Handling Cattle is Sometimes a Luxury

Jake Barnes talks about making fast runs that eliminate technique in handling cattle.
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When you’re trying to make a fast run you stick it on one and head out of town, so you eliminate a lot of the technique involved in handling cattle. Back in the day, the guys who just went and made clean runs, and put a velvet handle on steers, were the guys who used to win the most. Nowadays, a lot of five-head averages are almost like five rodeo runs. I’ve noticed this year at the jackpots that you no longer have the luxury of taking your time to set up runs, even at the jackpots. The bar has been raised again.

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The only time you have time for velvet handles now is when the cattle are really strong and when the scores are set way out there, like at Salinas (Calif.) and Cheyenne (Wyo.).

I used to be a go-for-first guy. Then I got to using my head and my horse more. But that’s sort of obsolete now. There’s no time to set things up perfectly for your heeler anymore. I’ve had to adjust for the speed of roping today.

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I’d trained myself to be smart and not beat myself. I relied on other guys beating themselves. But as roping has gotten tougher, I’ve had to reteach myself to go faster. There isn’t always time for the perfect handle.

There are times I’m tempted to revert back to my don’t-beat-myself, conservative strategy. But there have been times recently when that backfired. I like to make a game plan and stick with it. But it’s like being in a fight—if you get behind, you have to adjust to give yourself a chance to win.

I don’t get to experience low-numbered ropings, but I hear from those ropers that this applies to them at times, too. They tell me those ropings are getting tougher also. They tell me their short-round cutoffs are getting tougher a lot of times now, too, but that the short rounds still tend to fall apart a lot.

The luxury of a header having time to set up a run for a heeler to make it easier on him is becoming obsolete. I’m not saying to reach and duck, but you can’t always handle steers soft around the corner to make it easy on your partner. Heelers are having to step up, too. They no longer have the luxury of following steers three jumps. They’re coming with it around the corner. It’s just part of the evolution of the game, and that applies to both ends.

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Photos by Lone Wolf Photography

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