Starting Anew

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As the new 2006 season is about to begin, it's time for each of us to take inventory on where we're at and where we want to go. For the last 25 years, I've evaluated what was accomplished the previous year in order to make plans for the future. You need to look at what worked and what didn't with you, your horses and your team, so you can make a game plan, strategize and set goals for what you want to accomplish in the coming season.

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I made a comment the other day that the right partner and being mounted on the right horse or horses that can do the job are the two toughest parts of this business. The right combination that you have confidence in is crucial. There are realignments after the Finals every year, when everyone is examining these areas and trying to improve in them.

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Goals and a game plan are important, so you know where you're headed and how you're going to get there. The pros rope mainly with one guy, and have a second partner at the ropings, so we communicate with those guys and strategize about how we want to go at it. We talk about everything from how we want to practice to what each partner needs the other guy to do to help him do his best. You need to make the right adjustments that will maximize the team's efficiency and have things clicking along smoothly.

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You have to constantly search for anything that can put you in a better position. We're all scouting for the best possible horses year-round every year. We all have high hopes and good intentions for getting things rolling right from the start, and riding the right horses is key.

This is part of the mental game of roping. Keeping a balanced perspective, where you keep your eye on the big picture, allows you to have fun. It's supposed to be fun, too. If it's only work and drudgery, you can get burned out. Then, if you encounter struggles along the way, it's easy to give up on what you've been working for. That's how you get off track.

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Everybody's in the same boat as far as making a strategy for their team. You need to work together toward the goals of the team, whether those goals include a world championship, a USTRC shootout, winning your local team roping association or your local jackpot. This is the fun part. Half the fun of roping is working at it and learning. I love working with my horses and my partner. I enjoy that process. If you keep the right perspective, the journey is half the fun.

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These are good lessons the younger ropers can learn from the older guys. We've made the mistakes that taught us these lessons. When you're young and everything's ahead of you and it's all very exciting, it's easy. After a few years, when people find out how much work it is, it's easy to get a little down mentally. But if you can remember that this is fun, it helps keep you fresh. I've even seen some hobby ropers get discouraged and soured when they didn't reach their goals right away. There are people like that all over the place. That's where the old cliché about whining team ropers came from, and it's unfortunate. It doesn't have to be that way. As for me, I make a conscious decision that I'm going to have fun doing this. I love this time of year every year. I've always looked forward to a new season, a new race and a whole new adventure.