By Speed Williams

One of the biggest challenges to being successful in rodeo is keeping your horses working. When Rich and I started roping together we had a difference of opinion on this subject. I would only ride my good horses, Bob and Viper, at the bigger rodeos. I normally used my third, fourth, and fifth string horses at the smaller rodeos that didn’t pay as well. 


After driving a long way to a rodeo Rich would get pretty frustrated when he wouldn’t get to throw his rope and I had not ridden one of my best horses. He would point out that he rode his best horse every day, at every rodeo. I told him it was very different for headers and heelers. My job is to be prepared and when we showed up at the big ones, I would ride my best horses. Knowing that four or five of the bigger events paid the same as fifty or sixty of the smaller events is how I justified it. I spent a lot of time getting Bob and Viper ready for the bigger, better paying events.

The BFI has always been one of the biggest opportunities for professional ropers and one of the most prestigious. It’s definitely the biggest opportunity during the summer and it’s hard to have your horse working for the BFI and the rodeos. There were rodeos we could enter on the way to Reno, but I didn’t want to risk undoing the preparation of getting Bob ready for the BFI. They are very different situations and set ups. For instance, when guys show up at the Tucson rodeo on a short score horse, it can be very embarrassing. It’s a long box, long score and it’s very hard unless the steers are slow. There have been guys who didn’t get to throw their rope.

In rodeo you have to ask your horse for a lot and you need your horse running to help you. If your horse gets ahead of you and not scoring, it can cause a lot of problems. Especially when you have to go to more rodeos before you get back in the practice pen. Figuring out how to keep your horse working and having successful fast runs is the name of the game. That way you can back in the box and have a higher catching percentage. 

The guys who use their horses and keep them working are usually more successful in the summer. When you are dropping two or three coils and do it so many times in a row, there are very few horses that will keep running. I always tried to keep one or two horses to ride on bad ground or in less than ideal situations. They were good, but not great. They let me use my ability and when I rode them, I came across firing. 

I’ll never forget when I had five good head horses and one practice horse named Cruise. In a week’s time Bob, Viper, and my other three were all out of commission and I had to start riding Cruise, who I despised. He was ill broke, scored good, ran, could face but wasn’t very strong on the saddle horn. I won a lot on him at the jackpots because I just relied my ability. He would prance and dance up the arena like the barrel reject he was. When I showed up riding him my heelers knew we were going to go fast, because he worked much better that way.

There’s a time and place to use your ability and a time and place to use your horse. When a header figures those out, it makes it a lot easier to win at the big ones. I was able to keep two horses going for a long period of time and win eight world titles – with those two horses being the main reason why. I had a lot of “subs” and I’ll be the first to admit, when I left home and didn’t have one of them in the trailer, my odds of success went way down.

What’s new with me:  We’re busy with lessons and getting ready for the USTRC roping in Stephenville. My son has been roping non-stop. Whether it’s goats, Hot Heels, or me heading steers for him, he can’t get enough. I’m living the dream with both of my kids roping and helping with lessons. When we have a day off, they tell me that I’m working for them that day and we rope.

Jade Corkill came and roped with us for a couple of days. He stayed home from the California rodeos to watch his kids play ball. Look for videos on of our practice, along with the kids’ runs from Stephenville. At the end of the month, we’ll head to Gonzales for Hali to compete at the Texas Junior High Finals.

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