Tackling Two Perspectives: Roping and Riding
Clay O'Brien Cooper emphasizes horsemanship in team roping.

One of the things that makes this sport so challenging and intriguing is that you’re basically multi-tasking when you rope. Physically and mechanically, there’s the roper and the rider.

There’s the roper’s perspective and part of the equation, that handles the mechanics of swinging, timing and roping the steer by two feet. Then there’s the rider, who operates your horse and uses the riding style you’ve developed, which controls and maneuvers your horse throughout each run.

We all know the mental side of competition is a huge factor, and that can be split in two also. We all have to deal with doubt, and thoughts about things like pressure, where your thoughts are trying to work against you.

Phil Doyle Photo

Then there’s the side of confidence, which is the truth of your abilities, what you’ve learned and put into practice. Putting those positive thoughts together creates a confidence you can use to battle the thoughts that are telling you you can’t do it. Use them to overcome any negative thoughts that creep into your mind and confirm that you can do it. You’ve trained yourself through trial and error and practice to perform certain functions that allow you to get the job done. Use those skills as assets.

We all have these various aspects of our roping in common, whether we’re at the pro level or just starting out. We’re all in this together, and dealing with the same issues. The only difference is that the pro has spent a lot of time, practice and effort in achieving goals one at a time and climbing the ladder in all areas, including the rider part, the roper part and the thought-management part of learning how to win.

I’ve been working at all of these aspects of the game since I was a kid. So I have a lot of time and experience invested in these areas, which have proven to be very valuable in my career.

Lower-numbered ropers need to cover the same ground to keep improving. They have to develop their skills physically and mentally to achieve their own goals. That’s how you formulate your strategy as to what style of roper you’re going to be. You examine and constantly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, and work on improving in each and every area. That’s what I’ve gotten up and done every day for the last 45 years.

It’s fun to set goals and see if you can improve. I not only do that with roping, I look at life the same way. Thirty years ago I started a routine after doing a real self-examination. There were things about myself I didn’t like, and things I needed help with. I made a personal decision to accept what God had done for me, and pursue the wisdom that comes from Him.

None of these things happen overnight. It’s a daily application; a daily challenge; a daily grind. The same way I press into roping and competing I also press into what God tells me to do. That’s where I get my purpose in life, and it’s given me a compass. I’m not searching for my purpose. I know which way North is for me.

I’ve done schools and helped people with their roping for 40 years. I’ve found that focusing on riding and horsemanship is a big key to success at every level. I know I have to concentrate more on my riding than the roping part.

I’m always working on the roping part, but the most important thing for me when I go to compete is to try to ride in a way that will allow the roper in me to have an easy job. If I do that, I’m more successful than when I’m only thinking about my roping. If I mess up in the riding part, it makes it a lot harder for the roper in me to do his job. Over time, I’ve figured out that if I focus most of my concentration on my riding and horsemanship, I give myself the best chance to win. n

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