Team roping is a legacy sport—a skill set handed down from generation to generation, a sport that’s seemingly in your blood. But what happens when you see team roping from the outside, and you start to crave it? How do you fight your way into a sport, learning the ropes, when you don’t have your parents to teach you? 2009 World Champion header Nick Sartain breaks down the formula that took him from a kid showing horses to a veteran of five WNFRs.
When I was trying to figure things out, I got the Jake (Barnes) and Clay (O’Brien Cooper) tape, and the Allen Bach tape, and I just watched them over and over again. I tried to get all the tapes I could and just study how each guy did everything. I watched the Mega Match (with Barnes and Cooper against Bobby Hurley and Allen Bach) where they roped 60 steers. And they even break some of the runs down. I wore that tape out. I just watched how each guy rode his horse, swung his rope, handled the steer, etc. Back then, we didn’t have a lot of ways to get information, so I soaked up everything I could.
There are so many DVDs available, and you can read so much about team roping in magazines, like Spin To Win Rodeo. Back when Spin to Win came out (in 1997), it had those groundbreaking tips in it from Jake and Clay every month. I read those and read those, and today that stuff is just so available. The articles that break down your swing, your horsemanship—that’s something you’ve got to be reading if you want to rope like the best in the world.
Watch and Learn
As soon as I was old enough, I started to go around and watch the best guys everywhere I could. I’d watch them at the jackpots, and I’d pay attention to what they did to win. I looked at the top guys and tried to take a little bit from each one of them. I would spent hours roping the dummy trying to make what I did look like what they did.
As soon as you can afford it, get to some schools. Try to get around guys who rope well and are good horsemen. See what makes them handy. Get to as many different schools with as many different top guys as you can. Then pick the details out that you want to take away from each one. You might learn something from Walt Woodard about your position, from Chris Cox about your horsemanship, etc. It’s the small things that each guy does that makes the difference. That’s what I learned when I started getting around Speed (Williams) and Rich (Skelton). There were just tiny details in their horsemanship and their practice routines that I picked up on.
Nick Sartain won the average at the 2009 WNFR with Kollin Von Ahn, en route to the world title that year. He and Rich Skelton conduct clinics with Chris Cox each year. Like facebook.com/getrichroping for upcoming clinic dates.