We all preach the benefits of roping fundamentals. I’ll take that a step further by saying that if you have a fundamentally correct riding style, it’ll add to the longevity of your roping career.
When you heel, your horse is a big part of the athletic equation that helps you do the job. How we ride—our posture and our riding style—has a part to play in how long we get to play the game. With 20/20 hindsight, I can look back now and see that there are so many things in my career that God lined up perfectly for me, including me getting to see and learn the right things from the right people.
One important roping-career component was my riding style, which I copied from Leo Camarillo. Maybe because he was the greatest and so far above everyone else, but of all the ropers I watched as a kid, Leo was the one I tried to mimic.
I really loved Leo’s style of riding a horse. He was like a statue with his posture. He was right in the middle of his horse all the time, and the mechanics of his roping was just his right arm. Leo was always sitting straight up on his horse, so I copied that. And I think that’s one of the reasons I was able to have a long career in doing what I loved to do for a living, which was roping, jackpotting and rodeoing. I copied the right guy, and really made that the focal point of my riding style.
I always wanted to stay in the middle of my horse and have him help me do my job. When you do it that way, you’re maximizing your horse’s ability and minimizing getting all out of whack or getting off balance during the run.
I started roping horseback when I was 5 years old. Until I was about 15, I was fighting for strength, because I was so young. From 15 to my mid-50s, I felt like during all parts of the run—including making the corner and making the stop, where you have g-forces pulling on you—I had the strength I needed to do the job. Always practicing staying in the middle of my horse made making the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) in my mid-50s possible.
I see so many people who are out of position in their posture, and it causes them to get leaned out and thrown down or forward. So I teach ropers about correct posture, and explain to them how that helps you so much with your balance and counter-balancing your horse’s moves. Riding that way puts a lot less stress on your body.
Your horse is stopping when you’re throwing to make your catch. If you can’t keep your body where it’s supposed to be, it’s hard to connect with your delivery. If you practice with the correct posture and stay in the middle of your horse, you’re building your core strength.
Using your legs, hips and stomach muscles to stay centered is where it’s at. You sit down when you throw, and that counter-balances the stop, keeps you in your seat and lets your upper body stay in the correct position to make your catch, get your slack and dally.
Once we get our strength in our teens, we don’t think much about it until we start to lose it. That time comes for all of us. The best thing to do to prolong your prime is to keep riding your horse correctly. It pays dividends in your success, and increases the longevity of your career.
As I look back now on my career, I’ve just been very blessed. I’ve had some mentors who maybe didn’t even know they were mentors. I’ve always learned from watching others, whether it was how to rope right or how someone conducted his life. I’ve been a student, and have been fortunate to learn by witnessing the right people at the right time when it came to roping and living a good life.
I’ve always focused on my riding and my horsemanship. And now that I’m 60, I realize how important mimicking the right people has been to me in my roping career and in life.