going the extra mile

Work to Make 2024 Your Year
What are you going to do to make this your best year yet?
Jake Barnes riding a grey horse in an outdoor arena, following a roping steer.
“Let yourself dream a little going into 2024, and set your goals higher,” Jake suggests when ringing in the new year. | TRJ FILE photo

It’s time to set your team roping goals.

A lot has changed for team ropers since I made my first National Finals 44 years ago in 1980. Team roping became a standard event, which means it’s mandatory at every professional rodeo, and more rodeos than ever add equal money. More people are making a living with a rope than ever before in 2024, and that’s progress. But make no mistake, it’s still a tough way to go financially, whether you’re a professional team roper or just rope for fun. Why not do whatever it takes to give yourself the best chance at winning?

What hasn’t changed over time is the commitment it takes to make it team roping. That statement stands at the highest level, and actually also applies to ropers at the recreational level, who rope as a hobby. We all know everything’s more enjoyable when you’re doing your best. So whether your goal is a gold buckle or to have a good time going to ropings on the weekend, what are you going to do to make this your best year yet?

There will typically be partner changes, even at the top. Heck, Speed (Williams) and Rich (Skelton) won eight world championships in a row, then quit roping together. That just seemed insane, but there’s so much more to partnerships than anyone ever realizes, and people need to do what works for them.

This time of year is always a time of self-reflection. You need to be brutally honest with yourself when it comes to your roping, your horse and every aspect of being a good teammate, and do something about your own shortcomings. Whether you’re staying hooked or are going to try on a new teammate, be open and honest in your communication with your partners.

The guys who just won gold buckles don’t want to change a thing and just want to keep the ball rolling. Everybody else is looking to take it up a notch and give themselves a shot at knocking them off the throne in 2024.

This all applies to the dreams that just came true at the (Ariat) World Series (of Team Roping) Finale also. There are people with jobs and families at home who just won more in Vegas than the big dogs. If you want to have a chance at that being you this December, what are you going to do about it?

Whether you feel the need to take it up a notch or turn things totally around, ropers at all levels are making changes in themselves and their teams to try and kick off the new year on the right foot.

I’m big on loyalty when it comes to partnerships, and my long-term philosophy on that is based on mistakes I made when I was younger. Sometimes, you really would be better off making a change. If you’re the kind who never thinks anything is your own fault, you’re going to figure out the hard way that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.

Ringing in a new roping year is almost like reloading your gun. The new year is a great time to do everything from getting your finances and horses in order to analyzing the way you practice. Doing things the way you always have is not usually the path to improvement.

I sometimes hear people say they want to protect their number. Don’t make the mistake of letting that hold you back. I want to win as much as I possibly can. Go win, and give them a reason to raise your number.

I always set the goal of winning the world championship as my mission going into every new rodeo season. A lot of guys always say it’s to try and make the Finals, but that was never enough for me. Suit yourself on that, but the higher you set your sights, the better in my book.

There will be recreational ropers who win life-changing money again this year. If you want the chance to hit the roping lottery, you need to be roping in Vegas next December. You’ve got to play to win, and if you only go to one roping a year, that has to be the one. Because if it happens to be your day, and you draw good and rope good—boom. That’s the best game in any roping town, and really is a no-brainer.

Let yourself dream a little going into 2024, and set your goals higher. Stay out of old ruts, and get to work. TRJ

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