Whether you are a roper yourself or your child has randomly become attracted to the cowboy life, when your kid decides to start roping, it changes the family dynamics. Roping is a time and money consuming hobby (re: lifestyle), but it is great sport for kids to be involved in. It requires hard work and dedication, teamwork, and teaches an incredible amount of responsibility. All of these are great skills to send young people into the adult world with.
Roping is like other sports in a sense that it takes a lot of practice and effort, but it is also completely different than any other sport on a lot of different levels. Other kids that play sports have to worry about keeping up with their one bag of equipment, but roper kids have a whole trailer full of equipment, horses to take care of, and thousands of road miles ahead of them. While I’m not a parent myself, I had a set of spectacular parents that navigated the “rodeo kid” parent roll pretty flawlessly. Below are some of the key factors that made my mom and dad such phenomenal “roping kid” parents.
Don’t be too hard on them
I never remember a time in my entire childhood that my parents ever said anything when I did badly at a rodeo or roping. Why? Because they knew that I was beating myself enough as it was and they didn’t need to make it worse. They were there for support, not to be my critic. If you child is super passionate about roping and rodeoing, it bothers them WAY more than it will ever bother you when they don’t do their best. You yelling and fussing is only going to magnify the situation and make them put more pressure on themselves. The last thing you want to do is cause your young ropers confidence to be lost because roping and rodeoing requires such a strong metal game. Instead telling them everything they did wrong, remind them how many times they’ve done it right and tell them they’ve got it next time.
The time to step in as a parent is when, inevitably, your kid thinks it’s okay to take out their frustrations on their horse. It has happened to anyone that ropes, but we all know it’s not okay and definitely not our proudest moment. The earlier we can drill into these young competitor’s heads that we always treat all of our animals with respect and integrity, the better.
Buy your kid a good horse
Learning to rope is hard enough as it is, but trying to do it on a counterfeit horse is basically impossible. If you are going to commit to allowing your child to rope, you need to fully commit, which means you need to buy what he or she really needs. The beauty of team roping versus other equine competitions is that in most areas of the world you can buy a great, older horse for anywhere from $2,500 – $5,000, compared to horses in the tens of thousands for other disciplines. A good horse is an investment in your child’s success, and most importantly, safety. Roping is dangerous enough as it is, but putting an inexperienced roper on an unsuitable horse is just asking for trouble. If you are a parent that’s unfamiliar with roping horses be sure to take an experienced roper with you and your child to try out horses. You’ll be much less likely to end up with a bad-fitting horse with the eyes of someone that knows what they are looking at.
Some of my best memories of my high school years were from when I first started taking roping lessons. My dad and I would go about 2 and a half hours round trip for a 45 minute lesson on the dummy every Wednesday night. I thought it was so cool that my dad was learning with me and we would talk all the way home about what we were learning/figuring out. I’m sure that most parents would say that there are very few things that their 14 year old daughter would consider “cool” to do with them, but roping the dummy is definitely one. My dad also built me a “horse” that I could rope the dummy off of, and I couldn’t tell you how many hours we spent taking turns taking that rope off the dummy. (If I’m being honest, I did more roping and he did more rope removal than the other way around.) Rodeo’s and ropings were always a family affair for us and kids really appreciate the support of their family while they are competing and practicing.
Make them do the work
I’m always floored when I walk through a junior high or high school rodeo and I see parent’s carrying water buckets, saddling horses, and cleaning stalls while the kids are out hanging with their friends. I’m not saying don’t help them out if they are busy with another horse or competing, but doing all the “sucky” stuff for them isn’t doing them any favors. Like I said before roping and rodeoing is a GREAT way for kids to learn responsibility, so don’t rob them of these learning opportunities. Sooner or later in life they are going to realize that even things that they love to do are going to require doing some not fun stuff, so why not let that be a childhood lesson.
Make them load cattle
Loading cattle is definitely the most non-glamorous job in the practice pen, and your little roper should not be immune to it. Whenever they step off to give their horse a break, have them step right back to the chute. Even the littlest of kids can pop the latch, and the bigger kids can learn how to safely and properly load the cattle. Same goes for wrapping and unwrapping horns. When kids are first learning it can slow down the process which is frustrating for adults, but down the road they will be some of the best chute help out there.
The great thing about roping is that kids don’t do it just because it’s something to do. They do it because they love it and they are passionate about it. Because of that they are happy to do all the not so fun chores that come with it because they know that is part of what it takes to be a great roper. If you are raising a roper you are raising a strong, capable, hardworking and independent kid, and for that, we thank you.