Roping Tips: Six Secrets to Winning

Roping Tips: Six Secrets to Winning

World champion roper J.D. Yates shares six truths to improve your team roping.

roper J.D. Yates (Credit: Journal)

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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 professional rodeo. After more than three decades atop the sport, J.D. has plenty of team roping tips to share.

The AQHA Professional Horseman and Team Wrangler member from Pueblo, Colorado, is also respected as a teacher who gives roping clinics around the world. Here, J.D. shares how to improve your roping.

1. Practice makes perfect. Roping is a difficult event to master. It takes a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of faculties 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.

2. Balance is key. Spend a lot of time riding and developing your balance. When some of our amateur competitors come to the house, 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.

3. 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.

4. You can’t simulate the pressure of competition. 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.

5. Find the right equine 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.

6. 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.