Rope Like a Champion

A rodeo champion – and million-dollar earning cowboy – offers his top five tips to improve your practice sessions as you work on your roping skills for next year’s county fair.

David Key, National Rodeo Finals champion, and Tarter Equipment offer roping tips.

David Key, National Rodeo Finals champion, and Tarter Equipment offer roping tips.

courtesy Tarter Farm and Ranch Equipment

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Dunnville, Kentucky — Winning is fun. Catching is fun. No matter what level you are at, success is fun. Whether you are a professional team roper or if you rope recreationally, most folks will agree that you enjoy your sport most when you’re on top of your game. Here at Tarter Farm and Ranch, we recently had a chance to catch up with one of our sponsored ropers, David Key. David is a 9-times National Rodeo Finals Champion and a Million Dollar PRCA Earnings Cowboy.

David let us in on a few of his secrets on how to maximize your chances of success in the roping arena by following these five straightforward practice tips:

1. Practice with a Good Roping Chute 

In order to maximize your practice time, use a high-quality roping chute. Your time is valuable and if you only have a few hours to practice, you don’t want to spend all your time loading steers. Having a chute like Tarter’s roping chute along with a lead up alley that doesn’t allow the steers to turn around, eliminates a lot of frustration. Just think, no more steers that are backwards or sideways!

While fully automatic chutes are most efficient, semi-automatic chutes are also a cost effective option that allow you to spend more time on your horse. This prevents the need for someone having to turn the steers out. One of the keys to good practice is that you enjoy it. Using a well-designed chute will mean less time fighting steers and more time doing what you love to do.

2. Don’t Scrimp on Your Rope 

Don’t under estimate the importance of your rope. As David says, “You can’t expect success with a low quality tool in your hand.” Rope is an essential part of your success and your most important tool. Invest in a high quality, reputable brand of rope. Companies offer full product lines to meet the needs of all ropers at all levels and are committed to continually improving their products to make a more durable rope that is perfect for the sport. The ropes will last longer and work better. Importantly by using a high quality rope, you’ll help cut down the risk of back swing. You might be interested to know that David uses the Cactus Hypnotic Rope (Extra Soft or Super Soft) and the Cactus Mini Mag Rope (Extra Soft or Super Soft).

3. Focus On Your Mental Game 

At every level, the mental aspect of roping is very important. What really separates ropers apart, regardless of the physical strength and their roping level, is their mental game. “You take two people, both with the same physical skills and abilities and the person who can keep his/her mental game in check will win every time, especially in the short round where your mental game can really catch up with you,” explains David.

Practice putting bad loops out of your head and focus on the next swing you need to execute to ensure success. Be careful of bad mental habits like losing your temper or letting negative emotions or thoughts getting in the way of your goals in the arena. If you give yourself permission to have bad habits during your practice, you’re only reinforcing patterns that will eventually hurt you in competitive situations.

4. Use Your Imagination 

Develop your imagination skills and during your practice sessions pretend you are at the NFR and it is the real deal. Imagine the crowd, the sounds, the smells, excitement and the pressure. Train you mind to really believe you are there. Now here is the trick – when you find yourself in a high- pressure competitive situation, use your imagination to bring yourself back to the relaxed setting of practicing with your buddies for fun.

You’ll always perform better when you are in a relaxed state. Your hands will not get ahead or behind your swing. Relaxation will allow you to keep your tempo in sync and you’ll be in balance with your horse and your partner. Learn to use your imagination to execute under pressure.

5. Communicate with Your Partner 

A vital key to success in team roping is communication. Every relationship has its ups and downs and team roping is no exception. What’s the best way to minimize conflict? Communicate with each other. Be sure that you have the same goals for each practice session as well as for each run. Your practice will be most effective when you both are on the same page. Also, whether you are a professional roper or a recreational roper, make sure to discuss not only the short-term goals for the practice session but also your goals for the rodeo season. Even better, write them down and believe you can accomplish your goals together.

Practice sessions can be thrown off if you or your partner is not executing to the best of his/her abilities. Everyone can lose their swing or confidence from time to time. The best way to deal with this is to help build up his/her confidence by complimenting your partner. Confidence is the key to success in about any sport.

One of the worst things to do is to not say anything to your partner. Unfortunately, this silence can be very powerful and people’s imaginations can run wild. Your partner may start thinking things are much worse off than they really are or that you want a new partner. This often results in even a worse performance and it can be a very vicious circle to break. Instead, remind your partner that you have faith in him and talk about the reasons you decided to partner with him in the first place. This will help build the confidence, which is a key ingredient for success.

Now, get out there and practice! Those steers aren’t going to rope themselves!

As a leader in the agribusiness-manufacturing sector, Tarter Farm and Ranch Equipment innovates and produces top quality products that farmers, ranchers and ropers trust to get the job done right. Founded in 1945, the company is still family owned and operated as the largest manufacturer of farm and ranch equipment in North America. Unlike many other manufacturers in the industry, Tarter maintains total control of all phases of manufacturing, beginning with the raw material purchase to final delivery. From cattle squeeze chutes to horse stalls to farm gates to rodeo roping chutes, more than 800 products can be found in more than 7,000 farm and ranch stores nationwide. For more information about Tarter Farm and Ranch and where to find Tarter products, visit the Tarter website, or call 800-733-4283.