When I started out, we didn’t have X Factor Roping or SpeedRoping.com. It took me years of getting beat on to finally see what the best were doing. Not that I’m a sharp individual—after five years, I do have my associate’s degree—but I’ve become the guy that focuses more on my horse and my partner and his talent because I don’t reach like Kaleb Driggers, and Dustin Egusquiza’s ability to reach is unique. I’ve changed and the game has changed over the years. I had some big victories before I made the Finals—like the Strait is really all I can think of, I guess—but that was based on my pure aggression with my rope. Talent can get you so far, but it becomes the finer things—learning to read your cow, learning to use your horse, relying on your partner and being quieter in your role—that really sets you apart.
STEP 1 (2006)
This was my final year of heeling, thank God. Back then, there weren’t just a whole lot of reachers, and you won a lot with a good head horse. The barriers were always long, and the steers were uber aggressive. There seemed to be a good-sized pool of heelers, and not a lot of great headers. So that was the final summer I heeled because I thought I handled the rope pretty good. I roped the dummy a lot, and I had some ability and could reach and could rope the horns, so I made the switch. Heading didn’t feel that hard. In 2006, my friend Justin Turner and I ended up in the top 50, and Jake Long and I wanted to try to make the NFR. Our partners had responsibilities, and Jake and I were in college and young and wanted to give it a go. But I have to say—look at Booger get in the ground there at Cheyenne. (Editor’s Note: Booger is the horse Coleman rode from high school rodeo to the National Finals Rodeo. See his story this month on teamropingjournal.com.)
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STEP 2 (2007)
That’s me at Ellensburg on Nikolas, Matt Sherwood’s great horse. Nick Sartain helped me with scoring and, as a header, when to play offense and defense. He helped me with reaching and how to handle a steer. I could reach and read the barrier decent, but I didn’t understand the finer points of roping—like keeping your horse healthy all summer. By Ellensburg, my horse colicked and Sherwood had to lend me his horse. Here, you can see I reached, and my horse is going the opposite way of the cow. It’s pure luck we got close to making the Finals that year. Jake and I turned out the second round of this rodeo to go to a circuit rodeo that paid out $800. We had no clue. Tee Woolman, Clay Tryan and Travis Tryan were making flawless runs. Jake and I could slip by in the go-round, but they were perennial top 10 guys. We started to learn there was more to it than bombing out this season.
STEP 3 (2009)
This is at Oakdale, California, with Caleb Twisselman on my horse, Preacher. This is my first trip ever to the spring rodeos there. Now, all of a sudden, we’ve got long scores. Jake had to be somewhere else, and this was my introduction with how chemistry worked. We won everywhere and that was the first time I realized I couldn’t concern myself with what my heeler was doing. This steer was rolling and I reached. (I was wearing a felt hat in the spring in California. Only an Eastern Oakie is going to make that mistake.) Caleb’s horse slipped as he tried to make the corner, and he threw three coils over his horse’s head and drilled him. Seriously, one of the greatest heel shots I’ve ever seen, and we came back and were third in the average.
STEP 4 (2010)
That was the year Jake and I won the Strait. I wanted to go to Reno, Cheyenne and Salinas. This horse’s name is Splish, owned by Cathy Twisselman. I’d rode him in the practice pen one time, and he had an awesome move. I rode him at Salinas with my spurs on, and he lunged all the way to the steer. Then Caleb said, “Hey, did you have your spurs on?” I took them off, and we placed in three rounds and won second in the average. So, at Cheyenne, in this picture, we placed second in the first round because he brought that horse over to me. Splish introduced me to being able to win without having to use my rope. That was my first glimpse of high-level heading. That was my first chance at riding one that did what he did.
STEP 5 (2015)
I’m coming off my first trip to the Finals. This was the first time I owned a head horse that was super fast, moved the saddle horn, and had super foot speed. He built my career. This horse got me to the Finals. It was a whole new problem of learning to control that speed. This was me becoming a guy who could use my horse and rely on my partner. It’s when I realized I’m not doing anything special that’s yielding the best results. You realize it’s actually quieting down your role to allow your partner and horse to showcase your talents when you really go to work.
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STEP 6 (2019)
I love this picture, and we actually placed on this steer. This is an actual picture of what heading feels like most of the time. You feel out of control. He was running, he checked off and halfway stepped to Ryan (Motes). I mean I roped him tight, then the next jump he’s heading into Ryan and I’m in a different position all together. I get my horse picked up and put on the half-jackpot pulley dally. Ryan hates this, and every heeler hates this. We falsely turn the steer’s head, and if you let the rope slide, he’ll go farther away from your partner. But here I never let the rope slide back. My hand is there all the way across the arena. I face and still have the slack back here. They held the flag on us until I got it tight.