Time to Re-Evaluate and Regroup
Clay O'Brien Cooper talks about his goals for 2018.

The start of each new roping and rodeo season is the perfect time to step back and reflect on the last year, so that you can set new goals for the new year. This process includes evaluating your strengths and weaknesses, and also analyzing your horses, partner(s) and team(s).

This is something I’ve done since I was 16 years old, when I moved away from home and started roping for a living. When roping is your priority and how you put food on the table and a roof over your head, this honest self-evaluation is something you do every year out of necessity. It’s also important to recreational ropers at every level of the game.

I have friends who are regional ropers and stick pretty close to home. They’re in the same boat, and they go through the same analyzing and reflecting on the past year before formulating a new game plan, just like I do.

Do we need to change our practice routine, and practice more or differently? Do we need to do something different to improve the horse we have, or get a new horse? This process is basically about taking your own inventory, making assessments, and coming up with a game plan based on your goals.

Everyone in this sport wants to get better. I’m in the same process right now myself. I’ve been taking a good, hard look at my horses, and the mechanics of my roping. It’s a never-ending process, and it’s what makes team roping challenging and fun.

I’ve always loved the work aspect of trying to get better. It’s why I get up and go at it every morning. We’re all in it to win, because even if you don’t rope for a living, winning is a lot more fun than losing.

My goal for 2018 is to make the (Wrangler) National Finals (Rodeo). When you’re in the roping business and it’s what you do for a living, that’s a goal you need to achieve. Same goes for a lower-numbered roper who deems it necessary to go to the World Series Finale, USTRC Finals, ACTRA Finals, or another regional or amateur rodeo finals to call it a good year. You set that big, #1 goal, then figure out what it’s going to take to achieve it.

When I look back on 2017, Derrick (Begay) and I were behind from the start. I’d spent four years climbing to the top, and had the luxury of being qualified for all the winter rodeos, and in a position to be in the Champions Challenges. The top 10 also get to go to The American every year. You’re set up for the new year based on your last year’s performance.

Derrick and I being in the ERA in 2016 stripped us of everything for 2017. We were basically like rookies starting over. We couldn’t enter Denver. We couldn’t enter Fort Worth with each other, so we had to have other guys (Matt Sherwood and Joel Bach) bring us in. We couldn’t enter San Antonio or Austin. We couldn’t go to a lot of the events that count now, like our circuit finals.

Then, mid-summer, Derrick’s #1 horse got hurt. Then his second horse got hurt. My horse kept getting sore, too. It was just a real struggle. On the bright side, we did qualify for the buildings this coming winter. But my horse is 21 now, so I can probably only ride him at the good rodeos. Derrick’s in the same boat, and is trying horses, too.

We’ll do everything we can to give us the best shot at success this year. Then all we can do is take it one day at a time, and do our best.   

Related Articles
The Secret Behind Cutting-Bred Heel Horses
5 Flat
Following Your Steer's Tracks
working on that fitness
Define Fit
Horses in the Thomas & Mack
Top 10 Traits in a Horse for Lower-Numbered Heelers