Luke Brown and Jake Long Mas­ter the BFI Moun­tain

Spin to Win Rodeo - - Contents - by Ken­dra San­tos

Luke Brown and Jake Long checked a ma­jor goal off of their rop­ing bucket lists with the $60,000 a man win at the 2017 Bob Feist In­vi­ta­tional. The Morgan Mill-based rop­ers topped the 108-team field, and bested good friends Cole­man Proc­tor and Bil­lie Jack Saebens for the ti­tle.

Luke Brown and Jake Long checked a ma­jor goal off of their rop­ing ca­reer bucket lists with the $60,000 per man win at the 2017 Bob Feist In­vi­ta­tional Team Rop­ing Clas­sic "This is bet­ter than a world cham­pi­onship, said Br­won, who'll be 43 on Au­gust 16. "This has been my fa­vorite rop­ing for­ever, since I was a kid. This is a big deal for me. I've al­ways wanted to win this rop­ing so bad." Brown, ana­tive of Rock Hill, S.C.. now hangs his hat in Morgan Mill, texas. Long, who's from Cof-feyville, Kan., also now lives in Morgan Mill, which makes reg­u­lar prac­tice ses­sions prac­ti­cal. The sec­ond-year part­ners stopped the clock six times in 44.7 sec­onds to win the 108-team 40th an­nual BFI, which was held June 19 at the Reno Live­stock Events Cen­ter.

“On top of the world is what this feels like,” said Long, 33. “This is a rop­ing I’ve dreamed about do­ing good at my whole life. To come back high call­back, be in a spot to win it and come through is huge. The money’s ob­vi­ously great, and the con­fi­dence and mo­men­tum for our rodeo­ing will be great.

“This is just fun. I know this is a rop­ing Luke’s al­ways wanted to win, too. I hadn’t re­ally had the best track record here be­fore. Cole­man (Proc­tor) and I won fifth one time, and me and Luke were sit­ting re­ally good last year and I roped a leg on the fourth steer. To get back into that spot and come through this time was huge.”

Luke rode his 12-year-old sor­rel horse, Cow­boy. “I’ve had him since 2011 or so, but he was hurt for a year or two,” said Brown, whose road-ready fam­ily in­cludes his wife, Lacy, and daugh­ter, Libby, who paints her daddy’s fin­ger­nails and toenails pink as part of their nightly rou­tine (he keeps a wet paper towel at the ready to re­move it as she ro­tates to his next hand or foot).

“I’ve rid­den Cow­boy here the last three years, and he’s the fastest horse I’ll ever own. There’s not another rop­ing that fits me and him bet­ter than this one. To get to ride him here—and win it on him—is the best thing ever.”

The BFI is a no­to­ri­ous marathon test for both man and beast.

“The BFI is a horse race,” Luke said. “Be­ing in a build­ing with a long bar­rier and strong steers—you re­ally don’t go any­where else like it. The setup and the at­mos­phere sets it apart. I prob­a­bly blow it out of pro­por­tion more than any­body else would. They might think it’s just another one of the top rop­ings. But it’s hard to win this thing. It’s got to go your way. You’ve got to be mounted. You’ve got to rope good and your part­ner’s got to rope re­ally good. It’s a tough rop­ing to win. This is a re­ally big deal to me.”

“Luke’s horse was re­ally, re­ally run­ning to­day,” Jake added, as a com­pli­ment to Cow­boy. “He al­ways does, but he was es­pe­cially haul­ing butt to­day. The two or three steers we drew to­day that were a touch stronger, he still caught up to ’em fast enough that we were be­ing 7. That was as huge as any­thing, be­cause if you go be­ing 8 on them you can still place in the rop­ing, but if you want to win it you need to be 6 or 7 on ev­ery steer.”

Long rode his reign­ing, sor­rel PRCA/ Amer­i­can Quar­ter Horse As­so­ci­a­tion Heel Horse of the Year—Colonel, who’s 13 now—to the BFI win­ner’s cir­cle.

