It’s easy to cope with winning. It’s just not a problem when you’re roping good, your horse is working good and your cash flow’s good. But when the well runs dry and things turn around, you still have to stay motivated. Sometimes it takes a split, a new horse or whatever to shake things up, turn things around and get you re-motivated. Motivation is crucial whether you’re winning or not. You cannot get to the point where you accept losing. Because when your confidence is down and you aren’t winning, staying motivated is the only way to turn things around. You can blame your problems on your partner, your horse or not drawing good, and sometimes that’s reality. You can be on the top of your game and if decent cards aren’t falling your way it’s a rough road. That’s kind of how roping is. If you aren’t drawing some good steers, riding good horses and catching?basically blowing opportunities to win?you lose your confidence and start second-guessing yourself. It’s no fun to go through all we do?getting entered, traded, traveling?and not win. It’s hard to stomach. So you’ve got to find that motivation. It’s the only way out.
When it’s time to go back to the drawing board, you need to evaluate what’s going on. Have you been drawing bad? If so, you still have to have your game face on, so when the tide does change and you do draw a steer that’s a chance, you can capitalize on it. When you get a good one you need to be ready to win on him. You can’t let a slump bring you so far down that you can’t win when you get the good ones, and that’s easier to do than you think.
When you’re drawing bad and start chancing it too much you can end up fouling your horse up. Some guys will sacrifice a run on a bad steer to keep their horse working. I’ve never backed in the box thinking I didn’t have a chance to win. I give myself a chance to win no matter what, because you never know when a runner might stumble or have an off day. So much of winning is your mindset.
Roping is not just a physical game. A big part of it is about staying focused and keeping your concentration. So many of the guys who do well in the roping and rodeo industry are not the biggest and strongest ropers. They win because they stay motivated and believe they can win. They don’t second-guess themselves, and they show up expecting to win.
If anyone’s been tested on the motivation front over the years it’s me. There have been times I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and say, “I’m not tough enough for this.” In my heyday, it didn’t seem like I could lose. It seemed so easy. On the other extreme, there’ve been times in the last few years when I wasn’t sure if maybe I was over the hill. One of the things that sparked the life for me in recent years was my gray horse, Barney. He was kind of my second coming. He helped me get back on top of my game.
That injury was the test of my career. The “want-to” never went anywhere, but whether or not I was going to physically be able to come back and do it like I can was the big question. There were two parts to my injury. The one I thought was going to be the most challenging was my thumb. But my shoulder was the worst part. I couldn’t even lift my arm, then my shoulder froze. In today’s world, where headers need a lot of range, that was hard to overcome. Having to go for rounds was hard on me physically. It was impossible for a few months there. But, partly because I’m so motivated, my range really came along.
Motivation is a perspective of yourself. Are you willing to lay down and accept losing? I can’t do that. It’s just not me. I have to change something when things aren’t working. If that means going home to practice, that’s what I do. Going home re-energizes me. The horses I’m riding are a big part of my outlook, too. When I keep good horses it keeps me excited about roping. You have to keep shuffling the deck to stay up and keep giving yourself a chance to win. It’s easy to be jolly when things are clicking and you’ve got the ball rolling. But you have to learn how to bounce back from losing, too, to where it doesn’t affect your emotions. You don’t have to like losing, but you have to learn to deal with it so it doesn’t get you in a depression. It helps me to get some sleep and wake up fresh the next morning with a new lease on life, and ready to go at ’em again.