inner strength

Tanner Tomlinson’s Confidence Game
"When my horses are working good, I feel good." 
Tanner Tommlinson backed into the roping box
Tomlinson has found himself in high-pressure spots early in his career, but he’s performed like a veteran since day one. |  Jamie Arviso Photo

Tanner Tomlinson exploded onto the team roping scene, winning the average and setting the NFR aggregate record with Patrick Smith at Tomlinson’s very first Finals in 2022. How does the young phenom keep his cool?

Keeping the Nerves at Bay

Going to the big ropings like the US Finals over the years, I learned to adapt to high-pressure situations. I think as a kid, I’d get nervous in Oklahoma City with the big crowd and the announcer but, pretty quickly, I got used to it. Now, being on the road and rodeoing, the biggest thing that helps me is making sure my horses are working good. If I know I’ve done what I need to do to keep them working, I’m confident. If I feel like they’re not 100%, then I tell Patrick that we need to go practice and fix it. When my horses are working good, I feel good. 

I usually don’t go work on my roping mid-summer or make any realistic rodeo runs. I make sure my horses are free and scoring good. As long as I get that practice in when I feel like I need it, I can stay confident. It usually only takes one or two runs to feel it, because we’ve worked hard at home to have good horses and build a run that we know works. 

WATCH: Freightliner – The Horse That Took Tanner Tomlinson to his First NFR

In the Box

My focus is on scoring when I ride in. If I can score and get a good start, I can get in range and it’s easy. When I ride in the box, I make sure my horse feels like he is going to score. I ride him up and reset if he doesn’t feel good, or if the steer is fighting the chute. If Freightliner sits in there too long, you can feel if he’s not going to score. If I’m nervous, and he’s nervous, it doesn’t go good usually. So I just keep it in my back pocket that I can always ride up and reset if I need to avoid the nerves. 

WATCH: BFI Practice Session with Patrick Smith and Tanner Tomlinson

When the Nerves Do Hit 

The only time I’ve gotten nervous recently was walking through the tunnel at the NFR the first two nights, looking at everyone who was there and looking at the crowd. I tried to block it out, but the first night it showed in my roping. So after that, I closed my eyes and made myself think I was at home practicing. By the third night, I’d just look at my steer, rope and be done with it. The first night, I got caught soaking it in. 

Now, we’re one of the five or so teams people want to watch and expect to see do well. It makes you feel like you’re in the spotlight, but me and Patrick have a good run together, so we worry about making our run. If it wins something, we win something. He gets more mad and frustrated when he doesn’t do good than I do, honestly. He takes about an hour to get over it—I’m more of a 10- to 20-minute kind of guy. TRJ

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