a lot easier for him this year. He knows he belongs now, so that’ll do nothing but help his confidence. He knows what the rodeos look like and feel like now, too, so he knows how to prepare for each setup. Last year, he just had to take my word for it. This’ll be my 35th year as a professional team roper, so I know the playbook and I have experience on my side. Junior has another year of experience on his side now, too, and I expect that to be nothing but good for our team.
One thing that doesn’t change is we’ll need to keep practicing a lot, so we show up prepared. We need to keep good horses and we need to try to jump out and get off to a good start, so there isn’t unnecessary pressure later in the season.
We hope to get on a roll right off the bat in the winter, and that takes having the luck of the draw on your side. It’s important to draw good when the big money’s up. It makes it a lot easier.
We don’t always talk about the cattle situation in the rodeo world. With cattle prices so high we’re starting to see bigger cattle at the rodeos now. That’s changing the game somewhat also. I look for the steers to be bigger, older, stronger and not as easy to catch this year, as opposed to some of the happy hoppers we’ve gotten used to in recent times.
Today’s generation has grown up roping smaller cattle, but the guys are so talented these days. Bigger steers are a little wider legged and handle differently than smaller steers. Those stouter steers also take a little bit more head horse.
I start every year with the goal of shooting at a world championship. I’m planning to work hard at it, go hard and try to be one of the best. I have people ask me all the time what I have left to prove. It’s just in my DNA to try to win it all. I’ve been to the NFR 26 times. I have no interest in just trying to get to the Finals. That’s not what interests me. Pushing myself to try to be the very best is what I’m after every day I wake up.
Rodeo has a short memory. The NFR ends, and the new season is in full swing immediately. This is a merry-go-round that started for me in 1980, and I haven’t gotten off of the merry-go-round yet. Nobody cares who won the world championship in 2014 starting January 1, 2015. Everyone has his sights on being the 2015 champ now.
Photos by Lone Wolf Photography