Ups and downs of rodeo

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Breaking it Down by Speed Williams – August 2023

This year Hali had an unbelievable winter of rodeos placing at Ft. Worth, San Antonio, and winning Houston. It was her first time of roping in the buildings, and I’ve been very proud of her.

So, when leaving for the 4th of July run, her hopes and expectations were pretty high. I think she’s run about 15 calves since she left home… and won $460. After watching the videos, it appeared she had picked up a new habit resulting from her shoulder being sore before she left home. It’s no different than swinging a golf club or softball bat. When something hurts, subconsciously your body tries to protect itself and your swing and delivery changes without you realizing it.

I flew out to help her and when we got to the practice pen, she was doing things I’ve not seen her do before. We started trying to back up and figure out where the fundamentals came off the track. Confidence comes from good practice sessions. If you haven’t had good practice, it’s very difficult to lie to yourself and believe that you’ve caught the last three and won. Confidence is crucial to success. You cannot be second guessing or doubting yourself before the gate opens.

Over the 4th we tried to save Hali’s good horse, Redlight, for the two-headers. She used her young horse, Blaze, for the one-headers. We know he’s not a finished horse so there’s a lack of confidence in his scoring but when the gates bang and the calves leave, the horse has worked phenomenally. His weakness is getting a great start every time. Over the 4th there was a lot of walking fresh calves and roped out calves, the start changed drastically. Sometimes he leaves flat, sometimes he hesitates, and sometimes he floats across the line, and sometimes he’s fast. That is one of the problems with riding a young horse and I’ve explained to Hali that he’s still a baby and not quite ready for what she’s doing. But his potential is so high she wanted to take a chance on getting him ready to be able to use him the rest of the year. So, we have things to work on with Blaze, and are saving Redlight for rodeos like Cheyenne, Sheridan, and all the big two-head rodeos. She’s won most of her money on Redlight this year.

It is invaluable to be able to practice between rodeos. I don’t know how to thank everyone who let us rope at their place to practice and work on our roping and horses. I’m working on a video I will post on speedroping.com that will cover this practice and the places we were between rodeos.

It’s tough for Hali to go to 15 rodeos and only win $460 after the success she had earlier this year. We had a conversation and I asked her hypothetically if she’d be happy if she showed up at the finals in December with $100,000 won and she said she would be thrilled. I pointed out that’s already happened, and she can’t dwell on a bad two-week period, and we’ve had some great practice lately. The Breakaway is much different than the Tie Down or Team Roping because it happens so fast. Two or three tenths of a second can be the difference between winning first and splitting ninth and tenth, with 150 entries.

I’ve flown home and have lessons scheduled for the new few weeks. I plan on going back out for a bit each month. We’ve been on the Speed Trainer every day before she ropes and it’s starting to come around. Using the Speed Trainer is so much more realistic than roping the dummy on the ground. The difference is when roping on the ground, you’re able to use your legs and body to create momentum and that just doesn’t translate effectively to roping horseback. Using the Speed Trainer, it’s more realistic because you have to create tip speed with your arm while your legs are isolated. You have to learn to use your stirrups to stand, get your butt out of the saddle, while your left hand is not pulling on the reins – and learn to do it all fast.

My son, on the other hand, has been enjoying roping with Manny Egusquiza. This was his first dose of amateur rodeos other than going to Ft. Worth a couple times a week. Gabe and Manny went to ten rodeos and four jackpots the first three weeks. They won or placed at 8 of the 10 rodeos. They won two of the four jackpots and almost $15,000. Gabe would call me and be so excited because they’ve each only missed one steer or so. I told him I was very excited for him and what good a job he’s doing. He had four horses with him and was changing horses almost every night. I told him I want him to enjoy it and remember it because it wouldn’t always be this way. Rodeo can be very humbling. Currently the top 30 or 40 ropers in the world are out trying to make the NFR. This is the time of year for those who aren’t at the pro rodeos to have success.

I now have two kids in the rodeo world, and you will never see me raise my voice at either when they don’t do well. However, I do expect them to be prepared to compete. Preparation is how to give yourself the best opportunity to win and lets you overcome obstacles that will come your way. There were times when Gabe was younger and wouldn’t be as prepared as I would like, and he would get an eye roll from me. But I do try to let him do things his own way, but we would have a conversation afterwards.

I’ve seen him be second high call for $35,000 at the All-Star Finals, sitting next to the heeling box with a leg thrown over the horn visiting. Thankfully the announcer said, “Hey Gabe, you’re up.” He did win second in the roping and later told me, “Dad, I knew I had to catch that one or you’d be upset.” He’s a happy little fella and will talk to anyone at any time and may be having a conversation when the header nods. But it doesn’t seem to affect him. He’s able to focus and do his job well. I’m very happy that’s he’s had such a great start at the amateur rodeos.

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