“In my opin­ion, he’s the best horse go­ing,” said Long, whose cheer­ing sec­tion in­cludes his wife, Tasha, and daugh­ters, Haven and Hai­zlee. “Colonel’s huge to have in any sit­u­a­tion. He’s such an as­set here, be­cause he can re­ally run. The heel box is kind of short, and

the steers are in­flu­enced pretty eas­ily by the heel horses, so he lets me re­ally score them out there. He can’t run with Luke’s horse, but he can run enough that I can still catch up and be with the play.

“Colonel’s such a cool horse, be­cause I can throw as fast as I want to. If we were be­ing 3 all day to­day on ev­ery steer be­fore the short round, then had to be 9 and I had to track him all the way to the left fence, he is never go­ing to take my throw away from me. That, to me, is so cool. I don’t have any wor­ries. I know my part­ner is go­ing to do good and I know my horse is go­ing to do good, so all I have to do is fo­cus on me.”

Luke’s con­stantly at the cen­ter of the best-never-yet-to-win-a-world-ti­tle con­ver­sa­tion.

“I re­ally don’t care,” he said. “It wouldn’t change me ei­ther way. It’s not go­ing to make a dif­fer­ence, other than the ex­tra money that we get for do­ing it. I love go­ing to the NFR. It still amazes me that I ever made it the first time, much less that this could be my 10th year straight. Just to get to be there and be there with the best head­ers in my era— that’s by far the coolest thing ever.

“I’ve pretty much done ev­ery­thing I can do. I got to buddy with Jake Barnes one time. Peo­ple dream of that stuff, and I don’t take it for granted one bit. When we went to the Fi­nals last year, our goal was to win $100,000. When we got that done in the sev­enth round, I told Jake, ‘It doesn’t mat­ter what hap­pens now.’”

Luke’s won three NFR av­er­age ti­tles— the first with Martin Lucero in 2010, and two more with Kollin VonAhn in 2013 and ’15.

“Win­ning the BFI is equal to win­ning the av­er­age the first time I won that,” Luke said. “This hasn’t even sunk in yet. When I won the Fi­nals the first time, I knew right then it was prob­a­bly the big- gest thing I’d ever do in my life. But now this is to me.”

There seem to be twists and turns in ev­ery six-steer road to the BFI win­ner’s cir­cle. “To­day, as we were go­ing along and started hav­ing a chance, I started telling my­self, ‘You ac­tu­ally might have a chance. This might be the one chance in a life­time you have to win it,’” Luke said.

“But then I would think, ‘If you miss (be­cause you’re) try­ing to win, you might feel like an id­iot.” So I kind of set­tled back down and was good with win­ning third. That’s what I was rop­ing for, and we ended up win­ning it.”

There’s an old Tom Petty song that says, “The wait­ing is the hard­est part,” and Luke and Jake were liv­ing those words in what felt like for­ever be­tween their fourth and fifth steers.

“We were at the first of the fourth round and at the end of the fifth round, so we waited for­ever—about as many teams as you could wait,” team quar­ter­back Luke ex­plained. “I al­most felt like I was ready to get sick, be­cause I knew where we were (sit­ting in the av­er­age). I knew what was go­ing on by then. It was kind of set­ting in that if we made a clean run we were go­ing to have a chance to win it. Then right be­fore we rode in the box—we drew a pretty lit­tle-horned steer, and it made me so mad that I drew that lit­tle-horned steer in the fifth round. I was mad, so I roped him re­ally ag­gres­sive, and it was prob­a­bly the best one I did all day.

“Go­ing into the short round, I knew we had to be 10 to win third, at the worst, and I was good with third. I fig­ured if I got out of the bar­rier good and I turned him, we would win it. I got a small loop and I tried to go as close as I could, where I’d ride my horse all the way to him—then what­ever hap­pened, hap­pened.”

“Our fourth run was the trick­i­est,” Jake said. “For what­ever rea­son, that steer didn’t take the han­dle at all and kind of splat­tered down in the back end in the cor­ner. My horse did a re­ally good job of stay­ing with him, and I got him heeled. I bob­bled my dally, and I ended up get­ting it right be­fore the knot. Once we got past that one it was a big sigh of re­lief. We re­ally did have to wait for­ever be­tween that steer and our fifth one. I think it was two and a half hours be­fore we ran that fifth one, and it was al­most like start­ing over again it had been so long. It was nerve wrack­ing. The short round wasn’t that bad, be­cause it wasn’t that long af­ter our fifth one.

