Part of my job at Roping.com is to know what is holding ropers back from winning more. When asked, every roper answers the same: CONSISTENTCY! So, how do you become a more consistent roper? Here are 7 tips…
#1: Find Good Partners
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “It’s not me…it’s my partners!” “My partners never catch!” “I can’t find anyone good to rope with!” Make sure when you say those aloud that you use your best whiny voice…maybe kick some rocks around for good measure! I’m not going to lie, I have said those EXACT same things at one point or another. It seriously stinks when your partners don’t catch, but that’s why it’s called “team” roping! When your partners aren’t catching, you need to figure out exactly what is going on. Be honest with yourself! Is it you? If you are a header, are you handling your cattle correctly? If you are a heeler, are you hazing in a way that helps or hurts your partners? Or, do you feel like the fault truly isn’t yours, but it is your partner’s abilities that are keeping you from clean runs and big checks?
If it really is your partners, I hate to be the one to break this to you, but that is STILL YOUR FAULT! You have to put in the TIME and EFFORT to find people worth roping with. Go to practices and network with other ropers. Join a membership community like Roping.com so that you can find partners. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to rope! If you are too shy, then enter draw pots, but keep your expectations realistic! Don’t enter up in a #6 drawpot and expect your partners to catch every steer! If you want partners that catch consistently, try finding higher numbered, more experienced ropers to rope with. That may mean that you have to rope in the #11 rather than the #8. But, I can assure you, if you are putting in the TIME and EFFORT in the practice pen, there are always higher numbered ropers out there who are looking for GOOD lower numbered partners to rope with!
#2: Have A Horse That Helps You
Wow…I have seen so many ropers get railroaded by having a horse that hurts them rather than helps them. These include horses that are bad in the box, horses that duck, horses that cheat you on the corner, horses that BUCK, RUN OFF, etc. There are too many good horses out there to ride a bad one when there’s money on the line! I get that it is super rewarding to start your own horse. Heck, it’s the cowboy way! But, if you want to increase your consistency and win more money more often, you need to ride something that has been there and done that…something you can trust! There is a good reason why the top 15 team ropers in the world ride tried and true, older, seasoned horses at the NFR! Those horses can be trusted to make the same trip EVERY TIME! There is absolutely nothing wrong with riding a horse that has a little bit of age. And I promise you, no one will think less of you when you are holding those big checks! Horses with some age may require some extra maintenance, but often come cheaper than younger ones. If you can’t afford to go out and spend $10,000-$25,000 on a horse, but you want one you can win on…look into a little order horse!
Note from the author: I’m not saying there aren’t good, trustworthy, younger horses out there! But, if they are young, good looking, well-bred, and seasoned, you can bet they probably come with a little higher price tag! Don’t sacrifice your consistency in competition because you want to spend less on a young horse that doesn’t fit you, could cost you money, or may hurt you when you could ride something that you KNOW you can win on!
#3: Work On Your Mental Game
Nerves tend to get the best of a lot of ropers, which keeps them from being more consistent. The best way that I have found to prepare myself mentally, is to put pressure on myself in the practice pen. Practice for every situation. Make faster runs. Practice scoring. Put pressure on yourself to catch 4 in a row. Rope all different kinds of cattle. Have some friendly competition with your peers. When you put that kind of pressure on yourself in the practice pen, it becomes less of a big deal in competition. Also, try to go to some smaller jackpots where less money is on the line. This will really help you to build your mental confidence.
#4: Rope Your Dummy
Do you rope the dummy 50 times or more per day? If you answered “no”, then you don’t rope your dummy enough. Don’t worry, I honestly don’t know many people who rope their dummy enough. But, those that I do know who rope their dummy enough are some of the best in the world! If you want to be a more consistent roper, it starts on the ground. Roping your dummy builds your muscle memory. The more you do it, the better you get! There are hundreds of drills that you can do that will help you improve. Roping websites, such as Roping.com, can give you lots of tips and games that you can play that will make your time spent on the dummy more productive.
#5: Attend A Clinic (Or Several)
I learned more about my roping in 5 minutes at a clinic than I did in 5 years of practicing, reading, and watching videos on my own. If you want to improve and become more consistent, having a professional analyze your abilities is the fastest way. Let’s just face the music here. The professionals have not only been roping for many years, but they have also made a living doing it. They know what to look for and they can tell you what you need to be working on to get to the next level. If you were bleeding profusely out of your eyes, would you go to the doctor or try to diagnose yourself on WebMD? Odds are, you would go to a professional (at least I would hope). Heed my advice, if you want to get to the next level in your roping, go to a professional!
#6: Learn To Break Down Your Runs
I have watched Roping.com’s Focus DVD no less than 50 times…call it a job perk. One of the things that #7 heeler Chris Smith talks about in the very beginning that has stuck with me was how he watched the BFI in slow motion to learn how to break down his own roping. I know what you are probably thinking, “The BFI? In slow motion?! BOOORRRRIIIINNNNNGGG!!!!” But, Chris was committed to learning the mechanics of team roping so he not only watched it once in slow motion…he watched it TWICE!!
The first time he watched it in slow motion, he was watching every heeler’s swing. What do the professionals all do CONSISTENTLY? They all have different swings…some swing fast and some swing some slower, some swing flat while others have a steeper angle…but the ONE thing that every, single one of them did was point their tip at the target. Bingo!! He then realized, it’s not your swing that makes the difference…it’s whether or not you point your tip of your rope at the target!
The second time he watched the BFI in slow motion, he was watching every heeler’s release. Every time the heeler’s released their rope, their arm was fully extended before they let go. Now, Chris Smith is more dedicated to learning the mechanics of team roping than most ropers I know, but if you really want to improve, then these are the steps that need to be taken! By analyzing how the best in the world rope, he was then able to look at his own roping and see what he needed to work on. He learned how to break down his own roping by comparing it to the professionals! By doing that, he quickly went from a #4 to a #7!
The next step in breaking down your runs is to video yourself. Video yourself roping the dummy. Have someone video your practice runs and jackpot runs. Watch your runs over and over again. Watch them in slow motion. If you have watched enough professional runs, you ought to be able to compare and figure out where you need to improve.
I already mentioned that you need to be roping your dummy and that the key to improving your mental game was to put pressure on yourself in practice. So, I suppose it’s a no-brainer that PRACTICE is on the list for how to be a more consistent roper. Jake Barnes always says that if you want to get good at team roping, quit your job and make it your living. You’ll get better really quickly if that is how you put a roof over your head and food on your table. And, I am willing to bet that if you were to make roping your living, PRACTICE would be a huge part of your routine! You can’t expect to get better just by THINKING about getting better! Results require action. Rope your dummy. Rope the mechanical steer. Work on your horsemanship. And practice roping all different kinds of live cattle: freshies, slow cattle, head duckers, mulies, draggers, cattle that run left, cattle that run right, cattle that run up the rope, long horned cattle and little horned cattle, etc.
CONSISTENCY EQUALS WORK. Repeat after me, “CONSISTENCY EQUALS WORK.” Say it out loud. Write it down on a piece of paper and tape it to your bathroom mirror. Repeat it daily. If you aren’t willing to put in the work, you are relying on luck rather than skill. Eventually, your luck will run out, but hard work will always pay off!