World champ Robbie Schroeder outlines the rules that help ropers stick with their sport.

By A.J. MANGUM, originally published in the May 1999 issue of Western Horseman

You’re an amateur roper, one who ropes strictly for sport. You might be a newcomer to roping, or you might be a veteran header or heeler, a fixture at weekend jackpots.

Either way, you know the demands of your pastime. You also know that those demands can be so overpowering a roper might have days when he questions whether he wants to pick up his rope or leave it untouched.

The roper who can cope with competitive pressure, focus on horsemanship, balance his pro­gression with his horse’s training, and gauge his own skill can avoid frustrations that might lead to burnout.

Trainer and world champion roper Robbie Schroeder offers these 10 rules to help a roper develop the mindset to focus on success rather than failure.

1. Finish Your Horse’s Training

A roper might begin a horse’s training-or even send his horse to a trainer-but not get the job finished. Too often, a roper reaches a point where he believes he can rope well on his horse, then decides the horse’s training is complete. The horse might be prepared to enter the roping box, Schroeder says,
but winning is another story.

“An amateur roper really needs a finished horse,” Schroeder says. “Some ropers are tempted to take a young horse and try to learn with the horse. That just doesn’t work. An amateur needs to learn as he goes. He can’t teach his horse at the same time.”

Instead, a novice should buy a well-trained mount with solid skills as a roping horse. Such a partner can be an amateur’s best teacher.

horse backing into the box at a team roping
Ride into the box with as many advantages as possible. Adequately prepare yourself, shut out the fears of competition, and pay attention to the action in front of you.

2. Fit Equipment to Your Horse

Don’t be tempted by trends or influenced by other ropers’ gear choices.

Experiment with different types of saddles and tack, then use what makes your horse most comfortable

“Most importantly, make sure your tack fits your horse prop­erly,” Schroeder says. “If it doesn’t, he’ll be uncomfortable. You can’t have a good run on an uncomfortable horse.”

3. Practice

“You will always need to prac­tice,” Schroeder stresses. “A lot, in fact. If I’m not roping off a horse every day, I’m at least roping a dummy every day.”

Once a roper learns to catch consistently, it’s easy to be tempted by the idea that practice schedules can begin to ease. Resisting that temptation, Schroeder says, is the mark of a dedicated roper.

“There’s no excuse for not practicing,” he says. “Even if you don’t have your own place to ride, you can certainly set up a roping dummy and solve a lot of problems that have nothing to do with your horse.”

4. Escape the Arena

“A lot of ropers never ride just to ride or to exercise their horses,” Schroeder says. “When they saddle up, they head straight for the roping arena.”

Riding outside the arena—per­haps to work cattle or trail ride­gives a roper a chance to become better acquainted with his horse, and provides the horse a refreshing break and new surroundings. It also helps a roper develop as a rider, giving him an edge when he returns to the arena.

5. Don’t Jump the Gun

One of the deadliest sins a novice roper can commit, Schroeder points out, is leaping into competition without adequate preparation. Self-imposed deadlines and pressure from other ropers might push an amateur into ropings, rodeos, or horse shows before he’s ready. The result: a roper disappointed in his performance and disgusted with his choice of a sport—a roper on the verge of quitting before he gets started.

6. Keep Your Eyes Open

If a roper pays attention at competitions, he can back into the chute with a few competitive advantages.

“While you’re waiting in the arena for your turn, watch the bar­rier, watch the cattle,” Schroeder says. “If you happen to draw a steer you remember as good or bad, you need to know what to do. You can’t remember all of them, but you can remember the exceptional ones.”

team roping horse tied to fence
All gear should fit the individual horse. You won’t win aboard a horse who’s uncomfortable.

7. Cope With Competitive Pressure

It’s easier said than done, but a roper must learn to block out, or at least reduce, the pressure he feels in competitive environments.

“Treat a competitive run just like a practice run,” Schroeder advises. “Keep your mindset the same as when you’re at home. Let everything be normal and think positively.”

8. Don’t Be Intimidated

To be competitive in any endeavor, you have to see your com­petitor—any other competitor—as your equal, regardless of your oppo­nent’s past records or bravado.

“That has to be your attitude if you’re trying to win,” Schroeder says. “You’re there to compete, so compete. Don’t be intimidated by anyone, and don’t let the other guy beat you before you get a chance to rope. You can’t progress that way.”

9. Know Your Speed Limit

In roping, speed is everything. Right?

Wrong.

“Too many ropers think more about speed than skill,” Schroeder believes. “Work on your accuracy first. Being accurate at a slower speed is better than being fast, but inaccurate. Slow down and let everything come together.”

10. Ask for Help

“You can never learn everything,” Schroeder says. “Even professional ropers learn from each other. Instead of creating your own bad habits by coming up with your own solutions to problems, ask someone for help. There are any number of people who will help you if you ask, but if you don’t ask, few of them will volunteer.

“Remember that you can always learn something—even if it’s some­thing minor—from anyone. Even
ropers with less talent can often teach you something.”

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