OK, OK, I know I might catch some flack for making that statement, but it’s really the truth. I say this honestly hoping I don’t run away any of my team roping followers, but hey, I’m a team roper too remember, so if I can say this about myself then I hope everyone else has a little sense of humor, too. Sometimes, we have to think a little less like a team roper and a little more like a barrel racer.
There I said it. Now, indulge me by letting me explain why.
If any of you have been following me on my journey here at R&RL, then you know a few things about me: No. 1 I’m a rodeo gal, who mainly breakaway ropes, but was raised by team ropers. No. 2 I’m an Okie turned Texan, and No. 3, yes I admit I’m a little bit ranchy. So, with no excuses being made, the plain fact of the matter was I recently had my mind in team roper tunnel vision.
I moved down here to Texas a little over a year ago. I’ve had the amazing blessings to find some really amazing friends in my migration, but about 1 percent of them are ropers. The beauty of the beast is I’m an editor for a barrel racing magazine (the best one ever!) and well, being surrounded by barrel racers day in and day out, it’s only natural for my new friends to be mostly barrel racers. It’s not a bad thing, I love every last one of them, but it’s contributed to a few things. Having no roper friends means I haven’t roped more than, say 10 practice calves in all the time I’ve been down here. Sure, I’ve bucked up and entered rodeos, but actual practice calves? A day of actually pulling out the toolbox and fixing some issues with you, your horse, and your roping? Nope, haven’t had any of those.
So, let me lay down some background. My mare is pretty solid, sure not jam-up let’s take to the NFR and let Trevor ride her, but she’s pretty solid and we understand each other. Well, lately she’s been giving me a little run for my money during our breakaway runs. It started with her just coming out of her stop a little bit, and then it escalated to actually lunging out of her stop, and then to a full on buck. And here is where my team roper characteristics got me into trouble. When it first started I thought, ‘Well, shoot. She probably just needs a little tune up. No biggie.’
I went to the drawing board put on the snaffle, worked on some collection issues, made sure she was supple and listening to me and my body language, and then put the roping bit back on and did some work. Some stops, rollbacks, tracked the sled around (because remember I don’t have any calves or know anyone who does) and guess what? My mare worked like a champ just riding around.
Then the problem escalated. I thought ‘OK, there must be a problem. She’s not carrying any fluid in her hocks or anywhere else. Maybe her saddle is pinching somewhere.’ I tried it all. I switched saddles, I switch blankets, I switched bits, you name it and I tried it. Still, riding around doing drills or slow work or supple exercises she rode just like a 12-year-old calf horse should ride. But, as soon as I would enter a rodeo it would happen again. I would stand up, rope my calf, sit down, pitch slack and my mare would start her stop and then lunge right back out of it.
Finally, I saw daylight at the end of the tunnel. A good friend of mine (a barrel racer, go figure) had been taking her young colts to a friend’s house to track calves and such, and she mentioned to him she had a friend (me) who was a roper, but didn’t know many other ropers here in Texas. He was gracious enough to invite me to rope with him one day. I jumped at the offer! I was going to get shit taken care of! I was going to school my mare and we were going to get this unprofessional attitude of hers fixed!
The practice day finally arrives; we pack up the trailer and with horses in tow we head out of town to the roping pen. When we arrive, my mare warms up like a champ, just like always. She’s quiet and soft in my hand and all I have to do is sit down and say ‘whoa’ for a stop. All is right in the world. I back into the box. My mare is in the corner, but this is the first day of practice I’ve had in a long time, so I want every second to matter. I was going to make sure this mare had her mind right. I walked her to the pin, and then backed her back into the corner. I did this several times. She seemed bored, like ‘oh geez, this again.’ Finally, I nodded my head. The chute gate opened, I droped my hand and we fired out of the box. I saw the calf’s neck just above my horse’s ears, I stood up, deliver and as I see the figure-eight come tight around the calf’s neck, and as I was dragging slack to pitch, it happens. My moment of clarity and the barrel racer inside of me saying, no screaming ‘Wake up!’
My mare started her stop and immediately dropped her head and broke in two. Granted, she’s not much of a bucker so it wasn’t too hard to ride out and it was only about 1 ½ jumps, but still for her, it was very much out of character.
That’s when it hit me. I’ve been treating her like a team roping horse (which she is, but ya’ll get it) I kept telling myself the problem was her, or it was me, or it was the saddle, or any other collection of things I could dream up, before my mare had to finally say ‘Listen here lady, I’m freakin’ hurting please do something about it.’
The next day I scheduled an appointment with the vet to get stifles and hocks injected. Guess what? After the vet finished her soundness exam, yep stifles and hocks both were injected.
My advice to you: sure, sometimes they just need a tune up, sometimes the saddle could be hurting them, or they don’t like the bit, or they need their teeth floated or they are just having an off day, BUT don’t let it go on as long as I did before you finally pull off the team roping cap and say OK a vet visit is necessary.
*Team ropers: I’m one of you too, so don’t get bent out of shape about this post. I know team ropers take very, very good care of their equine athletes! It’s hard work being a team roping horse and I fully believe team ropers care a lot about their horses, plus I love you all, so let’s just all be happy!