I grew up in the cold country in Bloomfield, New Mexico, where it was bitter cold in the wintertime and there weren’t many indoor arenas around. Once the ground was frozen, most people pulled their horses’ shoes, kicked them out on pasture and waited for spring. One of the reasons I live in Arizona now is because I love the warm weather. It’s really hot in the summertime, but the rest of the year is beautiful. If I was forced to live in the cold country now, I might do the same thing and take the winter off. But if you can find a way, there are benefits to working on your roping year-round.
I know it’s not easy for a lot of people to rope year-round. Unless you’re in Arizona or California, the days are short and cold. If you are someone who’d just as soon let your horse have the winter off, you can still get some benefit out of roping the dummy during the down time. Hone your muscle memory, so it’s second nature putting that loop on the horns every time.
You can stay in the house, where it’s warm, in the wintertime and still be a student of the game. Watch videos of all the best ropers in the world. Video yourself, and compare what it looks like to what the best guys in the world are doing. Experiment with some of the stuff that’s making them successful. I enjoy watching roping videos of all the top ropers, and watch a lot of team roping runs all the time. That gives me ideas of what to work on when I go to the practice pen.
It might not be easy to work at your roping in the wintertime, but if you work at anything year-round it will pay dividends and there won’t be any rust to knock off come spring. On the bright side, taking time off will likely result in your number not changing. But I don’t hear many ropers say it’s their goal not to improve. Matt Sherwood said one time that you should get half a number better every year. I agree with him about that. Nobody wants to stay in first grade their whole life. Studying the art of team roping increases your odds for success.
One of the biggest perks for people who’ve been successful in other businesses and are recreational ropers is getting to spend time in Arizona during the winter. Snowbirds are no dummies. They’ve done well in life, so they can come here, enjoy the warm weather and go to as many ropings as they want.
Regardless of your circumstances, try and make the most of it. If it’s dark when you get home from work, rope the dummy and ride your horse on the weekends. A lot of places around the country have indoor arenas these days, where people can rope or at least ride. If you don’t rope year-round, you and your horse are going to be out of shape when spring comes and it starts warming up again. Do what you can, even if it’s just light exercise, like stretching, roping the dummy and going for a walk. It’s easier for people and horses to stay in shape than to start over. And if you have a young horse, time off can be like taking two steps back.
If you find yourself with a lot of time on your hands after it gets dark so early in the wintertime, there are a lot of good books to help with the mental aspect of competition that can do you some good, like The Inner Game of Tennis. I like watching inspirational movies, too. Michael Jordan’s “Last Dance” documentary really inspired me. Weak minds work against us, and the best athletes in every sport learn to turn that around and gain strength out of it. Clay (Cooper) is one of the strongest competitors I’ve ever seen. He’s confident, but has always remained humble and doesn’t have a cocky bone in his body. He’s mastered the mental game.