CLASSIC ROPE Ken Bray of
Aborn and raised team roper, Ken Bray was working as a bank loan officer in 1987. When one of his customers, a CPA named Ted Tomerlin, asked him if wanted to be a part of a new rope-making business with Derwood Miller and his nephew, Curt Matthews, Bray didn’t blink at the opportunity to trade in his nine-to-five for a career in the Western industry.
“I learned a lot at the bank, and I wouldn’t trade for the time I spent there,” Bray explained, “but the suit-and-tie environment was not my style.”
And so began a long and fruitful career with Classic Rope, which was established a year earlier, in 1986. Bray was there through Matthews’ tenure as he revolutionized the sport of team roping with the first poly-nylon blend—Classic’s Money Maker—which set the tone for Classic’s future as game changers in the rope industry.
“After the Money Maker,” Bray said, “the business grew quickly, and we added more poly blends to our product offering as we began to test new fibers and blends.”
When Miller and Matthews sold the business to West Virginia team ropers Rick Barton and Mike Hall in 1992, Bray became a partner in the venture—a position he maintains today, as CEO of Equibrand, Classic’s parent name since 1994, which also encompasses its other brands, like Classic Equine.
In the past 30-plus years, the company has seized endless opportunities to not only advance the technology behind each rope, but also to revolutionize and enhance the very way the rope market operates, as well as invest in and promote the sport of team roping and its community whenever possible.
“It has been a blast to see the dramatic and positive changes to the sport over the past 30 years,” Bray said.
To name each feat and innovation would be a herculean task, but their capacity since 1997 to create their own string is worthy of note.
“Our ability to control the fiber that goes into the ropes has helped us stay on top and remain the industry leader,” Bray posited, taking a moment to recognize the leadership in the rope division that allows for Classic’s ongoing success. “Craig Bray (Operations Manager and Ken’s brother), George McQuain (Rope Production Manager), and Dallas Clay (Fiber Production Manager) are the key leaders in production at Classic. And, we have people that have been with the company their entire adult life—some for 30 years. We’re a team of people actively involved in the sport and in the horse industry.
“We made a vow,” Bray continued, “that every new rope we introduce would be uniquely different from the others, and it would be one that solved a problem or fit a specific need for feel and roping style.”
It’s a vow Bray and the Classic team intend to keep. “We built our business by taking care of our customers, our people, and our brands, while being innovative and dedicated to new product development and design,” Bray remarked. “Moving forward, our customers can expect us to continue to innovate and pursue new and better ways to improve rope quality, feel, and performance that helps ropers compete to their greatest potential.”
THE MEN AND WOMEN BEHIND CLASSIC ROPES, UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF KEN BRAY, CRAIG BRAY, DALLAS CLAY, AND GEORGE MCQUAIN.