So, you want to learn to team rope, but getting into this sport seems pretty intimidating. Maybe you have been riding for years or this is going to be a whole new adventure for you. As you start your journey into the roping world, here are a few things to keep in mind.
First things first
Take lessons on the ground. Not everyone that ropes is a good teacher, so you may have to travel a little ways to get to someone that gives lessons, but it’s worth it. Getting that solid foundation on the ground before you add a horse is key. Spend a couple months on these ground lessons before you make the decision to jump into the sport with both feet. It takes quite a bit of money to get started as a team roper, so you don’t want to buy the horse, tack, and equipment only to decide this isn’t for you.
If the horse is young, you aren’t interested
Buy a well-seasoned, aged horse. A lot of people get stuck on the “we can learn together” idea, but that simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been riding for 20 years or 20 days. My wise farrier told me when I was learning to rope that when you’re roping, somebody’s got to know what they’re doing; either the human or the horse. Learning to rope on a horse that will score like a rock and run keep you in perfect position every time is so much easier than a horse that doesn’t. My first head horse was 21 years old when my parents bought him and he was by far the greatest factor in my roping success. It’s also important when purchasing a rope horse to take someone with you that knows what they are looking at. Just because you can pick out a world champion western pleasure horse doesn’t mean you can pick out the rope horse that you need.
Be open to riding lessons
Don’t be offended if your roping instructor suggests riding lessons or critiques your riding style. Riding a rope horse requires a very different skill set than any other equine discipline. Suggesting you get help with your horsemanship skills to rope doesn’t mean that you can’t ride; it just means that you need to fine-tune those specific areas. Roping will come a lot easier to you if you have a solid horsemanship foundation.
Condition your arm
Rope that dummy every single day. I don’t care if you are a 300 pound body builder or 98 pounds soaking wet, when you learn to rope you are using different muscles in your arm, wrist, and shoulder that aren’t accustomed to that kind of work. When you get to your lessons you don’t want to have to quit twenty minutes in because you feel like your arm is falling off.
Find ropers better than you
Always try to rope with people better than you. Granted, when you are a complete beginner, you think that pretty much anyone is better than you, but as you progress you need to keep finding people that can push you. They say you are only as good as your competition, and they are right. Seek out practice pens where the guys that beat you every weekend are going. The only way to be better is to practice better.
Round Robins? Yes please!
Enter round robins. Let’s be honest, when you are first learning to rope people aren’t exactly lining up to enter with you. No one wants to spend $20 on a run that they are pretty confident won’t pan out. Round robins give you the opportunity to rope with everyone there, increasing your chances to win some money, and increasing your chances to impress someone. Higher number ropers really like low number ropers that go out there and catch consistently. If you do that at a few round robins you’ll start getting not only more partners, but BETTER partners.
Swing All The Ropes
Try every rope you can get your hands on. There’s a reason that there are hundreds of different brands and lays of ropes out there; everyone likes something different. When you are first starting out your coach may suggest a specific rope, but once you get a solid swing down you will start to be able to feel what you like.
Can I haul with you?
Try to haul with someone that knows what’s going on. Ropers always want hauling partners! Hello! Why buy all the diesel when you can split it 5 ways?! The first few times you go to ropings and rodeos the process can be a little intimidating. Hauling with a friend that you can follow around and “learn the ropes” from is extremely helpful.
Does everyone just lope to the left?
When you get to ropings, play the “when in Rome” game. Pay attention to what’s happening in the warm up pen, where people are standing during the roping, where people tie their horses up, etc. You don’t want to be “that guy” that’s in the way. You’ll find in time that there is a pattern and method to the madness.
Don’t be so hard on yourself
Keep things in perspective. Learning to rope is tough. Some days/weeks/months will feel like one step forward and two steps back. Realize that even the pros miss the money steer in the short round sometimes. Everything gets better with experience. Keep on working hard, you’ll get there.
Continue to be a student
Attend as many clinics and seminars as you can. These can be pretty pricey, but the knowledge you gain is invaluable. Usually these clinics are intense, but the repetition is imperative to getting more consistent. Muscle memory is a huge part of roping, so having a weekend with someone critiquing you can be a game-changer.
Everyone was a beginner once
That’s so important to remember. Even the guys that seem like they came out of the womb with a rope in their hand were once a beginner. Don’t ever feel intimidated or like you don’t belong. If you are at a practice pen and everyone else is looking down at you, find a different one. The best part of roping is the community that surrounds it. Find people that support and help you and you’ll be on your way to success in the roping pen!