I have a confession.
Before any foundation-bred Quarter Horses, Cactus Ropes, western tack and piebald steers became my new normal; I turned my nose up at team roping. I thought it was weird, pointless, and required little to no skill. How hard could it be to throw a rope and catch a large, young cow? I had been to a few ropings in my day and gathered that riding ability certainly wasn’t a requirement either. Cool concept, but not for me.
Apparently God had another plan in the works.
Last year during this month, two weeks after I had been introduced to Barrett, I found myself at a team roping. We traveled a few hours north to Hamilton, Texas, where a World Series Roping was being held at Circle T Arena. World Series? Isn’t that like… a baseball thing?… My initial thoughts.
We spent the weekend with Barrett’s roping partner/best friend Brandon, and his wife, Lauren, with their son, Knox. Honestly, I had absolutely no idea what I was entering into, but regardless of my stereotypical judgments I held about roping, it was an excuse to spend the weekend surrounded by hundreds of horses.
Well, and the handsome, kind, funny and sweet flame that had come into my life like a wildfire beyond firemen control.
Brandon and Lauren, being all cute and stuff. #couplegoals
Fast forward to present time and I’m setting goals like learning how to swing a rope myself. I’ve come to appreciate the sport and the talent it takes to be a successful team roper. I mean, they must offer hundreds of thousands of dollars as winnings at the larger ropings for a reason. What sparked my understanding for team roping must have been the countless evenings we spent in the practice pen over the summer. Because of Texas’ oppressive heat and no covered arena, Brandon and Barrett trained well into the late night. Lauren and I drank chilled wine while we operated the cattle chute. In case you couldn't tell, Lauren and I have since become quite close and I consider her one of my best friends now too. Isn't it funny how things work sometimes?
From a dressage rider’s standpoint, once you’re thrown into the midst of studying a new discipline, you conclude that team roping is a lot like rubbing your stomach, patting your head, chewing gum, hopping on one foot and solving a math problem. I never understood the amount of hand-eye coordination this sport takes, or the importance of timing, feel, strength and patience. It’s a combination of each factor at once during an ideally less than 10 second period.
What sets Barrett and Brandon apart from the generic team roper I had pegged in my imagination is that both of them find the basics of horsemanship and riding incredibly important. These guys can actually ride. Lauren, also working her way to become a successful roper, can too actually ride. They understand that the horse is not their cow-catching machine, but their partner. When we’re not at a roping or working steers in the practice pen, they’re schooling equitation or basics on the dummy (the plastic steer attached to the back of the 4-wheeler, usually named Smarty). Now, as a classically instructed dressage rider for God knows how many years now, this makes my OCD happy.
Smarty the Steer! Barrett and Blue! My Guys!
BUT. What doesn’t make my OCD happy is when I feel like a total beginner if I try to do anything else but walk while in western tack. Making the transition from Leah to Blue Duck, or Smoke, is the most awkward adjustment ever, but I love the learning curve. In simple terms, basically everything we instinctively do while in dressage tack is severely frowned upon while in roping tack.
I can hear Barrett and Brandon in my head now.
“Relax your core.” “Slump over! Roll your hips under you!!”
“Don’t put any pressure in your stirrups. Hang your feet!”
“Stop gripping with your thigh.”
“Feet all the way through the stirrups.”
"Take your hand off the saddle horn." “HAND ON HIS NECK!! Put it down!!”
“No contact. Do not pick up the reins. Don’t do it.”
These commands are usually followed with my classic rebuttal:
“Ya'll. I'm not doing anything. I'm just sitting here. I honestly don't know what I'm doing!!”
And, when you perform one of these aspects correctly, you’re rewarded with Brandon’s signature line: “There ya gooooooooo!”
Before I start swinging a rope, I should probably get the feel for cantering… err, “loping” on a zero-contact frame first. A girl can set goals, though. And, while my roping ambitions are not nearly as substantial as Barrett’s, I look forward to embracing this lifestyle even more than I already have, even if that means resembling a sack of sugar flopping around in all the wrong places while LOPING around the arena.
Drifter, AKA, "Hollywood." He knows he's fabulous.
What I can confirm is that team roping has been my saving grace from the intensity of dressage. Having the chance to decompress from such passions that take up a large chunk of your emotions is needed. Roping, and the quarter horses, is my outlet. I’m beyond thankful for that. It’s also teaching me a new style of riding, which in my opinion builds a well-rounded equestrian. The more horses you can ride in different scenarios, the better feel you develop. It’s a win-win.
Just like last year, we are loading up the living quarters horse trailer and headed to Hamilton in just a couple of weeks for a World Series Team Roping Qualifier. Should Barrett and Brandon be in the money, they would earn a spot to compete at the World Series Team Roping Finals held in Las Vegas, Nevada, come December 2019. The out of town roping’s are my favorite, mostly because we get to “camp” out in the living-quarters trailer. I also sleep like a baby thanks to the lull of the air conditioning unit. We cook, we drink Micheladas from the grand stand, and we build memories that I’ll treasure forever.
I am SO excited to integrate this part of my life into The Blonde & The Bay. I’ve mentioned before that Barrett and his love of roping are the balance that Leah and I so desperately never knew we needed. While you won’t ever see Leah in the box, I tell Barrett that my long-term goal with her is to be able to bring steers from the end of the arena up into the chute. Challenging, as she is deathly afraid of anything bovine, but introducing my FEI dressage horse to a new, more relaxed way of life is ultimately how I see her spending her future retirement.
Personally, I couldn’t dream of a better future.