Spin to Win Rodeo - - Departments - By Jake Barnes with Ken­dra San­tos


for a liv­ing is a grind. It’s ex­pen­sive, and it’s ex­haust­ing. As the rodeo world gets set for the an­nual mi­gra­tion to Ve­gas, it’s easy to as­sume that the life of a rodeo cow­boy is glam­orous. While I love to rope more than any­body, I’d be ly­ing if I said this life­style hasn’t taken a toll on me phys­i­cally, and tried to drain me dry emo­tion­ally at times over the years.

It’s not easy to come back from los­ing a great horse, cut­ting your thumb off at the NFR, a ma­jor head in­jury, or a knee re­place­ment. But if you want some­thing bad enough—and you’re will­ing to work hard all day ev­ery day—any­thing’s pos­si­ble. Tough things hap­pen to all of us. That’s just life.

A lot of peo­ple would say that I’ve had more hard times than most. But I will never say, “Why me?” Why not me? I guess God gave me a strong back, a big heart, and a hard head for a rea­son. Hard­ships hap­pen, and I just hope that I in­spire peo­ple who find them­selves go­ing through tough times of their own to strap their boots on and keep press­ing for­ward.

It might all look so fun and easy when the Fi­nals rolls around, but rop­ing for a liv­ing has also got­ten to where there’s a lot to nav­i­gate and keep straight. Keep­ing track of the qual­i­fi­ca­tions rules and the en­ter­ing is a chore in it­self.

Rich (Skel­ton) and I started rop­ing in May, and just like ev­ery­body else had the goal of mak­ing the NFR. That’s the pin­na­cle, and the op­por­tu­nity to win big money. But when Plan A doesn’t work, you have to go to Plan B, which was to get enough money won to go to the win­ter rodeos next year. I’ve pulled a rab­bit out of my hat a few times, ba­si­cally start­ing at Reno, and made the Fi­nals. That didn’t hap­pen this year. Bot­tom line, we didn’t draw good enough, and we didn’t rope good enough.

Rich and I made some re­ally good runs this sum­mer, but we never could get over the hump. We didn’t re­ally have any great show­ings. We did de­cent at Span­ish Fork, Utah, where we won third in the av­er­age and about $5,700 a man. We also went to some rodeos where we made re­ally good runs—like when we were 5.4 at Cody (Wy­oming)—and didn’t win any­thing. We were 5 flat at Oak­ley (Utah), and didn’t win any­thing there, ei­ther. Those were good runs on strong steers, so those were hard pills to swal­low.

A lot of guys go home af­ter Cheyenne in July, if they’re not in the mix with a le­git­i­mate shot at mak­ing the Fi­nals. As this is­sue hits your hands the first of Oc­to­ber, the reg­u­lar sea­son has just ended. Rich and I didn’t have a great Fourth, and Cow­boy Christ­mas is a huge fac­tor in ev­ery­body’s year. Reno in June through about Casper in July is a re­ally im­por­tant time. We reined it in a lit­tle af­ter Cheyenne, but we de­cided to stay out there some­what to try and get into San An­to­nio.

It’s all about profit and loss to me, so there’s re­ally no point in rodeo­ing if I’m not mak­ing the NFR. To just be out there trad­ing money isn’t good enough. If I’m not a con­tender, I’m bet­ter off teach­ing schools, and rid­ing and sell­ing horses. We’re war­riors, and we’re al­ways bat­tling for an­other chance. The Top 40 get into the big­gest rodeos, so af­ter Cheyenne we went back to Texas, and went to work try­ing to set the ta­ble for next year.

Rich and I de­cided not to go to the North­west this year. In­stead, we stayed in Texas, went to a few rodeos, and worked on our rop­ing and our run. I don’t hang my hat on ex­cuses. Never have. It’s on me for not mak­ing it this year. What you draw is a fac­tor. But there’s never an ex­cuse. I just didn’t get the job done.

´,I don't hang my hat on ex­cuses. Never have," -JAKE BARNES


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