One of the things that separates the top ropers who really win all the time is their ability to stay focused on their game. That's probably one of the most commonly asked questions from people who are very talented and asking for advice on how to get better. What they're really trying to do is learn how to win. In order to achieve long-term success, you have to develop the ability to focus and concentrate on executing your runs, no matter where you are or how much money's on the line. You need to be able to go execute your run and catch two feet to win, regardless of the circumstances.
There are so many talented ropers out there. Roping has gotten to be so competitive. But one thing that hasn't changed in the 30 years I've been participating is that if you are very consistent, develop the ability to catch a very high percentage of your cattle and are partnered right-where you're getting a lot of steers turned-you're going to win, no matter what. It might not always be first, but you're going to get some of the money.
Young guys typically get impatient and try to rope for first place all the time. On one hand it's good because it develops your ability to rope fast. But a lot of times you run over yourself and make a mistake, and the guy who makes a good, solid run and ropes two feet beats you.
In watching guys I compete against all the time, I've noticed that the veterans who develop that focus, that mental concentration and the attitude that they're not going to miss are the guys who are going to make you beat them. They're not going to beat themselves. To survive out here in the pro ranks, you have to develop the ability to focus on your job and get it done.
There are times when you've got to really go out on a limb, so to speak, throw caution to the wind and try to be as fast as you can possibly be. But those times don't come around all that often. Most of the time, the setup, score, cattle and arena conditions dictate how fast the times are going to be. A lot rides on the draw, but if you've got one of the best steers in the herd and you make a good run, you're going to win something most of the time. If you draw stronger steers and you still go execute your runs and catch those steers, you'll still probably win something in the average. So the name of the game is still roping two horns and two feet a high percentage of the time, because that's going to win lots of money.
The factor of how good the horses are that you and your partner are riding has a part to play in the consistency of your runs and whether or not you can be a little bit faster than the next team. If you're riding the best horses, it gives you a little edge. Drawing good steers also gives you a little edge. But then you have to combine that with consistency and focusing on being able to execute the run. That's basically a decision you have to make, and it has to be worked out in the practice pen first. You have to be able to focus and execute runs over and over in the practice pen before you can expect to execute in competition. Because when the pressure's on, it gets harder to do. But that's the name of the game. The guy who catches the most steers is going to win.
When I was younger, I was more apt to have highs and lows because of just being focused on what I did at the last roping or rodeo. There are so many variables of things that can happen out of your control that I now know I have to concentrate more on the long haul, and realize that my rodeo or roping season is going to be made up of several hundred roping runs. So I need to focus on keeping the same mental perspective and attitude day in and out, of roping the highest possible percentage of those 300 steers in that season. I don't live or die over one competition. If I make a mistake and I let that affect my attitude, then that can affect the next competition the next day. You have to stay focused on the big picture.