Tomas Garcilazo clinic 3Riding a well-trained horse like Bonito allowed me to focus on my roping form with guidance from Tomas. Photo by Fabian Banderas

The workshop boasted about a dozen students of varying levels of riding and roping experience. We were divided into beginning and advanced groups. The beginners learned basic rope-handling skills in the morning, and the advanced students honed their techniques in the afternoon.

Tomas led the instruction but was assisted by his equally talented brother, Jesus, who is a trick roper for Disney in Paris, France. California horseman and experienced ranch roper Boone Campbell, who was featured in the July 2015 issue of Western Horseman, also helped out.

We began on the ground learning proper form and how to throw loops at the dummy and recoil our ropes. Once we showed proficiency on the ground we could practice on our horses. Tomas explained that it’s important to develop safe habits on the ground and with a dummy before adding live cattle to the mix.

The “Back to Basics” session ended with each student having the chance to rope a steer with Tomas’ guidance. He patiently positioned each roper for success and worked with us until we caught. To feel the pull of a steer on the end of my rope was gratifying, but it also was a reminder of the importance of developing safe dallying habits to prevent a wreck. That was covered during the second day of the workshop, followed by more opportunities to rope cattle in a safe, controlled environment.

The advanced students practiced three-man doctoring, which is a standard event in most ranch roping competitions. It involves heading and heeling a cow, and then one team member gets off his horse and sets the ropes.

I struggled with stepping out of my comfort zone, but the workshop turned out to be a perfect primer. Through the patient teaching and encouragement of Tomas, Jesus and the rest of the crew I discovered it’s okay to try something new, be a beginner again, make mistakes and learn from them.

Tomas Garcilazo clinic 4Advanced ropers like Boone Campbell (center) and Ray Juarez (left) practice their roping shots on live steers with help from Jesus Garcilazo. Photo by Jennifer Denison

I’ve since continued to practice the basics I learned as often as I can at home on my own horse, and I’ve even taken a couple more lessons. As with all equine endeavors, we spend a lifetime learning and trying to master our chosen disciplines. The first step, however, is overcoming insecurity and just giving it a try.

I recently returned from a road trip to find a beautiful hand-braided, two-toned reata in the mail from Fabian and Cara. It’s a gift that serves as a reminder of not only the deep-rooted tradition and skills I want to continue learning and writing about, but also the friendships I have made through ranch roping.

“Even if you are not ready to use it now it’s okay,” Fabian wrote in a note to me. “It will have a story to go with it.”

Read more about Tomas Garcilazo in the October issue of Western Horseman.

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