Inner Strength

There’s Always Something To Learn
How do you know when it’s time to get real with yourself and improve your game? 
Casey Hicks winning the 2023 ARFA Oil Can Classic Heading Futurity on Probably A Metallic
Hicks winning the 2023 ARFA Oil Can Classic Heading Futurity on Probably A Metallic by Metallic Cat out of Probably A Gem. | Courtesy Elite Equine Promotions

Improve your team roping game by improving your mindset.

Team roping—not just at the rodeos, but at the rope horse futurities and horse shows, too—has stepped up dramatically. And I’ve had to adjust my game to do the same. I don’t know that it’s as much of an ego check as just a reality check, but it takes looking at my program and looking at myself as a trainer and as a roper to do it. 

We all get caught up in not being honest with ourselves. I’m going to say I haven’t struggled the last few years because I haven’t done my job. The truth is, my job has gotten harder, and the horses have gotten better and the competition has gotten tougher. Headers have gotten faster. Heelers have gotten faster. Everyone is riding better horses

It Starts With Good Horses

At Ardmore, for the rope horse futurity this spring, there were 100 head horses entered, and there’s probably 10 or 12 that could truly win first all the time so we’re trying to play the odds. At the same time, I’ve got a great horse, and every trainer has a great horse that lacks one thing here and there. It’s no different than recruiting football players or basketball players. You’ve got five-star recruits who seem to have it all, and you’ve got two- and three-star recruits who need work to become five-star recruits. 

Horses are the same way. They have certain attributes that catch your eye. You just have to develop the other attributes to help them succeed like they help us succeed. As a trainer, if you don’t have good horses, you won’t win no matter how good you think you are. 

Know Your Weak Spots

For me, the weakness in my game is maybe not asking enough of those horses at home. I feel like in the first round, my horses are lights out. Second round, they’re pretty good; third round, they’re starting to get fragile. By the short round, they’re thinking, ‘We’ve already run a bunch,’ and that was showing in the short rounds.

In my program, I score a bunch, and I run a bunch of lopers. I’ve realized that I run too many slow ones. I am trying to be better at exposing them a little better—I guess it’s starting to work. I’ve been calling and visiting with other trainers. I’ve started running more steers on them at home. I may back it off and still run slow ones, but I’ll run 10 of them to get them to where they have to stand there and take it. 

There’s Always Something To Learn

I went to Cade Rice’s and worked on my heel horses and watched what he does. No matter how good you are, there’s always something else to be learned. I feel like I’ve struggled at the futurities the last couple years. I felt like it was time to learn something else. I’m a visual guy, and I watch these horses win and I try to get my horses to work like that.

I am the same as a lot of other people—you get to watching videos of your horses at home, and they look and feel awesome and you get barn blind. Then you get somewhere and wonder why they’re not winning, and you watch the videos back and it’s easy to see where the holes are. But I’m a realist. I know it’s my fault when I don’t win. I just look at it like that. Rodeoing and roping is very humbling, and there are days you’re on top of the world and days you’re under the barrel. You have to take the good with the bad. TRJ

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