Justin Van Davis headed at the 2013 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for Clay O’Brien Cooper, and since then, he’s focused on mastering how to teach kids to rope—teaching roping lessons and raising his kids to be the best humans and ropers they can be,
The Right Way
I don’t want to skip steps with my kids’ roping. I want to take my time with them, dedicating the time in the practice pen to their roping. It could be easy to keep busy working on horses or my own roping, but I would rather spend the time with my sons talking through the basics and their horsemanship. If I teach them their riding and their position early, they’ll progress more quickly and enjoy the end product—success in the arena—even more.
My sons are really getting serious about roping, and they’ve had ropes in their hands since they were in diapers. Like a lot of kids, they want to rope live steers. But we probably rope the sled 80% of the time and rope live steers 20% of the time. It’s a great way to teach them position and riding their horse. Because we practice so much on the sled, my son Ryder really understands how to break it down and listen to me. We do it slowly—at a trot, at a slow lope—so much, that Ryder can really put it all together when we up the speed and I give him advice.
I don’t take roping away from my kids as a punishment. I don’t want to take away something they love to do. I’d rather make them work harder at it if they’re not listening. I’d rather tell them to get off the horse, do 10 push-ups, then get back on. You don’t tell kids to sit out in basketball or baseball when they aren’t getting what you’re teaching them—you make them run laps. You do something that adds to their ability to play the sport. That’s positive reinforcement. I do something that will help them grow through the process, not hurt them.