Jake Barnes: Big Money Makes It All-In Time
Financial opportunity in team roping and professional rodeo

When I started roping for a living in 1980, the money was a little iffy. Until now the pay for this job has never been great. But the way the (Wrangler National) Finals (Rodeo) and some of the other big events we have now are paying it’s a pretty good way to make a living. I’m not as opposed to kids dreaming about roping for a living as I used to be. Roping is still a tough way to make a living, but if you’re one of the top guys now there is actually money to be made in this sport. If you’re a talented roper, it’s time to go all-in. I’ve always been hesitant to tell kids to pursue a roping career. But if you’ve got the talent and the desire, I’m now saying go for it.

If you’re a young guy with talent and a dream, study the game. Get some professional help from guys who are retired. Get with guys who know the business and can teach you the realities of the rodeo road, from entering to how to win.

You better be good, because there’s a lot of talent out there these days. But I wish I was 20 years old again and starting my career right now. Because it looks to me like there’s a lot of opportunity out there financially.

You’re going to need good horses, and they don’t come easy. But you can’t win without them. One of the tools that’s an absolute necessity for success is a good horse.

The more money that’s up, the tougher it’s going to get. That’s going to drive the price of horses up, which just helps the industry overall. And it’ll give retired guys more opportunities to do roping schools.

When I started roping there were no sponsorships, so you basically either needed another job or it was pretty tough. These days you need to spend a lot of time practicing and working on your horses to have a shot. The game has changed to the point where you need to focus all of your attention on it.

I didn’t think the game could get any tougher, but the more money you put up the more people are going to work hard and go after it. The American pays $100,000, with some guys having a shot at $1 million. NFR rounds are going to pay $26,231 this year, and the average will pay $67,269 per man. There’s also big money to be won at ropings like the George Strait, Wildfire, BFI and USTRC Finals. The elite guys are finally going to make a good living at it. In the past, it hasn’t paid as well to be good as it has to have a lower number. I’m happy to say that that’s changing just in time to be true during the last stage of my career.

Photo by Lone Wolf Photography

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