When I was a boy with big roping dreams growing up in Bloomfield, New Mexico, what made the big dogs tick was mostly a mystery to me. I’d hear people talk about the Chowchilla Stampede and the Oakdale 10 Steer. California was cowboy country—and big-time team roping country—back then. But that was before the internet and cell phones. So I didn’t grow up getting to see any of it for myself.
I don’t care how hungry you were for it, there was no information to be found for aspiring young ropers back then. Young people today will have a hard time relating to what I’m saying here, but think about how different life would be with no cell phones, computers or wifi connections to the World Wide Web. Remember, we had to pull off the road and use pay phones to call PROCOM to enter rodeos and check call-backs for most of my career.
Roping has come a million miles in terms of information and technology. I was eaten up with roping as a kid. But my only way of learning was to listen to people in my little local area, and basically experiment with what did and didn’t work for me.
I can’t even imagine how different my story would have turned out if I’d had the chance to go to roping schools and watch all the best ropers rope all the time, like every roper in America has access to today. I was a self-taught roper, and that’s just how it was for my generation. I very occasionally got to see the best guys rope. When I did, I tried to copy what they did. But I didn’t have access to talking to them or studying videos of them. We were on our own to figure it out. Trial and error taught me how to rope.
In today’s world, you can pick out your favorite ropers and find out just about every secret they have. There are more roping schools and clinics, and you can access information all day long on the internet. Most of it’s free, and the rest is very inexpensive.
Keep Improving with Digital Training Tools for Team Ropers
With unlimited resources available to everyone today, there’s no excuse for not getting better. Like Matt Sherwood says, “You ought to be gaining half a number a year.” So if you start out as a #3, and you pay attention and work hard, that means being a #6 six years later. Everything’s more fun when you get better at it.
We all know people who rope at the exact same level today as they did 20 years ago. That boggles my mind. Why wouldn’t you strive to be a better roper and horseman, and to have better horses as you go? Making progress is a big part of what makes most of us tick, and it applies to all aspects of life. There are people who try to protect their numbers by not getting better. No thank you.
Read what the pros have to say on the pages of The Team Roping Journal. Check out Roping.com. Google team roping. You want to watch Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira rope? It’s easy. They’re all over YouTube and social media. Watch the team roping at rodeos on the Cowboy Channel.
I’ve always looked at roping as a profit-and-loss proposition. I can’t imagine knowing the expense of entry fees, rigs and horses, and not doing everything in your power to give yourself the best possible chance to win. When I was growing up, all ropings were open ropings. Now they’ve evened up the playing field to give everyone a chance. Take advantage of that, and keep climbing the ladder as you can.
Don’t Ignore Horsemanship and Dummy Practice
Horsemanship is a huge factor to improvement. Roping’s the fun part, but good horsemanship is half the battle to successful roping. I was really fortunate to grow up on a ranch. But I know guys who rope really well who’ve gone to good horsemen and taken horsemanship lessons to help their roping. Better horsemanship will also help you keep your horses working.
The last point I’ll make here is that there’s no excuse for not roping the dummy. I’ve roped the dummy a million times in every stage of my life, and still do today. You can do it in all weather conditions at all times of year, and before and after school or work. It’s free, and it doesn’t even require a partner.