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Going Green by Matt Brockman

No Comments27 July 13:22

Finding & Developing a Good Rope Horse Prospect may be an Attainable Goal Many Novice Ropers Haven’t Considered
by Matt Brockman


J.D. Yates will tell you a guy can wear out a nice truck and trailer traversing the country looking for a good rope horse, and the search never ends.  “I’ve driven thousands of miles looking for horses,” said Yates, a noted Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) competitor and renowned rope horse trainer from Pueblo, Colorado.  “I’m looking all the time to see something that hopefully trips my hammer.”
No matter if a beginner is searching for a dependable, “same trip every run” horse to learn on or a longtime professional is looking for a title-winning mount, many team ropers are constantly looking and are more than willing to travel across a state or two to check out a horse they’ve heard about.  Even before team roping became so popular, the supply of quality, finished horses didn’t seem to keep pace with the number of people looking for them.  Now, with increasing numbers of novice and professional ropers – many with the willingness to spend considerable sums – looking for good horses, the chances of finding the ideal, ready-to-go horse get slimmer each year.


The Prospect
Professionals like Yates are on constant watch not only for a horse finished and ready to go, but also one that has the basic ingredients, yet needs some training – a prospect.  The prospect can be anything from a colt raised from a favorite broodmare with future “top gun” expectations to a horse that’s almost ready for prime time, but only needs some finishing and hauling to smaller events to gain some experience and confidence.
Besides a larger supply of horses to choose from at more affordable prices, going the prospect route offers several advantages to searching for a finished rope horse.  Prospects tend to be younger, thus have a greater potential lifespan than most seasoned rope horses.  Having more flexibility to choose for specific traits, such as bloodlines, size, conformation and even color, also make developing a prospect an attractive alternative.


Not Just the Pros
However, it’s not only the pros that are in the prospect business as more novice and amateur ropers are riding greener horses with plans to develop them into finished rope horses that can either replace an aging “first string” horse or be sold for a profit.
Nelson King, who resides outside of Fort Worth, Texas, is a great example of an amateur who’s found success and satisfaction developing ready-to-go rope horses.  Recently retired from the Fort Worth Fire Department, King also keeps an eye open for good prospects and has a couple going at any one time while also using them for day-work on area ranches.  More than making jackpots every weekend, King enjoys seeing horses he’s brought along excel under other ropers.


“I’d rather see someone else win a big roping on a horse I’ve worked with,” said King.  “I get a lot of pride knowing I may have put a strong foundation under a horse that another amateur is now winning jackpots on.  In the lower numbered ropings, the horse is ninety percent of the equation and those that are solid at scoring, rating and taking care of the roper will win just about every time.”


Horsemanship has a greater emphasis with today’s novice and amateur team ropers and more are enlisting assistance from clinicians like Clinton Anderson, Chris Cox and others.  Consequently, more novices and amateurs like King are using their horsemanship skills to train and finish good rope horses.  Developing greener horses isn’t for everyone. Not all ropers – especially some of the weekend warriors – have the horsemanship skills, facilities or time to develop and finish a good team roping horse.  But, all things considered, the prospect route may not only be an attainable goal, it may also provide the roper with a more valuable and useful horse in the long run.


Always on the Look Out
There are many routes one can take looking for good prospects and some of the best are often found by accident.  “I’ve found some of my best prospects at a friend’s house when I was there just visiting,” said Yates.  Sometimes it’s a word of mouth thing and Yates says he’s gotten some of his best prospects because a fellow roper or trainer thought a horse would do well under his training.  In other situations he’s put a peer onto a prospect because he felt the horse would train better under their style and approach.


Ranch geldings are often sought out by many ropers looking for horses with solid backgrounds.  The rigors of ranch work: prowling pastures; roping and doctoring cattle; and dragging calves at brandings, make these excellent rope horse candidates.  Experience with ranch rodeo competitions is an added bonus for many.  Because these horses have had lots of wet saddle pads pulled off them after long days of routine ranch work, one can usually get a decent feel if the prospect will have the speed, agility and mental capacity to handle the demands of arena roping.


