NEVER STOP RAIS­ING THE BAR

Spin to Win Rodeo - - Ropers - By Clay O’Brien Cooper with Ken­dra San­tos

No

mat­ter our age or skill level, we all strive to suc­ceed as rop­ers. Think­ing back on my never-end­ing quest to al­ways im­prove takes me back to the be­gin­ning, when I was a kid.

Nat­u­rally, we didn’t have all the re­sources back then that are avail­able to kids to­day, which range from rop­ing schools, to videos and mag­a­zines like this one. From when I first started rop­ing, I learned more than any­thing by watch­ing other rop­ers. I’ve al­ways been fas­ci­nated with all the dif­fer­ent styles peo­ple use to win—both head­ing and heel­ing.

I stud­ied the styles of the best in the busi­ness, and when I roped the dummy in the front room of our house as a kid I ran pre­tend teams—Reg and Leo (Ca­mar­illo), H.P. (Evetts) and Jerold (Ca­mar­illo), Doyle (Geller­man) and Walt (Woodard), and also lo­cal guys in my area, like Larry Goss and Gary Mouw, Kim Burke and Don Beasley.

I was about 7 years old when I started mim­ick­ing the styles of suc­cess­ful rop­ers, and started do­ing it rop­ing the dummy in the house at night like that. I took a pil­low, a rope and our fam­ily boot jack, and tied that to the top of a chair. I’d start from across the room, pre­tend­ing to back in the box. I’d then run across the room, head the “horns” on that boot jack, and on the way back across the room to the box would heel my­self, as I hopped like the stride of a steer. That’s when I started fig­ur­ing out tim­ing.

I tried to mimic the best guys’ swing an­gles and tim­ing styles in the house, and kept at it when I started com­pet­ing. I was try­ing to pick the best-feel­ing styles that worked, and the re­sult was de­vel­op­ing my own method, which was ba­si­cally a blend of the top rop­ers at that time. The things I bor­rowed from them that worked for me were at the base of my rop­ing evo­lu­tion, and it’s a process I still use to­day.

Through the years, I’ve con­tin­ued to watch the peo­ple I’ve con­sid­ered to be the best rop­ers. I take what I see them do to be suc­cess­ful, then test it at home and see if any of it works for me. You never know when one new lit­tle tweak or twist might make you just that much bet­ter.

In ad­di­tion to try­ing what I see other rop­ers do, I some­times have ran­dom, out-of-the-box ideas pop into my head. I try those, too. There are so many mov­ing parts to rop­ing—your rid­ing, how your horse works, how you set up your cor­ner, your swing an­gles, your tim­ing and dif­fer­ent loop an­gles, to name a few.

There are so many suc­cess­ful styles that it’s some­times like a big jig­saw puz­zle. You take an idea from over here and put it with one from over there. I think of my rop­ing style as an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of a lot of dif­fer­ent parts. It’s amaz­ing how many dif­fer­ent ideas can pop into your head that you’ve never thought of, seen or tried be­fore—even when you’ve been rop­ing more than 50 years, like I have.

I re­tired my bay horse, L.B., at 20 in De­cem­ber, and I’ve been us­ing this same process the last few months as I learn how to best ride a new horse I’ve been rop­ing on. He re­minds me of a cou­ple horses I used to have that I did well on, and he’s kind of a com­bi­na­tion of them. So I think back on what style I was us­ing that made me suc­cess­ful on those horses, and make ad­just­ments to suit this new one.

It won’t work to try and trans­form this new horse into L.B. So I’m ba­si­cally look­ing back at that li­brary of past suc­cesses, and pulling out bits and pieces to try on this horse.

My dream stemmed from the rop­ers who came be­fore me liv­ing their dream. For me, learn­ing started with a dream of want­ing to be like my he­roes. That started a fa­nat­i­cal per­spec­tive of pos­si­bil­ity, and the goal of try­ing to achieve that dream. I can’t thank all my cow­boy he­roes enough for build­ing the dream in me that has been the ba­sis of a fun life.

DER­RICK BEGAY AND CLAY O’BRIEN COOPER WERE 3.7 ON THIS RUN IN THE SEMI­FI­NALS OF THE CINCH BOYD GAM­ING CHUTE-OUT RODEO IN LAS VE­GAS LAST DE­CEM­BER. HE’S AL­READY A HALL OF FAMER, BUT CHAMP COOPER NEVER STOPS STRIV­ING TO EL­E­VATE HIS GAME.

I take what I see them do to be suc­cess­ful, then test it at home and see if any of it works for me. You never know when one new lit­tle tweak or twist might make you just that much bet­ter.

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