“Fine. Unwrap the steers yourself then.”
“What’s your problem?”
“I don’t have to take this. I’m done.”
And my favorite, “I don’t need your help.”
How many roping wives have said these? How many times have you heard these said between spouses in the roping pen? It’s hard not to get frustrated with your partner during practice or at a roping, especially if your partner lives in the same house as you and probably came with you in the same rig.
People always ask me how my husband and I don’t fight when we rope together. It’s pretty simple, really. We’ve learned, and work hard at it all the time, that frustration doesn’t make either one of us a better roper, nor does it make our relationship any stronger. Instead, we’ve learned each other’s idiosyncrasies, and we’ve perfected our communication skills. It comes down to the fact that we’re partners for life, in and out of the arena, which makes the wins so much sweeter, and the losses a little easier to take. We’ve decided to share what works well for us in hopes that no husband or wife gets hit with an estranged comment in the practice pen like the ones above… ouch.
- All roping couples know how hard it is to win with each other. My husband has no choice but to enter with me at every roping we go to, so it’s important to me to be competitive for him. He and I should be able to rope good together everywhere we go since we practice with each other, but we’ve had to learn how to be good practice partners. My husband focuses a lot on his horses and devotes a lot of our practice time to his horsemanship; whereas, I will tend to focus solely on catching and handling cattle. There are times I will turn him a steer only to look back down the arena to see him schooling his horse… That’s my signal to start working on my handles by dallying and bumping the steer’s head all the way down the arena. I could easily get frustrated with him for leaving me hanging, especially since I caught, but I know he wants something different out of practice; he wants to be a good horseman. So when he decides to detour in the middle of a run, I need to have certain skills I can work on independently, too. When you know your arena goals as well as your spouse’s, you will get the most out of your practice sessions. Being a good practice partner for the other one enables us to be a better team.
- Learn your partner’s quirks so you can communicate effectively. I’m an insanely competitive person, and growing up, I really didn’t have any strategies when it came to dealing with losses and frustrations. My husband, who handles any given situation with grace, has helped me a lot in terms of dealing with my emotions while in the arena. That’s not to say, however, that I don’t still throw my fair share of fits. He just knows how to handle them. He knows that when I get super mad at myself, I tend to beat myself up, or worse, take it out on him. Luckily, he just ignores me until I’m done being a brat. I’ve learned when my husband is giving me the silent treatment during practice, it means that I’m the one who needs to change my attitude. He could easily tell me when I’m being a B-Word, but then he’d have no one to turn him any steers. The point here is not to push each other’s buttons; learn how your partner deals with struggles, and either accept it, avoid it, or help them find other ways to cope. Communication is key.
- Don’t nit-pick in the practice pen. Constructive criticism is healthy, but picking apart someone’s faults is not. I’ve practiced with many people who are better than me, and I never rope well when someone tells me what I need to fix after every single run. Most people respond to analysis better when a compliment is offered first. For example, “You set that steer up really nice in the corner. On the next one, try to keep the steer moving.” Make it your goal every time you step in the arena to build each other up.
- Try your absolutely damnedest to watch each other’s every run at an actual event. It’s very disappointing to return to your spouse after an amazing run only to find out they didn’t even see it. It’s also really frustrating when you know he’s the one who could help you fix something if he would’ve only watched. Ladies, this goes for you, too. It is the most satisfying part of my night when my husband asks me what I think. It is so rewarding to know that he values my opinion and trusts my knowledge enough to help him analyze his own runs. It’s important to be there for one another.
- Understand your spouse’s skill level so you know what to expect in competition. There are certain setups where I’m a remarkable roper – give me straight moving cattle with good sized horns and I’m gonna spin ‘em for you all day in the same spot. However, place some stronger, speed demons in the mix, and you’re going to experience a completely different roper. Not only do I lose confidence in myself, my horse, and my ability to turn steers, but I usually give crap handles with faster moving cattle because I’m so worried about catching and not getting outrun. Luckily, my husband knows I’m only a number 4 and he knows which ropings to expect a lot out of me and which ropings he knows are going to be tough for me. When we enter with each other in something more competitive, it’s important to have certain expectations so you don’t let each other down. He knows we probably aren’t going to be at the top of the leader board in a number 12 roping, but we are damn sure coming back to the short round in a number 7. This set standard helps minimize any frustration when we are competing. Thankfully, I’m married to a way better roper than myself, so even when I make mistakes, he’s usually behind me to clean it up… my expectations for him are a little higher than the kind he sets for me! 🙂
- When I asked my husband what was important to him in regards to getting along with your roping spouse, he said, “Have a short memory.” Thanks, babe. (I could easily get frustrated with his answer, but we’re communicating, right?) Too bad this answer is totally true. It’s important to be able to forgive and forget. Talk about it on the way home in a positive manner. We find that self-assessing our runs together helps us set goals for the future. Where do we go from here? What can we do during practice tomorrow to get better? If you could change something about our runs together, what would it be? Use your trip home as a growth experience – grow your skills but also grow in your relationship.
The biggest thing we’ve learned from roping with each other is that we are never trying to do bad for our partners on purpose. Mistakes happen – that’s roping. Bottom line is you are having fun and getting to do something together. Double dipping at a roping is the sweetest reward for all of your hard work! If you compete together, you either win big or you lose big, so you need to stay humble and be thankful for the opportunity to simply be doing something you love with someone you love. It could be a long, quiet ride home, or you can use the drive as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship, your communication, and ultimately, your roping partnership.