“To­day didn’t feel any harder or eas­ier than any other day, it just kind of felt like we were do­ing our job and out there prac­tic­ing. I tend to show up on the more ag­gres­sive end. For the first time, to­day I showed up telling my­self, ‘Go catch six

steers by two feet. If it wins first, great. If it wins fifth, great.’ I felt like if we came in here and made the best run on the steers we drew, chances were we were go­ing to have a chance to be in the top three, un­less we drew re­ally, re­ally bad. I’ve never done that well here, so to fin­ish the course was as big as any­thing.”

Jake said the BFI short round al­most felt fa­mil­iar.

“We have a lot of lit­tle jackpots back home that are en­ter-one-time, six- head­ers,” he ex­plained. “So men­tally, you’re com­par­ing them to the BFI, as far as sit­u­a­tions you get into. Most of them have 18 or 20 teams, so a lot of times when you are high call­back you’ve got to be 8 or 9 or 10 or maybe even longer than that to win ’em. By trial and er­ror, I’ve messed up in a few of those spots and learned to take a deep breath and re­lax and just ride through the cor­ner and catch the steer.

“It’s ob­vi­ously not for the same stakes, but it’s like prac­tic­ing for the sit­u­a­tion it­self. I just kept telling my­self it’s noth­ing but a steer, so you’ve got to go do your job on him and rope. Hav­ing all those chances to prac­tice re­ally was huge. Hon­estly, and oddly enough, I re­ally wasn’t ner­vous in the short round at all. I was ner­vous on the fifth one, for some rea­son, but not the last one.”

Their part­ner­ship, now in its sopho­more sea­son, is a pretty special one and they both know it.

“Jake heeled great all day,” Luke said. “The steers were pretty strong, and they gave ev­ery­body a chance. I re­ally only felt like I han­dled one steer real good. On the other five, I was kind of hit­ting them hard in the cor­ner. But there re­ally wasn’t any­thing I could do about it. It was just kind of the way we were rop­ing, and the way my horse felt and I wasn’t go­ing to change it. Jake knew what was go­ing to hap­pen, he waited for it to hap­pen and came in and roped them on the first hop and heeled them all fast. Jake can do it, man. He’s rank.”

“We joke around, poke fun and pick at each other a lot, but on a se­ri­ous note, Luke’s a great part­ner who ropes great and has great horses,” Jake said. “We

work re­ally, re­ally hard on our run, and we build each other up through the day as much as we can. When things get tough, we’re re­ally hon­est with each other and we’re able to com­mu­ni­cate about our run, what we want to change and what we want to work on. We don’t let our emo­tions and our feel­ings get in­volved in it. We look at it as a busi­ness. We’re friends on the side, but at the same time we’re busi­ness part­ners. We’re try­ing to ap­proach ev­ery run at ev­ery rodeo and jack­pot in the best way we can to win and pro­vide for our fam­i­lies.”

Now that he’s done it—and think­ing back on how they won it—the heel­ing half of this year’s BFI team No. 76 says two im­por­tant things it takes to win this one are good horses and draw­ing at the top end of the cat­tle.

“I’d rank to­day as one of the two big­gest wins in my ca­reer,” said Jake, a pro­fes­sional rodeo rookie in 2003 who’s roped at six NFRs since his first one in 2010. “The Ge­orge Strait (which he won in 2010 with Cole­man Proc­tor) was prob­a­bly a big­ger win at the time, be­cause that was the start to my rodeo ca­reer. That was the first year I made the Fi­nals, and it was the first year I’d ever won any­thing of that sub­stance. It gave me enough faith in my­self that I could do good at this level.

“This is a re­ally close sec­ond. That’s what me and Luke were talk­ing about right be­fore our run in the short round. They were an­nounc­ing the pay­off, and Luke said, ‘I didn’t need to hear this.’ I was think­ing the pres­tige of win­ning the rop­ing is more nerve wrack­ing than the money. The money is go­ing to come and go. To know that we won the BFI is some­thing that means the world to us.

