New Association Aims to Revolutionize Rope-Horse Industry

A new team roping organization formed recently in Texas is the first ever to sanction events using a format based on both performance and time.

The National Team Roping Horse Association (NTRHA) will hold lucrative events nationwide using a unique maneuver-based and time-to-points conversion system. The company also tracks lifetime earnings and genetics of rope horses-a component that’s long been the foundation of other equine sports such as racing and cutting.

“In a nutshell, our objectives are to make rope horses worth more money and provide a way for rope-horse enthusiasts to earn more money,” said co-founder and vice president Darlene Miller. “Team roping is one of the largest demographics in the equine industry, but rope horses have been left behind in the lucrative Western performance-horse market.”

Rope horses of all breeds and experience levels are eligible for competition, and the NTRHA’s 2009 schedule includes major events such as a 5-year-old Futurity, Sweepstakes for 6- and 7-year-olds, and an 8-and-over Challenge, in addition to its World Championships. The events, along with a first-of-its-kind breeder’s incentive for rope horses, are designed to bring additional exposure to breeders, trainers and owners. As a result, organizers expect to see team roping horse ownership increase along with the value and desirability of rope horses from all backgrounds.

For ropers, the NTRHA offers five levels at which to compete, including Open, Limited Open, Non Pro, Amateur and Novice Amateur, with classification changes based solely on dollars won. In addition, they offer a Senior division and Youth classification further broken down into age divisions and Open, Non Pro and Amateur levels.

Traditionally, breed-registry shows have featured team roping runs where horses are judged and awarded points only, while rodeos and jackpots have paid team ropers based on times alone. The NTRHA aims to promote a rope horse that has all the right moves while still rewarding its rider for a fast run.

“This will bridge the gap between the horse show and jackpot roping worlds,” said Wrangler National Finals Rodeo heeler and rope-horse trainer Shot Branham. “Instead of training for either shows or jackpots, we can produce horses that are good enough to win on regardless of where they go.”

Part of what makes the NTRHA unique, Miller said, is that while cutters, reiners and working-cow-horse competitors don’t necessarily cross over into each other’s disciplines, a great number of them also rope.

“We can touch everybody,” she says. “And our affiliate program will take our format to the grassroots level so that, in this age of high fuel prices, people can get out there with their families and enjoy the day without breaking the bank.”

American Quarter Horse Association champion Shawn Darnell said the concept has been a long time coming. “It will increase the value of horses and give us more places to show, allowing us to actually make money for our customers,” he said.

By the same token, the new entity gives timed-event cowboys a way to supplement their incomes away from the highway by training rope horses for a variety of customers who can recover that training expense.

“This will put a more concrete value on team roping horses for buyers and sellers,” said 11-time NFR heeler Britt Bockius. “Now it’s ‘may the best horse win.’ I think that’s important. That’s how it should be, you know? The best horses should win.”

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