How a Career Transforms

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Nick Sartain claimed the 2000 Heading Rookie of the Year title, missed the 2003 Wrangler NFR by $97, went on to finally qualify in 2006, then dropped off the radar until now. In 2009, he and new partner Kollin Von Ahn jumped out to an early lead in the world standings prior to the big payoff at RodeoHouston. He talks about how his career has transformed over the years and how closely his success has been linked to horsepower.

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I missed the Finals in 2003 by $97. At that time, I had my App Mare. That was the horse I had high school rodeoed on and stuff. She was the horse I had rode the whole time. I hadn't rode a lot of other horses. I knew what I could do to win on that horse. She wasn't a great horse, but she was a nice horse that fit my style at the time. I reached a lot then. It was a lot simpler then, because I knew what I was going to do every time. Every time I hit the front of the box, my horse was only going to run about 20 foot past where the barrier pulled and I was going to have to throw. The decision-making process was none: Get up and throw as fast as you can before your horse gets away from you. My horsemanship wasn't very good at that time. It worked because I was roping with Shannon Frascht and he was real consistent. He liked for me to head them fast and he would make sure he didn't miss.

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It was pretty dry after that. I still had that same horse, but I was starting to figure it out. I was still roping with Shannon and he's an excellent horseman, one of the best. No matter how consistent you were-even at reaching-you could only turn so many steers for the day money, and you're going to miss. Shannon started getting me riding better. At this time, if I would have stumbled on a great horse, it would have been two months and I would have screwed him up again. Before long I would have had a ducker. We stepped away, amateur rodeoed and circuit rodeoed a lot and said, Here's what we're going to have to do and he helped me a lot. I was learning my horsemanship. I went through a lot of horses trying to figure out how to ride them.

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Then I got a better kind of horse, Sanchez, that was real free and real forward and didn't have an ounce of duck in him. He was always going to run to the steer so it let me rope pretty aggressive, but I didn't have to go for first every time. If I made a good run on the first steer, that horse would let me come back and catch. I got to where I rode a little better and roped more consistently and I think that's what made the difference, having that horse. We made the Finals pretty easy for us, we didn't rodeo extravagantly, we went to one or two rodeos over the Fourth of July, but had an excellent year. At the start of 2007 I still had Sanchez and I won the George Strait, but that whole time he had some issues in his ankle. He had degenerating cartilage, my vets did a good job helping me get the most of out of him that I could. I turned him out after the Strait.

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For most of 2007 and 2008 I didn't have a horse, I'd been swapping and searching. But Rhen Richard called and let me get on a nice horse of his and we had some good luck. That was a great opportunity to get to rope with him and helped him win rookie of the year.

I had a couple of friends around home had been trying to get me to come see this horse. Finally they both called me on the same day, so I said alright. A lady named Katy Jameson owned the horse. I tried him and liked him. She let me take him on the road and a week later I bought him. His name is Champ and he just gets better and better. This horse has let me be a lot more consistent, he's not cheaty or droppy. He's a really free little horse. I'm excited to get outside with this horse, I think he'll be great. It's exciting to lead the standings. It's funny, in a week whoever wins Houston is going to blow by me, but I've never lead the world before. It's nice.

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I think my style has changed quite a bit. I still reach, but I'm not near as aggressive as what I once was. I'm starting to see the importance of riding better. As you start riding better, you get better starts and stuff like that, so as my horsemanship has improved, I'm not quite as aggressive as I once was. I still reach most of the time, but now it's one coil instead of three. My shot selection has changed a little bit. Maybe I'm a little wiser. You don't have to win first every time. Seconds and thirds add up. I'm so aggressive anyway, that if I back up and rope solid, chances are it'll place. I just rope one steer at time and don't try to turn a six-second steer into a four-second steer. Par is OK, I don't have to have an Eagle every time. Still today, I'm not where I want to be. That's the thing about horsemanship, it's an everyday process. It's not something you ever master. It's something you work on every day