Many of you will be heading to Oklahoma City later this month for the USTRC Finals. Between the cost of fuel, entry fees, stalls, and other various expenses, this is not a cheap trip for most people. Therefore it’s important to be prepared in order to have the best possible chance of winning. After all, that is the whole reason for going.

Rich and I used to set up our practice arena to match the scenario of the arena we would be competing in. During the winter we would set up a small arena that matched the buildings. Then in the summer we would change it to match the bigger arenas at the outdoor rodeos. According to the USTRC, the main arena in OKC is 230’ from the front of the chute to the back of the arena. You need to practice catching in the first half of your arena. Runs made at the back seldom get a check.

Keep in mind that the chute is angled slightly to the right to give ropers a longer distance to catch up to the cow. If you don’t prepare for this and your horse runs straight and won’t move to the right, it’s going to be difficult to make a nice run. There is also a heeling barrier that will prevent your heeler from jumping out and hazing your steer, so your head horse needs to be able to run to the right.

It’s important to get there a day early to have the opportunity to ride in the arena during the evenings, especially if your horse has never been there before. He needs the chance to be introduced to the lights and become comfortable in the arena.

One of the biggest mistakes ropers make is taking for granted the importance of their horse being in shape and feeling good. If you want your horse to perform well, you have to take care of them. How many people will trailer them for many hours and then throw a couple of bags of shavings in the concrete stall and call it good? Don’t scrimp on the shavings. I recommend five to seven bags per stall – and then clean them every day. I hate buying shavings but it’s not optional for me. My wife also puts Soft-Ride Equine Comfort Boots on our horses any time they have to spend time on hard ground.

It’s unfair to your horse to leave him in the stall and only pull him out when you’re going to rope on him. Your horses need to get out every day and be exercised. 

Please don’t pull your horse up the week before the finals, after he’s been off for two months, and then run 10 to 15 steers every night. He is an athlete and needs to be conditioned. You can’t practice just the last few nights without him getting sore. Then when you get to the finals he’s sore, quick and not working. He needs time to get in shape so he can perform to the best of his ability. Most horses are a big investment, and should be treated as such.

Brock Hanson called the other day. He wants to go back to heeling and asked if we could rope together at the USTRC Finals. I don’t know how much we’ll get to practice with him in Arizona and me in Texas, but we’ll be roping at the finals and other jackpots that week.

While at the finals, be sure and stop by the booth to enter the drawing for a free one-day clinic at my house in Texas. Good luck to everyone competing.

What’s new with me: We’ve been roping a lot at the house. Both kids are roping a lot. Hali has been working on her heeling. Jennifer has been working on her heading. Coleman Proctor and Jake Long spent some time roping with us and their videos are on I want to congratulate Coleman for qualifying for his first NFR.

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