Barnes talks about how being conservative in the roping industry today is harder to do with the reachers.

I talk a lot about how tough team roping is today, because it is. I’m having a hard time trying to be 3 and 4 all the time. In the past, it was like the tortoise and the hair. The consistent guys ended up winning more in the long run over the course of an entire season. The blasters who pressed on every steer always seemed to stub their toes, and would break the barrier or miss, or their heelers would rope a leg more often than us more conservative guys. Back then, I didn’t pay much attention to those guys, because it seemed like they would always shoot themselves in the foot.

Times have changed. The blasters are everywhere now, and they can let their hair down and press pretty consistently. Everybody’s doing it, so a lot more teams are going to connect at high speed at every rodeo.

Naturally, I prefer averages over one-headers. A two-head average pays time and a half, and if you don’t draw great, you can put another run with it and you still have a chance. Consistency has always been my calling card, and it’s tough to teach an old dog a new trick. It’s been really hard for me to let my hair down and rope so aggressively that it feels careless and crazy. But the way I went about it for so long is about obsolete now.

It’s a different game today, and that consistent style I relied on for so long is going out of style. I really press to try and win one of the bottom holes, and I find myself shooting myself in the foot more than I ever did before just trying to get a little sniff of the cheese.

My lower-numbered roper friends are saying the same thing. In the past, a leg or maybe even a barrier would sometimes place. All you had to do was catch. But with the volume of teams entered today, somebody’s going to connect successfully. It’s also just a natural progression and evolution in our sport.

Everything in this world has progressed so much, and it’s carried over to roping, too. Our horses, our saddles, and our ropes are better. We video our runs and watch them in slow-mo, so we can isolate our weaknesses, and work on the exact areas where we need to improve. At the rodeos, you find out what steer you drew, then find out who’s roped him recently, call that guy, and get a video, so you can make a game plan, and have a play ready to go for that steer.

It’s amazing and phenomenal how many good ropers there are everywhere and at every level. Rich (Skelton) and I were 5.4 at Mineral Wells (Texas) the other day, and won eighth—3.8 won it. You can’t have a conservative mindset and win a dime at a deal like that. I’ve been roping all my life, and have been 3 one time. Guys are 3 all the time now. Even at the dummy ropings, they keep moving the line back. Those kids are learning to throw to the end of it early.

You can’t stop progress, so you have to keep progressing. People have always asked me for advice, and I thought I was doing them a favor by saying they should be smart, use their horse, and take good shots. I’m starting to wonder if I should just start telling everybody to fire, because you can’t just always take the layup anymore. Consistency is still important— especially to the recreational roper. But you need to ride the best horse you can, and keep pressing to get a little faster without losing control. It’s a constant battle, but that’s just how it is as our sport continues to evolve.

Consistency is so deeply engrained in me, and it’s so tough to override that. I’ve been working so hard at my roping, and trying to be less conservative is so hard. At 59, I’m having to try and reinvent myself. I’m almost 60, and am a #9 (the highest heading number there is). Clay’s (O’Brien Cooper) not much younger than me, and has the highest heeling number (#10). Same for Walt Woodard at 62. We’re still stepping in the ring and putting the gloves on. It’s brutal. But we’re not willing to wave the white flag just yet. 

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