Bobby Mote: The Team Roping Bareback Rider

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At most rodeos, when the bareback riding is over, the munchkins of ProRodeo disappear from behind the bucking chutes to another rodeo, home or, more likely, to the beer tent. These men-short in stature and tall in tough-usually don't have much use for the rest of the rodeo unless they're travelling with another roughie. Currently, they're a tight-knit group of fun-loving youngsters.

But there is one-a world champion no less-who breaks most of those stereotypes. Bobby Mote is long and lanky, about 6 feet tall and 175 pounds. He's always smiling and is one of the cowboys in the event who has bridged the last two generations. He caught the tail-end of the careers of guys like Clint Corey, Lan LaJeunesse and Kelly Wardell, won a world title in 2002 and is now, in many ways, one of the elder statesmen in a group of young guns like Kelly Timberman, Will Lowe and Jason Havens.

What's more, unless he's got a plane to catch or a rodeo to make, he doesn't disappear after his signature event. Rather, he hangs around for one purpose: To watch the team roping.

Bobby Mote is a certifiable team roping nut. In fact, roping has invaded his mind to such a degree that he's found himself stepping over the back of a bucking horse and putting his hand in the rigging repeating the mantra, "Score, ride, rope," to himself in his head.

Coincidentally, his passion for roping all started because he is such a good bareback rider.

"The first time I won the circuit (Columbia River Circuit in 2000) I won a roping saddle," Mote recalled. "I was riding this colt, and he sucked back and bucked me off quick. Somebody told me that everybody knows you can't ride colts in a roping saddle because they just throw your legs back. I wanted to ride my new saddle so I thought, Maybe I better start roping."

Never one to let a good theory go untested, he went to a neighbor's where they let him chase steers around and start to figure it out. Soon, he realized that roping wasn't easy. It would take a real commitment to reach the point where he could be competitive. Rather than flashing an aw-shucks grin and hanging his new trophy saddle up for show, he got serious.

"Mike Beers didn't live too far away and he was always real gracious with his time," said Mote of the 1984 champ who lives in Powell Butte, Ore, just down the road from Motes' home in Redmond. "I'd go over there whenever I got a chance. Then Charly Crawford lives around there and he helped me a bunch, too. With all the people that I knew through rodeo, I've got a long list of guys who have helped me out and been just real generous with their time."

Topping that list is probably Tyler Magnus. The nine-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier and 1995 average winner invited Mote to stay with him and begin to learn the finer points of heading.

"Bobby's good friends with Charly Crawford," said Magnus. "And Charly has stayed with me for the last four or five years and two years ago Bobby came down with him during the winter rodeos."

It helps having friends in high places when you're new to something and Mote realizes that.

"I have a huge advantage over a lot of guys because I know the best guys in the world who are doing it and they're willing to help me out," he said.

In fact, for the past three years, Mote has spent the winter rodeo run, which is largely in Texas, with Magnus. The first year, Mote borrowed horses and roped every chance Magnus gave him. The past two years, he's concentrated on becoming a better horseman for his own horses. One of those mounts he bought from Mike Beers and the other Charly Crawford helped him find.

"Finding good horses is hard and keeping good horses good is even harder," Mote said. "To be able to keep them working good is where it's been so good for me to be able to be down here with Tyler Magnus and get his opinion and his input. I need to learn how I am going to ride them to get the most out of them."

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There's no question that he is motivated to become a top roper. Magnus has seen his drive and will to succeed firsthand.

"I've never seen anybody who is more aggressive or works harder at this than Bobby," Magnus said. "The thing about Bobby that's impressive is he just sits and watches all day if we're having schools. He'll watch something all day and then ask, 'What were you doing with that horse? What were you doing in the box? What were you doing in the corner?' or whatever. Then pretty much by the next day he'll have it figured out. I've looked out at 3 o'clock in the morning and seen him underneath the light roping the dummy. He's one of the most competitive guys I've every seen."

