Seven-time world champion Jake Barnes breaks down what it takes to succeed in team roping under pressure.

While working on this first issue of The Team Roping Journal in July, we were roping over the longest scorelines in the sport at the California Rodeo in Salinas, which has a 35-foot scoreline, and “The Daddy of ’em All” in Cheyenne, Wyo., where the score is set out there 30 feet. About the time this hits your hands in September, all the guys gunning to make this year’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo will be battling it out on the grass at the Pendleton (Ore.) Round-Up. Recreational ropers might never face a 35-foot scoreline or have to rope on a high school football field that’s a rodeo arena one week out of the year. But sooner or later we all rope under extreme conditions of one kind or another—be it in knee-deep mud or under the stress that comes with high-stakes events, such as the World Series of Team Roping Finale in Las Vegas or USTRC Finals in Oklahoma City.

This is my 37th year out here figuring out how to execute successfully, including under adverse or pressure-packed conditions. The pucker factor is real for all of us. Pretend that last one is for $150,000 in the practice pen, because it really does get easier with experience. I felt like I was jumping off a cliff my rookie year, just like everybody else. There are factors beyond our control, like the luck of the draw. What we all need to focus on is the things that are in our power to control. 

Finding a horse that suits your skill level, and also picking a horse that fits the conditions you’re going to face is a really good start as you work toward success. The World Series and USTRC do a good job of controlling the conditions for recreational ropers, so what most ropers need is a solid, reliable horse that will basically just let you focus on your roping. He doesn’t have to be a big, fancy, high-powered horse, like what you might see some of the big dogs riding. In fact, getting a horse that’s either too green or too much is one of the most common mistakes recreational ropers make when horse shopping. The last thing you need when you back in there for $100,000 is a horse that’s bad in the box, wants to run through the barrier, or drop his shoulder or cheat you in any way.

The opportunities to win big money roping today are so great that you need a horse you can win on right now. An “old faithful” that won’t cost you and is pretty automatic is the ticket when the big money’s up, because he lets you focus on your roping. You also need to weigh a horse’s strengths and weaknesses, and prioritize what’s important to you. A horse that can really run might sound good at Salinas and Cheyenne, but if he won’t sit there and score, he’s worthless. 

Keep working on your horsemanship. The better your horsemanship, the more options you’ll have. You’ll also be able to get more out of whatever horse you are riding, as you keep searching for the next upgrade. TRJ

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