“This is head and shoul­ders the best year I’ve ever had, rodeo­ing and jack­pot­ting. I don’t re­ally know for sure what the rea­son is. I know we work re­ally hard at it, and we’ve had some re­ally good breaks and cap­i­tal­ized when we were in some re­ally big spots. Hope­fully, we can keep do­ing it the rest of the year and have a chance, for me, to re­deem my­self at the Fi­nals. I cost us both a gold buckle last year, and I’d like to have another chance at that.”

Rich Skelton and Britt Bock­ius were the two heel­ers Jake re­ally looked up to grow­ing up. “I’d gone to a school of Rich’s, and Britt was from my area,” Jake re­mem­bers. “I’ll never for­get Britt win­ning the BFI and whip­ping his hat. So I was think­ing in the back there, ‘If I win this, I’m whip­ping my hat, like he did.’ I tried. I didn’t do a very good job, but I tried. Then I rode over and whipped Luke in the hand with it. I didn’t re­ally do a very good job in the hat whip­ping de­part­ment, but it was pretty ex­cit­ing.”

Their raw re­sponse to win­ning one of rop­ing’s Mount Ever­ests was refreshing and fun for their fam­i­lies, friends and fans.

“To win the BFI is the big­gest thing I could ever win in my life in my heart,” Luke said. “I’ve looked up to this rop­ing all my life. I’ve had some chances. I’ve been close a cou­ple times. I’ve won sec­ond with Martin and won third with Martin. Me and Kollin placed here three years straight. But there were times in the past when I was more scared to miss than to ac­tu­ally try to win it. It’s a big deal to win third or fourth. That pays for your whole sum­mer.

“To win the BFI, it’s just got to be your day. It’s like ev­ery­thing else—when you go to the NFR, if it’s not your week you’re not go­ing to be the world cham­pion. It’s got to be your turn. All you can do is prac­tice just as hard as you can un­til it is your turn and be ready when it is.”

“The pres­tige and the honor of win­ning the BFI is the best part of the whole deal,” Jake said. It gives you that much more con­fi­dence that you can do good at th­ese big rop­ings. When you rope for a liv­ing, do­ing good at the NFR and the big jackpots is how you ac­tu­ally make money. So that was the goal when we set out this year—to re­ally do bet­ter at the big jackpots. Win­ning some­thing at the Wild­fire, the Hork­dog and this one has been a dream come true. To fin­ish the course and come through in a big sit­u­a­tion is a rush of con­fi­dence. It makes you feel good about ev­ery­thing you’re work­ing for.”

Cole­man Proc­tor and Bil­lie Jack Saebens were this year’s re­serve BFI champs, and fin­ished about a sec­ond and a half be­hind Luke and Cole­man’s boy­hood besty, Jake, at 46.23 on six. Cole­man and Bil­lie Jack’s horses also were named this year’s Head and Heel Horse of the BFI. Cole­man’s sor­rel horse, “Carmine,” whose reg­is­tered name is Like A Cat, is 16 now. Bil­lie Jack’s black horse, Domino Lena, is 12 and answers to “Kevin” at the barn. Colton Camp­bell and Ja­son Duby placed third in 47.27, and Jake Barnes and Tyler Wor­ley fin­ished fourth at 50.11. Gor­ound win­ners at this year’s BFI in­cluded Zane Barn­son and Cole Wil­son, 6.68 in round one; Kolton Sch­midt and Du­gan Kelly, 5.03 in round two; Ri­ley and Brady Mi­nor, 4.92 in round three; Dustin Bird and Rus­sell Car­doza, 4.8 in round four; Steven and Tay­lor Duby, 4.65 in round five; and Jeff Flen­niken and Wy­att Hansen, 5.76 in the short round. Flen­niken is the son of BFI champ Tom­mye Flen­niken, who won it in 1990 heel­ing for Rocky Car­pen­ter.

OLIE’S IMAGES PHOTO

Jake and Colonel

Luke and Cow­boy

Re­serve BFI champs Cole­man Proc­tor and Bil­lie Jack Saebens also rode the top head and heel horses of this year’s BFI, Carmine and Kevin.

Corky Ull­man, Bil­lie Jack Saebens, Jake Long, Luke Brown, Cole­man Proc­tor, Bob Feist and Daren Peter­son cel­e­brated in the 2017 BFI win­ner’s cir­cle.

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