When asked about his number, Mote sounds embarrassed that he's only a No. 5. It seemingly bothers him because he probably feels as if he ropes better than where he's ranked. But he doesn't go to many ropings-he admits they're too boring. But on the other hand, not being an expert has given him a unique opportunity with Denis Carroll's companies Heel-o-Matic, Cactus Ropes and Cactus Saddlery.

"I saw Denis Carroll at a roping in Phoenix and it was his idea to sponsor me," Mote said. "He's wanting to reach out a little bit. I think it's a great idea. It'll probably catch a lot of guys' eyes a little bit. And you know, a lot of team ropers can relate with me a little better than they can guys who are NFR caliber and do it for a living. I'm a little bit more like your guy who works all week and then jackpots on the weekend. It's not really my main thing right now."

But will it be?

"Anything I do, I have a hard time just going and poking around and doing it as a hobby," he said. "I'm pretty competitive by nature and so what I want to do is go and win at the ProRodeos. That's kind of my main goal right now. My first year, I just wanted to get experience. Rodeos are a lot different from jackpots and I wanted to go and get that experience because there are a lot of different things about the rodeos that you can't just read in a book or have someone tell you. You have to go. Last year was real good for me that way, because I got to go be around those guys and see how they get ready and watch the little things they do. So hopefully this year I could apply some of that stuff."

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Magnus believes this is the year Mote will start placing at rodeos-especially with team roping mandatory at all ProRodeos.

"The other day, he got a partner when he got to the rodeo in Jackson (Miss.) and he'd have placed in the average if his partner hadn't roped a leg," he said. "He's ready to place. He scores good and he improves so quick. He watches everyday and practices with a purpose. He's working on something every time he ropes. He's not messing around."

And while the scheduling is a nightmare, any time he can find a partner, he goes. Any time a header doctor's releases from a rodeo, he enters in his place. In fact, he even placed last year at the Central Point, Ore., Rodeo.

"I'd like to find a team roper who's serious about the same things I am," he said. "I'm darn sure going to put everything into it that I can. I've got a few good horses now and as long as I keep doing my part and working at it, I'll find a good partner."

In the meantime, bareback riding will pay the bills, but he's got his eyes on the future.

"When I first started riding bareback horses, I got to be around all my heroes; Clint Corey, Marvin Garrett, Lan LaJuenesse and Kelly Wardell. Now they've all retired and those guys aren't around for me anymore," he said. "But I can go to any team roping and find guys like that again. They're all winners. Plus, there are more guys competing with more experience in the team roping for the simple fact that you can do it for longer. So it's really neat for me."

Roping also gives him a chance to work out his competition strategy. In bareback riding, once you're on the rodeo trail, a practice horse is a rarity. But in team roping, practice is a constant part of the game. For Mote, seeing how the team ropers practice and compete has helped him hone in his bareback riding.

"In team roping, you get to try new things and practice visualization and see how they affect your performance," he said. "All the guys who win day in and day out, when they practice, it is a slow and repetitive thing. They're not out there trying to go fast. They go slow, get control of their horses and themselves. Then when they go do it for money, it's a whole different deal. You know, you've got to be dedicated to it and be prepared when you're at that level. Those guys who win day in and day out, it's amazing to see how much work they put in to it. I don't think a lot of people understand how much work goes into it before they get to the rodeo."

Some things, however, are universal when it comes to any sort of competition, and that's where Mote feels he has an advantage over a lot of people who rope at his level.

"There are different ways you need to approach riding bucking horses and team roping, but your attitude of being a winner is all the same to me," he said. "I think that being competitive you either have or you don't. Not many No. 5 headers have ever had the chance to nod their head for $50,000 at a time and that kind of experience plays into it. I know a little bit more about the mental game than most ropers at my level. I've been able to come to understand the fact that you only get out of it what you put into it. And how important your mental preparation is before you compete-whether it's riding bucking horses or turning steers."

Magnus agrees, and predicts great things for Mote in the roping arena.

"He's already got the mindset," he said. "Being a world champion, his attitude is so good and his mindset is so good, that's the thing that's going to progress him the most."