I try to stay in touch with my pro-roper friends and keep abreast of how they are doing through the course of the year. I also make my own observation of how things are going for them, and I try to analyze it all with a new-age perception, so I can be “instructor-mental” (coach-like) in a more positive, supportive way. Today’s pro- and open-level team roping competition is so fierce, the ranking latter is a turbulent climb, so to be more constructive and assisting to their situation, I have to mentally put myself in their position and direct from a whole new perspective.
I’ve been a perpetual student of the team-roping game since I swung my first loop, and while my aim is always at progression, my motive is always the same. Raised as a working hand for large cattle companies under the direction of my father, I learned right quick that it was better, easier, and more fun to get off the ground and work a horseback—a privileged position earned, not handed. Dad was a militant leader and a stickler for proper mechanics regarding riding, roping and handling cattle. If you were promoted to horseback, especially as a kid amongst the men, one slight slip-up, be it roping a leg, missing a headshot (anything other than two horns was a miss) or a dally, catching too far from the fire, etc., demoted you back to ground crew, and that was that. There was no mucking around. Dad was impatient, demanding and adamant about good cowboy ethics which have been ingrained in me for life. And though it wasn’t much fun for a kid, his military discipline got me to the pay-window (at the rodeos) on a regular basis fulfilling my main motive.
Today’s professional team roping has evolved into what I call “arena-style”. Based on catching rather than trapping the strategy seems more rope than any other factor. The extreme ideas, though amazing when successful, have always impressed me as high-risk flamboyance in regards to average winning that borders on careless disgrace. However, last month at the USTRC finals in Oklahoma I caught firsthand, eye-to-eye sight of what really goes on in the deep open-roping waters, and it was an unbelievable awakening. The clouds pealed back, and I saw into the heavens of arena team roping. As the angels sung I watched the speed, the long shots, the ducks and dives; every header taking a down-town shot, be it right from the box or at the back end of the arena, reaching and cracking horns and by the threads of their tassel dallies lock the steer on a long length of rope in a tight, ideal handle for their modern-day, progressive healers, all with confident flair. The boys from the phenomenal district served up their refined variety of extreme arena team roping a la mode, and it was exquisite.
Yes, there were heartbreaking consequences as horses ducked out and ropes were lost, and all the usual mayhem. Definitely, it’s frustrating to watch pro after pro make a hasty miss in the heat of battle, because we expect their professional perfection, and team roping is about “roping”, not missing. However, instead of using hindsight to change the horizon, instead of being that derogatory person of “back in the day” trying to stifle the modern idea to get things back to original standard, I say, “O.K. boys, I get it! I’ve seen the light.” Let’er rip into the era of modern technology. Bring this extreme idea to the level of supremeness I see coming.
Like the 3-point shot, extreme arena roping is the way of today, and as with all progression, things are taking solid form. I see substantial methods evolving. Watch the kids today, tomorrow’s world’s champions, rope their dummy. Every modern-day roper-kid has a “Drag Steer”, the ingenious, ideal, portable, ground-dummy perfect for practicing runs, and they emulate today’s pros blatantly working on shots that are unbelievable. Though the habits these kids form on the ground may not be conducive to effective team-roping horsemanship, their intentions are right. They’re honing their extreme shots, reaching for that “Drag Steer” (#dragsteer) and keeping it on a long length of rope with a quick turn and pull for their heelers who jump in and snag two every time in a blink. When I see those kids of tomorrow, the future top 15, as well as today’s top 15, it’s staggering how great they rope. I compliment the Kaleb Driggers(es), Derek Begay(s)—Arron Tsinigine, Trevor Brazil, Brock Hansons, Clay Tryan, and the growing list of top headers who fight for that top echelon, roping the extreme and setting the bar of maximum excellence.
For me, understanding this evolution and even incorporating it in my own roping, means I first have to accept it and not be the old-man veteran of the sport clinging to my regimented theories and discipline, for the sake of ingenuity. When it dawned on me, in OKC, that I was witnessing the brink of a revolution, I realized I was seeing a great change to my sport, the event that I feel very personable about and am often credited for revolutionizing and bringing to the rodeo arena. To get to watch what I started be taken to such a high level, where every single heeler has that “Leo Camarillo” dip without thought or effort just absolutely perfected is endearing and incredible. To see what I started evolve through Clay Obrien, and all the others who have copied it on down to today’s Travis Graves(es), and Cesar de la Cruz(es) is mind-blowing. Everyone has that style and it is so perfected to even better than I could imagine it being done. They make me feel, in all my accomplishments I didn’t work at it hard enough, and at one time I was the only one doing it. Yet, I could have been doing it so much better.
Today’s pros have brought competing to a level where you’ve got to be day-money minded, fast-time driven every single time you go, not to win, but to just place, down to however many moneys pay. When a rodeo has a good day, you’ll see competitors (like they do) have to rope every steer in the six-second area to win a 5-steer average. It’s not just for first place. Six seconds is to whatever place gets paid. As many as eight places will hash out tenths of seconds. Unfortunately the guy that strategizes conservatively to win or place in the average may no longer happen. Nevertheless, vets like me and others from back in the day need to take notice of their methods because there is an exceptional new way of competitive roping that when done right can work for all of us. As an extreme competitor of the past, I applaud how the pros are competing today. They have taken arena team roping to the highest level yet—the greatest arena ropers doing the greatest arena roping of all time.
That’s all I know …