Jake Barnes: Evolution of Ropes

When I first started team roping all those years ago, I used Perry Blagg’s heading ropes out of California. I had an uncle who lived in Oakdale, Billy Barnes, who picked my ropes out for me. At that time, there were basically two rope companies?Perry’s and King Ropes in Wyoming. Back then, ropes came in big, huge, giant spools. There was a soft end, a medium end and a hard end, and maybe an extra-hard end. When they cut them in lengths, the rope tyers would determine which lay each rope would be. Before they even did that, they aged the ropes.

I know King would have rows and rows of rope laying out in the sun to age. Then they’d go in, cut the ropes and tie them. There wasn’t much choice in ropes back then, but after that there got to be more rope companies. When I was in college in New Mexico, I started using Dub Grant’s ropes out of Arkansas. When I started rodeoing in the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association), I used Red Burner Ropes, which were made in Oklahoma. There weren’t many endorsements back then, but I got one with Clint Martin and Red Burner. Then I used Griswold Ropes, which were made in California. After I won my first world championship, I was approached by Gator Ropes. That’s about the time the era of machine-spun ropes came around, and that’s when the industry changed completely. I’ve used Classic Ropes about 10 years now, and I like that they’re always developing new products and that their ropes feel so good consistently. Everybody’s always looking for an edge, from your partner to your horse, saddle, rope and on down the line.

The rope industry has changed as significantly as team roping in general. The technology has really come a long way.

When you’re talking about performing at the highest level, a lot of roping revolves around confidence. That includes confidence in your rope. The feel you develop for the rope you use is important. It’s important to have confidence that a company can produce a rope with a consistent feel that you like.

To be successful, you need to have confidence in your partner, your horse and your rope. If your rope doesn’t feel good, your mind can start playing tricks on you. When you have a good feeling rope, that in itself gives you confidence.

When I get a rope that really has the right feel, I’ll use it until it’s maybe past its prime. I’m not suggesting you do that, but am admitting I sometimes do it. I’ll also say that when I have success with a rope and it feels really good, it gets extra special care. I use the ropes that don’t feel as good to rope the dummy or as practice ropes.

You need to understand your ropes and give them the care they need. If you leave them out in the heat or cold, it’ll affect how they feel. The rope companies have figured out how to put different twists in ropes, and how to tie them differently in the summertime vs. the wintertime to compensate for the weather. But you still need to take care of business at your end.

In the summertime, keep your ropes in at least room temperature or they’ll twist, turn and get squirrely. Same thing in the wintertime, when it’s cold. When I go to rodeos like Odessa, Denver and Rapid City, where it’s really cold, I keep my ropes inside my (living quarters) trailer at room temperature. When I fly somewhere, I keep my ropes in the hotel room. If its zero degrees outside, and you bring your ropes inside, it takes awhile for them to adjust. When ropes get cold, they tend to get soft and get a backswing in them. The coldness makes the fibers shrink, so the rope gets softer. In heat, the fibers expand and it makes a rope harder. That’s when the eye of a rope wants to turn, too.

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