Helping your kids want to rope
When my daughter, Hali, was young she was always a “horse girl” and horse lover. She wanted to be down at the arena riding and helping me. She was my little side kick. When I tried to walk out the door she wanted to go where ever I was going. If it was cold or rainy, I would tell her she could stay inside, but she insisted on going and would be bundled up with her little cheeks red. She always wanted to be out there riding
When we moved to DeLeon and I started teaching lessons, Gabe was a toddler and my mother-in-law would babysit him at her house. Hali started going with Gabe and I wasn’t really wild about the kids being gone during the day. At the time Buddy Hawkins’ mom worked in Gorman and I knew she had two daughters who loved to rope. So, I arranged to meet with her and made sure her daughters were present. I offered her a job babysitting Gabe and I would also let the girls rope. My father always had kids around our place that roped. I believe it is crucial for your kids to have fun. If they don’t have fun in the arena, they will find something else to do.
With our new arrangement I gave the Hawkins girls horses to ride and they would ride all day long. When I taught private lessons, they would be right there with us roping the Hot Heels. When we would start roping steers, they would rotate getting ropes off at the stripping chute. The girls would hand them to Hali and she was like the pony express bringing the ropes back up the arena every time.
I didn’t start her roping at that age. I told her when she was 12, she would be big enough and strong enough to make that decision herself. We got into gymnastics for a year. I went to one competition and told her I would support her in whatever she wanted to do, but that I didn’t know anything about gymnastics and couldn’t be much help. Then she got into softball after helping me work with Gabe on his baseball. I coached both of their teams one year and ended up encouraging them to play select ball. It was unique experience that I would never change.
The turning point for Hali was when she was 12 and playing a softball tournament in Abilene. With the wind chill the temperatures were around 28 degrees. They played for two days and won second. I’ll never forget when she got in the truck to head home. She had the trophy in her hand and asked me if she could buy a hamburger with that trophy. I answered, “No, but it can help with scholarships and an education.” She asked if she could get scholarships and an education by riding horses or roping and I told her, “Yes.”
She said, “Dad, I just won $1,800 at a jackpot and I didn’t have to run.” When her softball team lost the game, their coach made them run four laps around the field. Everyone on the team was on the track team but her. She said, “Dad, I think I need to rethink my plan.” From that point on she’s been a roper and competed in junior rodeo.
I never made her rope. But, when she was little she could choose to get my ropes off at the stripping chute or she could rope. By that time, she had made many trips up and down the arena to the stripping chute. She would much rather rope than go get the ropes if the girls weren’t there.
I have never made my kids rope or ride. My father was good at giving you an option. When he suggested something and you showed displeasure, the next option was much worse. I’ve always used that mentality because no one likes to be told to do something. I like it to be their choice in whatever they do. I might have stacked the deck a few times in what those choices were but it was always their option.
The main thing parents need to understand is if your kids try, and practice, then the last thing in the world you need to do is get on to them when they don’t do well. I have never once been upset with my kids when they have failed or made a mistake. I’ve had that experience myself and don’t want that for them. It’s not productive and makes everyone unhappy.
Hali has always been a lot like me – very prepared, organized, and will have everything ready. Gabe, on the other hand, is very different from Hali and next month I’ll talk about his journey to catching the roping bug.
I want them to rope and ride, so when we’re done practicing or competing, we’ll watch the video and talk about what we need to do different. We do our drills on the Hot Heels and work at controlling our horse. Now, with the Speed Trainer, I’m able to work on their swing, getting weight out of their stirrups.. and all those little things that you can’t fix while roping horseback. It’s a very useful tool and that’s the first place they go to practice when something isn’t working right.