Picking Your Partners Wisely

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To be successful, you have to be partnered right. No matter if you head or heel, or what level roper you are, your significant other has to be able to do his part. It takes both people getting the job done for each other to give the team a chance to win. Choosing the best partner for you can sometimes be one of the most difficult and most crucial parts of roping. Its a decision that needs to be evaluated carefully.

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There are all kinds of things to consider when picking a partner. Sometimes the most talented ropers aren't the smartest in different situations. They can sometimes have trouble making the right decisions under pressure. And some guys who might have less ability handle the pressure great. So that's something to evaluate.

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I try to weigh the pluses and minuses of my choices when I'm choosing my next partner, and there's a lot to think about. From a heeler's standpoint, you have guys who are better at reaching and throwing fast, and other guys who are better at setting up consistent, high-percentage runs. At the professional level, there's a lot of money to be won at the rodeos and jackpots with a catcher rather than a guy who bombs out and reaches all the time.

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On the other hand, when you're looking over the fence and see other heelers getting a chance to win first place in the go-rounds at the rodeos behind a bomber, that sometimes looks pretty good. There are some guys out there who have the ability to do both and, naturally, they're in high demand

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You also need to evaluate which header you heel best behind. A lot of times the bombers don't handle cattle the best. They're letting their horses duck, the steers hit harder and they tend to get stuck in the corner (of the arena) more. Your shots aren't as easy as they are behind the guy who gets steers on a short rope and gets things balanced to make it easier on you to heel the steers.

Something I probably evaluate more now than I used to is personality differences or likenesses, and each guy's lifestyle. It isn't always talked about, but that has a part to play. Who you're going to be traveling with and what kind of environment you're going to be in has a part to play in your decision about who to rope with.

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Over the years, and I've been doing this awhile, the teams with the best chemistry are the ones who are able to have confidence in one another and confidence as a team together. Confidence plays a big part. The guys I've done best with are guys who are upbeat. Obviously, Jake (Barnes) has been a great partner for my career. He's just such a hard worker and such a competitive person that it energizes my confidence. I had good success with Matt Tyler and David Key, too, for the fact that they were always positive and looking to win. No matter what happened yesterday, they were ready to win first today. That just puts a positive light on the mental aspect of things. When you're down in the trenches day to day, that mental attitude becomes vital, like in the middle of the summer when you hit a spell where you aren't doing too well. You have to pick yourself up and keep rolling.Otherwise, you can spiral for a month instead of a week.