My life as a rodeo grunt

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Breaking it Down by Speed Williams – September 2023

Now that both of my kids are rodeoing, I’ve started blocking off ten days a month so I can go with them. Lately I’ve been asked about being a helper when I was riding Hali’s horse at the rodeo or feeding for Gabe at the All-Star Finals. For all the years of competing at a high level, to now being the one helping behind the scenes, it’s a very different experience. I’m glad to do it until my kids get to where they can afford to pay a helper. I’ve always believed in having a driver. It’s very hard to compete at a high level when you drive all night the night before. I want them to have the best chance to succeed and will show them how to get it done with preparation. It’s a blessing that both of my kids have chosen to do something in their life that I have experience and knowledge in and can help them with. Breakaway is about going fast, riding your horse and being able to keep your horse working. So much of that matches what I did heading.

My daughter had a phenomenal winter but that’s not been the case this summer. When she left at the end of June, she went to over 25 rodeos and only won $1,000. She had left home with a bit of a shoulder injury. When I flew to see them for July 4th, we got on the Speed Trainer and did drills we’ve done since she was a kid. I couldn’t believe it was the same child. The way she started her rope, swung her rope, delivered, and threw… there were so many things off track.

We went back and watched the video of when her problems started and how it progressed. We were able to practice at quite a few places and started putting it back together. She didn’t draw well for about a week and had some problems scoring.

I talked to her about the importance of taking a week to ten days during the summer to come home and practice. My dad was adamant about coming home and getting lined out when things weren’t going well. When I was rodeoing as a heeler in the 80’s, Jake and Clay dominated. Occasionally, if things weren’t going well, they would take off a week or ten days and go home and practice. When they came back out, they went right back to dominating. Rich and I did the same thing. We would strategically go home, take a break, refresh, and reload. It’s beneficial to have your horses looked at and to give them a break. It’s also good to get on practice horses and be able to rope for yourself.

My daughter struggled at Salinas, Cheyenne, Spanish Fork, and Ogden. She made the decision to come home and regroup. We did buy a new finished, 10-year-old horse. Once we were home, we roped every day. We left and headed for Abilene where she roped her calf above the nose to be fast. At Dodge her calf checked off and she was 3.1. She barely broke out on her second calf there. I told her, “You’re roping good, and your horse is working well. A good roll starts with one catch. When you back in the box tomorrow you have to believe you did good on the last one and not dwell on the last month.”

Congratulations to Shelby Boisjoli, who has had an unbelievable summer and took the lead in the world standings after Dodge. Since Dodge, Hali is 7 for 8 on roping her calves and has won $16,000 in the last seven days. We’ll see what the final seven weeks of the rodeo season brings. There’s no one who rodeos for a living that has not had things go badly for them. It really tests how mentally strong you are. I firmly believe that the last 45 days will make Hali mentally stronger and help her develop as a young woman. I hope she continues her recent momentum.

My son has been roping with Manny Egusquiza at the rodeos. They had a fantastic July 4th and have slowed down a bit. They’re still winning more than they’re spending. My wife stayed and spent some time with Gabe and I went with Hali. I drove to the Spicer and met Jennifer. She took the truck to Hali, and I went with Gabe to the All-Star Finals at the Lazy E.

Gabe roped with Manny, Coleman Proctor, and Walker Smith in the Open. Manny and Gabe came back high call and Gabe’s rope caught in the steer’s tail, ending up with a leg and not placing. Gabe and Coleman came back 8th and won 4th in the average. Then there was a #16, #15, and a Junior Open. Gabe made the short round twice in both the #16 and #15 and had a chance to win a lot of money. There was a leg lost, two steers fell down, a header missed, and a header lost his rope. My son only won a little after spending quite a bit. At dinner I asked how he was holding up. He was cheerful and said he was tired from roping so much but things just happened, and he wouldn’t have done anything any different. That moment really stuck out to me and made me very proud. He had lost about $3,000 and roped outstanding all day. His mindset was good and I’m proud of how he handled it. The next day he headed in the #12, #13 and #14 and managed to win 3rd in the #13 and split $16,000, making a little money for the week.

One thing we do is when my kids are having a rough time, there’s a 15- or 20-minute window where there are no negative comments. This gives them time to think about what happened. It’s taught them to process it and move on. The worst thing I see is parents scolding, getting mad, and throwing fits when their child does poorly. As a competitor, the last thing I wanted was my partner to throw a fit when I didn’t do well. No one needs someone chewing on them. If kids want it bad enough, they will figure out how to get better or find something else to do. As parents you can’t make them want it.

Now I spend 20 days a month teaching private lessons and I’m fortunate to stay booked. It’s a blessing to be able to teach my clients and my kids something I’ve spent a lifetime learning. I’ll let Hali tell the story of some of things I had her do while she was home for a week. I did to her what I used to do to myself by making practice much harder than the actual competition. By struggling in the practice pen, the competition is easier by comparison. I want to give a big thanks to my clients, friends, and sponsors that have helped me and my family on this journey. I’m really looking forward to seeing where it takes us in the next few years.

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