In Team Roping, our greatest obstacle is often in our own mind. We naturally dwell on what we did wrong in a run in order to try to fix the problem. The trouble is, sometimes we dwell so hard on certain flaws that they start to manifest themselves in most of our runs. Have you ever had one of the those practices that start off great, then you miss one, then another, and pretty soon all you are doing is fighting both your head and your horse? This is often compounded at a roping, when you miss a good one and then go on to miss several others. Here is where we need to be able to clear our mind and move forward with the next run. I personally love the “leave the arena” rule that Walt Woodard uses. The rule states that you have until you leave the arena at a roping, or run the next steer in practice to figure out what you did.
After that time you need to drop it and move forward. This gives us time to think, but doesn’t let us think
our way into negativity. Remember whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.
Start With A Plan
In practice I believe in a plan before hand. It is much harder to get off track when you start on a good track. But if you just start off with a vague sense of what is suppose to happen, you are often way off track before you have even ran a couple of steers. Before you run your first steer, take a couple minutes and think about how you want the upcoming practice to go. Which horses are you going to ride? How are your loops going to work on each steer? What are you working on that day? Even general questions and goals can be very helpful moving forward. This way you have a plan of attack and your mind will naturally clear.
I recommend using the same philosophies when you go to the roping. What’s your plan for the day? And don’t just say win. If all you are focused on is winning, you will naturally put more pressure on your self. Very few of us rope well when we are tight and tense. I would rather see goals like,”I’m really going to set up a good corner today”. Or “I’m going to score sharp and throw quality head loops today.” Having a plan before hand will help you stay on track throughout the day.
When You Start to Derail
What happens when you do miss one you think you should have caught? It’s ok and useful to ponder and troubleshoot right here. Take a second to think about what happened and why. What went wrong in that run that was different then your plan from the start? Was it your horse? Did you get a weird start? Did you not fully finish your heel loop? Once you figure out what it was, think about what you are going to do to fix it, then drop it. Move on to the next steer because the previous one will only hurt you now.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do not believe in disregarding a run. We cannot just run to the garden and chant, “there’s no weeds” and hope they magically disappear. We need to go into the garden and pull those weeds out. But once we do have those weeds removed, we need to forget they ever existed. This is where our short memory needs to come to our aid. Do you think dwelling on the previous run for more than a minute or two is going to help the next one at all?
Practice Vs Competition
Now I do believe there is a difference between practice and competition. In practice, we are there to better ourselves. It’s ok to think about what is going wrong and troubleshoot ourselves. That is one of the main purposes of practice. This will really start to come out when we are pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone. You are going to miss more right here and don’t sweat it, it is all part of the process. Just make sure after you have worked on a couple things that you end on a good note, inside your comfort zone. This leaves a positive lasting impression in your mind moving forward. In competition, our memory needs to be much shorter. We are likely not going to fix much while we are at the roping. A small correction is fine, such as a different rope or shortening your horses tie down, but don’t get carried away at the roping. If you have prepared and have a plan, learn to disregard the previous run and continue with your plan for the day. At the end of the day, we all make mistakes. It’s the ropers that can get past their previous mistakes the best that will be in the winners circle at the end of the day.
The Odd Steer
Now sometimes things just happen. Though we want to believe that we will never miss another one, funky things can happen. These are situations where maybe you drew an odd steer that took a funny jump right as you threw your heel loop, or a steer that rolled their head back right as you threw, causing you to wave it off. Whatever it is, don’t be too hard on your self here. Yes we need to work to get by the tough steers, but when you do have something odd happen, that you know is not really your
fault, move on. Don’t let a bad cow that most people would have missed get in the way of catching the good one that they might run in for you next.
As team ropers, we are going to run a lot of steers throughout the year. I like the think of the year as a year long average. There are going to be some bad steers and some good. Some runners and some lopers. But the ropers that come out on top at any level are the ones that can always be looking forward. Dwelling on the past rarely gets anyone anywhere. One of my favorite quotes is from Joseph Harrison. He states “If you back in the box every time believing the next run will be the best run of your life, the next one might be.” Learn to let go of the past as soon as you can and move forward towards the next steer and you will have a lot of fun roping this year.
AJ Fuchs is a roping horse trainer, and PRCA roper who lives in Stephenville, Texas with his wife and two kids. AJ has been professionally training horses for over 10 years, he specializes in Team Roping horses and overall horsemanship. Look him up on FB at AJ Performances Horses or website at ajfuchs.com