Play Your Game

In an age where team roping is getting faster and faster, it can be very easy too get caught up in the pace of the roping and try to do something beyond your capabilities. We see this at every level from the 8 up to open. Someone comes out and throws their rope really fast and it makes others get their blood up and try to do the same thing. Only problem is the percentages go way down as soon as we start to press outside of our comfort zone. It’s really hard to catch four steers clean when we are roping outside of our comfort zone.

On the other hand we all know someone at every level that takes their shot every time and wins a ton of money over the course of the year. They may not win first and sometimes they might not win at all but they are always making short rounds and by the end of the year they have paid most of their bills through jackpotting. I know number 4s and NFR ropers who just play their game. They use their cattle and are always in the conversation at the end of the roping. These guys get by the bad ones and blast the good ones and always make money in the end.

team roping expert advice

Why We Go Fast

Why do we lose our control and try to press beyond our capabilities? I think it is controlled by two things. The first one is our naturally competitive instinct. When we see one person pull off a shot we feel the natural need to try to compete with that person. We feel as if we are getting left behind if we don’t take the same shot that they did or get the same time they did. This is just human instinct but it is something we need to fight against because that thinking is too micro and not enough macro. I like to work on working on the micro, meaning use your current steer the best you can, and think in the macro, meaning think how to get all the way through the roping.

The second element is where you enter. Where you enter and which ropings you enter have a huge impact on how fast you will have to go. If you are entering high numbered ropings in Stephenville, Texas, odds are you’re going to have to press and make pretty fast runs. I recommend you look at how fast of runs are winning at certain ropings and make sure that is within your capabilities. This makes sure that if you play your game, you will win in the long term. You can also look at what kind of ropings there are. A number 10 roping capped at a straight 6 is just not going to be able to get too horribly fast due to the lack of faster throwing headers. Compare this to a number 12 slide and you are going to start getting pretty rapid runs in succession. A slide or higher number roping allows higher number headers to come in and turn steers pretty fast, and even if they have a 4-6 heeler, they are going to be pretty fast ropings in general. You can also look at how many steers a roping is. A 3 head roping is going to be exponentially faster they a 4 head just based on the numbers. If you consider your self a catcher, it can be in your best financial interest to stay away from rapid ropings.

The People Who Win Everywhere

We all know a person who just seems to win everywhere they go. They might not win first but they usually draw a check. What’s this persons secret? How do they always find them selves in a good spot to win money? I think it comes down to knowing your strengths and playing to them. First ask your self two questions, first is what is the fastest run I feel I can make pretty consistently? And secondly which ropings does that run fit into best. If you can average 8.0 second runs I would place you in the 12 and 13 ropings. If your average is 9.0 I would say you belong roping around the 11. 10.0 maybe the 9 and 10.

The main point is where is your best shot. What shot and run do you know you can make every time confidently. Then when you go to the roping stick to your game plan. Ride your horse as best you can and take those high percentage shots that will get you deep into the roping and give you a chance at the end. We can’t win them all but if you are catching a lot of cattle either heading or heeling, most likely you will make it deep into the roping. The truth is once you have made the short round, anything can happen. I have came in 19th callback before, made a good run and won 4th for a couple thousand a man. I have gotten by some runners to come in 13th call, just went and caught and won second. You never know how a short round will turn out and you don’t want to shoot your self in the foot before you even know the outcome. Especially the lower the number on the roping the more likely it is to fall apart. And even if it doesn’t you still gave yourself a good chance and who knows maybe you will win the fast time of the short round for an extra $500 a person. If you draw good maybe you win 1st or 2nd, if you have a couple runners, maybe it’s 8th. The good news is most ropings especially in the 11, 10 and 9 will pay 10+ holes and 10th is still all of your fees back and some.

Be Willing to Win The Crying Hole

The toughest part about this, for me especially, is excepting that sometimes you just won’t be fast enough to win any money. You might go catch all 3 steers really good, make a short round, catch your last one and not get paid a dime. This is the hardest part mentally for us because we feel like we left money on the table. Now if this is happening quite often it might be good to look at the roping your in and either press your self a little bit more or rope just one number down. But most of the time I would say this rarely happens. If you do this more than a couple times per year I would be surprised. That is saying you did the best you knew how, went as fast as your could without missing on every steer and still didn’t win a check. I bet when you look at it its less than a handful of times throughout the year. Now thats not to say that you made a mistake early on and battled back, but just wasn’t fast enough. I’m talking about you know you executed your plan and it just didn’t pay you much. It can be a hard pill to swallow but trust me, when you play the averages, I bet you make a lot more money throughout the 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

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