The 2020 regular rodeo season just ended, and what a chaotic year it’s been starting toward the end of the winter rodeos. As a guy who’s not out there hitting it hard anymore, it looks to me like a few guys who did good at the early rodeos took the lead, then in March everybody’s whole world turned upside down. With all the rodeo cancellations and so few chances to win big money since, it’s been all but impossible to catch them.

I’m all about the guys—young and old—with goals to make the Finals, who make a living with a rope. I was out there doing that for decades. When this is your living, the rug gets pulled out from under you and you have nowhere to go, that throws a real monkey wrench into your plans. Everyone still has horses, rigs, fuel and entry fees to pay for, but how do you make a living on such a limited schedule?

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Summer came and went, with basically only a few rodeos max each week. All guys could do was get to the ones they could. But again, when it comes to 2020, if you happened to do well early on, you were set. And the guys who didn’t have a great winter—who in any other year could overcome that in the spring, summer and fall—have been at a major disadvantage due to the impact on our industry of COVID-19. There just haven’t been very many chances to make up the difference, especially with virtually all of the really big rodeos being out of the mix this year.

The best a person can do is stay optimistic, and do all you can to show up prepared at every opportunity that does present itself. The bright side about the layoff was more time to practice and get your team’s ducks in a row, so you’d be ready when you did get a few chances. At press time, we still didn’t know for sure what exactly the National Finals will look like in 2020. But we’ve all stayed hopeful about that, and that 2021 gets lined out and the rodeo schedule gets more normal again. That’s everyone’s best hope, for not only the roping and rodeo business, but for every business in America.

There will always be times in rodeo when situations happen or variables come into play that are beyond our control. Sometimes, something happens to our good horse and we have to figure out how to get along without him—or whatever. We all have to make adjustments, reset our goals and step up our commitment when there are obstacles in our road. We need to make a new plan to go forward again.

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There will always be the guys who showed up prepared, had things go their way and made it happen. There will also be the guys who barely missed the cut, which is a bitter pill to swallow if they’ve been all-in. They now need to evaluate themselves honestly, figure out what needs to change to be more successful, then go back at it. 

I’ve been right down there at the bot-tom, including the first year I tried to make the Finals. There have been several times I had to fight for it right there at the end. There have also been years when I pulled up right after Cheyenne, and didn’t fight to the end, because I made my evaluation right then and there.

I’ve been fortunate to understand that whether I made the Finals or not in any given year, that was not life or death. I knew all I could do was my best, then I had to just let the chips fall where they may. That was my mindset those times it was nip and tuck, and I hope the guys who ended up on the wrong side of the 2020 bubble get that.

This has been a weird year for everyone. The way it all shook out, guys had less control of their destiny than ever. If you did all you could do, be content. And remember, even the guys who win the world have to self-evaluate, take inventory and make adjustments to stay on top.

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