Jake Barnes talks about the importance of investing in your improvement.

Business is booming in the roping industry right now, kind of like the economy in this country. Clay (O’Brien Cooper) and I have been on the roping-schools trail here lately, and that demand is directly related to the big-money opportunities in team roping today. Winning was everything when Clay and I were busy making our mark in the roping world. We’ve now shifted gears to helping other people rope their best so they can accomplish their dreams.

Ropers everywhere have figured out that as expensive as rigs and rope horses are today, investing in a roping school is cheap. When ropers at every level are going to Las Vegas and winning $150,000, there’s a big carrot to be there with the best possible partner, riding the best horse and at the top of your game. The time is right now to capitalize on your roping.

What Clay and I are seeing at our schools is that people are starting to sink their teeth into the fact that if you want to get better you have to train. Going out to the practice pen to goof off and drink beer with your buddies isn’t going to get it when the competition is digging in and doing all they can to peak at the big ropings. The days of just going out and throwing a few loops without any focus and expecting to get better are over. To improve, you need to work on specific areas of your roping and be doing things right.

Clay and I have always stressed fundamentals. Because even as those fundamentals have continued to evolve with the rest of the roping business, strong fundamentals are what it all boils down to when it comes to executing when the money’s up. There are no shortcuts or substitutes for, say, riding good position. That’s because fundamentals are one of the few things in our control.

There are a lot of variables beyond our control in team roping. For starters, there are five brains—the header, heeler, horses and steer—that you’re trying to sync up into a successful run. So you need to do everything in your power to control the outcome and set yourself up to succeed. That again all circles back to the header getting a good start—not leaving too early or too late, because both cause problems—then riding good position, riding your horse right and executing with your rope.

We often put so much emphasis on roping the steer that we forget some of the rest of it, and our horsemanship lacks. Never underestimate the importance of strong horsemanship. And good horses. A horse that allows you to focus on your roping is such an advantage, and people who are constantly distracted by their horses struggle to improve and win consistently. Rule #1 is that ropers trying to learn to rope should not be trying to train a horse at the same time. A solid horse that’s almost automatic lets you learn at such a faster rate.

Whether you’re a recreational roper or a world-class rodeo roper, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of all the team roping information that’s out there today. And keep it simple. For any header, it always boils down to scoring, riding your horse, making your catch, handling the steer and facing. There are fine points in every area, but those are the basics.

Clay and I are having so much fun teaching these schools, and we’re at the point in our careers and lives where things are starting to come full circle. Bubba Buckaloo came to one of my roping schools when he was a kid. Paul Eaves went to one of Clay’s schools when he was a kid. As we get older, it becomes more obvious that the next stage of our legacy is passing along all we’ve learned in our careers to the next generation of young guns that will take up where we left off. And that’s really rewarding.

It’s very satisfying to provide a service people need. We work extremely hard to give our all to help people get better. We want every person to leave feeling like they got way more than their money’s worth. Clay and I have worked so hard for so long to try to master team roping. That’s a never-ending challenge, and no one ever gets there. We’re all lifelong students of the game, and the best in the world never stop reaching for more.

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