By Amy C. Witt
Since I started roping at 12 years old, I have always been a very dedicated user of Cactus Ropes. From Tammy (West) White’s TW Special to the Amigo and Bad Boy, you wouldn’t catch me without a Cactus in my hand. Last month, I entered the Oakdale 10-Steer, Joanie Gatz Memorial All-Girl. It was the first time I’ve entered this roping in several years and I was in desperate need of some new ropes. But instead of instantly gravitating towards a Cactus, I decided I would try another company. As I began practicing and preparing for this roping, I was inspired to conduct an experiment. Not only would I break-in and practice with a Cactus extra-soft Whistler, I would also simultaneously break-in a soft Classic Spydr5.
Professional Kory Koontz says when he’s breaking in a rope, he ropes one and then lets it lay for 24-48 hours.
Taking off the twisties and swinging the Spydr5, I was disappointed – it had a backswing. After giving it a good stretch, I roped the dummy several times and the backswing was still noticeable. It was a hot day, so I took that into consideration as well as understanding that the temperature or conditions it could’ve been sitting in prior to purchase, may be contributing to the backswing. I decided to keep it in the air conditioning for a day before practicing with it. The Whistler felt good from the start and after stretching it, I had no complaints.
When I arrived to the practice pen, I started with the nylon, 5-strand 30” Classic Spydr5. After roping the first steer, the backswing straightened out but the rope still had a weird feel and kink. This rope maintained good body and supported my heavy hands and hard throws, while the weight of the tip really enhanced the curl. It is small in diameter and the coils felt comfortable and sturdy in my hand. After roping four steers consecutively with it, I put it away and grabbed the Whistler. The Cactus Whistler is a 32” 4-strand, nylon/poly blend and quite different than the Spydr. This rope is small, light and well balanced. In the practice pen, this rope was faster and snappy with a lot of curl action, and sometimes too much. After roping eight steers, I put it away and waited to run more the next day. For four days straight, I practiced with these ropes, roping an even amount of steers each day. I never had any problems waiving off or splitting the horns with either ropes. However, I still gravitated towards the Whistler because I seemed to rope faster, tighter and just overall, better. And, the backswing was still relevant in the Spydr.
Furthermore, I created a poll on Instagram and left it open to all ropers – men/women, all levels, and asked if they preferred a Cactus or a Classic, which specific rope and why. Out of 30 people, about 60% of the respondents were woman and the results were about the same – 49% of ropers bought Cactus while 51% preferred Classic. Some noted they preferred Classic’s Spydr because it was fast and quick, while others liked the company’s NXT, GT4 or Heat. An experienced female roper wrote that she felt the Spydrs had “funky twists that felt like a backswing.” Another rodeo cowgirl said she hated the Spydr before even stretching it and loved Cactus’ Hypnotic. A few other female beginners said they liked the Whistler because it was soft but had good weight. Some noted that the Classic Spydrs didn’t last very long while others said it did. Some novice males said they liked the Whistler for jackpots and stayed away from the Spydrs because of the twists and kinks. Other cowboys said the Spydr was great in the branding pen to head or heel with but wasn’t as beneficial on bigger cattle or out in the pasture. And, others disagreed saying it was their go-to and great outside or inside the arena.
I decided I would use the Whistler at Oakdale because it just felt better. I never had any trouble in the practice pen waving off, but at the roping, I seemed to have some troubles. I thought the Whistler would be better for the shorter horn steers that ran and I could have more rope to reach with if I needed to. I switched ropes after the second round and had less trouble waving off with the Spdyr. I am not saying that the Whistler contributed to my wave-offs, as it is more in the mechanics of the rope and the position of my horse – but this is something I observed upon switching.
Overall, I think it is important for that we use ropes that feel good to us. We are all looking for a rope that maintains consistency and the elusive “feel” that is the sum of all parts of the rope working together – hardness, weight and size. After this experiment, I found that I like the Cactus Whistler better than the Spydr because of its size, quickness and weight. It is also very straight and balanced and the eye lays better for me. Although the Classic Spydr5 feels good, it still has a backswing/kink that I am not fond of. For me, I think the Whistler is best for the arena while the Spydr will be better to head or heel in the branding pen.
The author of the blog, California Dreamin’ (www.caliidreamin.com), Amy Witt’s articles have appeared in magazines and newspapers around the world. A fashionista, cowgirl and journalist, Amy strives to motivate and inspire people around the world.