Practicing Perfect

Learning a new rope trick takes practice, humor and humility.

By Kelli Neubert

August 9, 2018

rope trick Kelli Neubert practices a rope trick called "the butterfly."Most of us have heard the old saying “Practice, practice, practice makes perfect.”

And although I have yet to see perfection reached in any one human, I think that for the most part, that saying can be considered sound advice.

However, I think that a person needs to realize that practice only does you good if you do it the right way. See, for years I had dreams of being a great horseman, competitor and roper. I would ride my horses twice a day and obsessively rope my dummy, thinking that the more I did something, the better I would be at it. But I often did these things alone, not seeking guidance or wisdom. Without the proper help, I didn’t know what I was doing. My countless hours of “practice” was really just training my horse, my mind and my body to do something the inefficient, incomplete and incorrect way.

Eventually I sold that horse and wizened up a bit. Later in life, I strived to correct a lot of my muscle memory and retrain it to work in a better manner. I could have saved so much time had I just started out with the right help. Now, I don’t think that the time I spent was all bad. I became a better rider for it and looking back, I learned a lot about what not to do. I also got to where I could build up my loop quickly and became proficient with a couple of shots. But only once I was brave enough (and smart enough!) to become a little uncomfortable and start seeking tricks, tips and help from people I respected did I start to really feel that my time practicing what I learned was well spent.

The last few days, I’ve been trying to learn a basic rope trick called the butterfly. When I watch someone else do it, it seems effortless. One and a half rotations to the left, one and a half to the right. Repeat. When I do it, I feel a little bit like the “after” photo of a Pinterest fail. It sort of resembles what I’m trying to imitate, but it’s a little, uh, lopsided. I’ve always admired the simple trick and have been told that it will really help my roping to learn it. But gosh darn, it certainly takes some effort! And although I just wanted to power through and stubbornly learn it all by myself, my success only really accelerated only once I asked (sigh) for help.

But in learning the butterfly, there really have been cool side effects. It’s been good for me in ways I hadn’t guessed. I’ve handled and built a loop way more often than if I were just roping cattle. I’ve had to set my embarrassment and hesitancy aside and ask for help from my husband again… and again. But as I start to improve and get this butterfly business figured out, I’m reminded of me how frustrating, yet fun it can be to learn something new.

When I’m at another trainer’s place or I audit a clinic, I admire the folks who are active participants. It seems like the people who actively work with their horses while attending and speak up and ask questions get a lot of out of the experience. I know it’s hard to be that person sometimes—it’s easy to feel bashful when practicing and learning about something you care about—but there is so much to be gained by getting a little uncomfortable. And I can tell you with certainty that the teacher always recognizes and appreciates the effort as well.

As for me? I’m just going to keep spinning that rope and working through tough situations with my horses. I’ve got to remember that my goals are greater than my fears and that the process of achieving my accomplishments is an enjoyable journey. And to anyone who gets a bit distressed from time to time seeking help (as I do) and wants to go at it alone: I say push through the discomfort, get someone to help you that’s a good fit for your program, and remember to enjoy the process a little.

And then practice, practice, practice.

Tags: Kelli NeubertNeu Perspectivesrope trickThe Butterfly