Clay O'Brien Cooper Knows the Right Place at the Right Time in Team Roping

Whether you’re a header or a heeler, probably the most important aspect of roping and making successful runs is being at the right place at the right time and being in the right position.
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Whether you’re a header or a heeler, probably the most important aspect of roping and making successful runs is being at the right place at the right time and being in the right position.

Whether you’re a header or a heeler, probably the most important aspect of roping and making successful runs is being at the right place at the right time and being in the right position. There are different ways to go about getting there, based on personal preference, style and ability. Not everybody is exactly the same in how he or she approaches that, but no matter how you go about it that’s an important part of the big picture that you need to figure out.

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Being in the right position is an individual thing, and varies based on the mechanics of your roping, your personal style and range. Those things have an effect on where you want to be. The strategy of how you compete—whether you’re more on the aggressive side or are more of a catch-every-steer, consistent kind of roper—also have an effect on where you want to position yourself.

Your ability and horsemanship capabilities factor into the equation, too. Being able to maneuver your horse to be in the right spot at the right time is a direct result of how you handle your horse and the refinement of your horsemanship skills. The better you are at the relationship between you and your horse—how you control him and give him cues, signals and a consistent pattern that you put him in time and time again—the better the outcome. The pattern you use to achieve that goal is where that refinement bears fruit and brings results.

Some people let a horse operate more on his own, and other people take more of the controls themselves. What you do in this area is going to have a positive or negative result. Being overboard one way or another is going to have an effect. So being balanced and always being aware of what’s going on between you and your horse, and how you’re approaching the setup of your position, is the place you need to focus and concentrate on.

Your relationship with your horse needs to be worked out individually. This is not a one-size-fits-all thing. We’re all made differently and think differently. The one common denominator is we have to develop the ability to be where we need and want to be at all times in all parts of the run, so we can set up good, consistent shots, whether we’re trying to rope fast or just catch.

There are all different styles and position preferences, even if you only look at the top 10 guys. They’re all going to have differences in how they approach what they’re trying to do. The similarity is that they’ve all figured out how to set up their shot based on how they do things. And they’re able to do that consistently. That’s what makes them so good. Every one of those guys has a relationship between him and his horse through time and practice. That horse does what that guy wants him to do, and it’s a repeatable pattern that happens over and over again.

The most intriguing part of roping for me is that challenge of roping in competition—being able to make that position that works for me happen and happen right. When I do a good job of that I have success. When I mess that part up, for one reason or another, I don’t like the result.