Nine loops to improve your roping with AQHA Professional Horseman J.D. Yates.
By J.D. Yates with Jim Bret Campbell in The American Quarter Horse Journal
J.D. Yates carries a rope like it’s an extension of his hand. Once he backs into the roping box, he’s one of the fiercest competitors on the AQHA circuit or in pro rodeo. After almost three decades atop the sport, he still burns with the desire to win, even if it means asking someone for help.
With an innate ability to rope, J.D. is also respected as a teacher who gives roping clinics around the world. Between ropings and shows, J.D. sat down with the Journal to talk about how to improve your roping and, maybe more importantly, how much fun you can have at it.
Loop 1: Get Prepared
Roping is a difficult event to master. It takes a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of facilities to practice and make yourself and your horse better. Ride a lot. If you can develop consistency and get in a rhythm with your horse, everything seems to work better.
If you want to learn to rope later in life, then spend a lot of time riding and developing your balance. Some of our amateur competitors come to the house, and we gather cattle in the mountains or take them to brandings. We ride up and down hills and through the rocks. It makes them better riders because they are in balance. Then roping is easy.
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Loop 2: Compete Against Yourself
Your biggest competitor is yourself. If you’re worried about beating someone else’s score, you’re probably not going to do well. Go do your job: Rope, set your steer, turn it and then face your horse. If you do all of that, then you’re going to get a score, and everyone else will have to try to beat you. Regardless of how you show your horse, if you don’t catch, it doesn’t matter.
With 90 percent of amateurs, you can hardly get them to do anything wrong at the house. For most people, the problems don’t begin until they rope in competition. Until you get away from the practice pen and experience competition, you won’t know how you’re progressing. We can teach you to get out of the box good and rope good at home, but it doesn’t matter until you’re in that arena and the almighty dollar, a class win or a world championship is on the line. It all comes down to how much pressure you put on yourself.
A great amateur is someone who can consistently contend with the pressure he puts on himself and does not worry about the competition.
I constantly tell my amateurs to give the judges something to mark, and then we can work on the things to improve that mark.
Loop 3: Find the Right Partner
The hardest thing in the world to do is to match a roper to a horse. If you put a novice roper on a powerful horse, it defeats the purpose and puts them both in a wreck. I recommend getting a horse that can help teach you, then work up to different levels of competition. Then, if you want to upgrade horses, there is always someone waiting to buy that beginner horse.
As a whole, I see a lot more riders who are overmatched than undermatched, and that’s difficult for a trainer. We want to be able to show those horses in the open classes, but if someone has a really nice horse, it’s hard to explain to them that the horse is not fitting them as a rider.
I believe in being honest right off the bat. If you can be honest with the owner and have him respect your thoughts, I feel like things will always work out.
Of course, most of our Quarter Horses are exceptional horses, and as the horse gets older and the owner gets more experienced, the horse can show in open and amateur. You just don’t want to create bad habits by mixing a horse and rider before they’re ready for each other.
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Loop 4: Learn to Ride Better
When people come to my house to practice, I have a lot of different levels of horses that I let people ride and rope on. I might have them rope 10 head on one of our practice horses. I also let some of my amateurs ride each other’s horses to get a feel for a different horse, because no two horses are exactly alike.
You can’t imagine how many people in this world can rope. There are a lot of really, really great ropers. And there are just as many who are really, really bad with their horses. For some people, the reason they’re not making it to the next level isn’t because of their roping, it’s because of their horsemanship. They don’t understand how to keep a horse working or practice with their horse during the week. There’s a process of keeping your horse’s mind fresh and ready to go.
Stay tuned for the last half of this list.
Enter Battle in the Saddle Now!
Entries are now being accepted online for Battle in the Saddle, July 5-10 in Oklahoma City. It’s the great American western-horse showdown — with more than $300,000 up for grabs. Competitions include reining, cutting, working cow horse, roping and ranch remuda. Battle in the Saddle also features the U.S. reining team selection trials for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, a chuckwagon cook-off and much more. You can purchase Battle in the Saddle tickets online.