Another good source is what might be called a “transition” horse.  A residual benefit of a vibrant performance horse industry is a steady supply of young horses bred and started for cutting, reined cow horse or reining competition but later become great rope horse candidates.  Not all these horses become elite competitors at the cutting or reined cow horse futurities, and can often transition into outstanding rope horses.
Replay Blue Boon, a 2001 red roan gelding bred and raised by Kobie and Paula Wood and now owned by Clay and Colleen Logan is a great example.  By a Duals Blue Boon sire and out of a Freckles Playboy mare, the horse was a National Cutting Horse Association Futurity entry in 2004.  Replay, as he’s called, made it to the semifinals in that year’s futurity.  The Woods faced the decision of whether to continue showing him at cuttings, selling him or taking him in another direction.  Under the Logans’ tutelage, Replay made an impressive transition, winning the Junior Heeling at the 2007 American Quarter Horse World Show.


Training rope horses for the public, Logan specializes in taking young cutters – mostly three and four year-olds – and developing them into competitive team roping horses.  He’ll tell you their athletic ability, “cowyness” and that they’re accustomed to intensive training often makes these horses great prospects for team roping.
Three time world champion team roper Tee Woolman offers a different perspective on acquiring good prospects – raising them.  After having success roping off an outstanding mare, Woolman got to wondering if he could raise good head horse prospects from a dam with the right qualities.  Attributes like size, looks, conformation and disposition are important to Woolman so he wasn’t intent on settling on just any broodmare.
“I got lucky and got the chance to buy a great broodmare from Dr. Charles Graham, named Have Your Cash,” said Woolman.  “I turned around and bred her to an Easy Jet stud of Dr. Grahman’s called Jet Toro and she had a colt we call Megazord who won the American Quarter Horse Association / PRCA Head Horse of the Year Award in 2004.  We hoped the Jet Deck and Dash For Cash cross would work good and it certainly did.  We’ve also bred her to a Driftwood stud that belonged to Cuatro Light and she’s raised some outstanding head horses from that combination.  I like the Dash For Cash and Driftwood colts because many are versatile as rope horses or barrel horses,” said Woolman who, with his wife Jacque, train team roping and barrel horses at Cherry Creek Equestrian Center near Baytown, Texas.


Bringing ‘em Along – Slow and Steady
“If we can’t do one-handed stops and turns on him, the horse will need to learn those things first,” said Logan referring to the beginning steps for a prospect.  “Responding to leg cues helps bring him along faster, too.”
The rigors and stress a horse experiences in a typical team roping run puts considerable pressure on an animal who must react to many variables within a few seconds.  Such pressure is more intense on a horse that’s learning, thus one of the biggest challenges is to bring a green horse along at his pace and avoid the temptation to take him too far, too fast. “Some days he may take a big leap and you’re feeling pretty good.  Then the next day you may ask too much of him and wind up going backwards a little,” said Logan.  “You’ll have to take the horse back a step or two and then move forward again.”
Woolman concurs.  “If you start them slowly and progress them at their pace, you’ll head off problems down the road,” he said.  “Having good control of one is important.  I try to not ask a green horse for a lot speed until I have good control over him, so I may not know if a prospect can really run until I’ve ridden him for a while.”


Lots of time and patience in the practice pen must be devoted if a prospect is going to properly develop the ability to utilize split-second reflexes and actions while remaining calm and collected.  The extra effort will make for a better horse in the long run.


Trainer and horse must mesh, too, if the horse is to maximize its potential.  “In my training program I’ll ride a horse for 30 days and if he’s making the grade I’ll want to keep him for another 90 days,” said Yates.  “After that, the horse should be coming along well, but if not, I’ll call the client and urge him to come get the horse.  Sometimes horses that have left me have gone to other trainers and excelled.”


Rewards Worth the Effort
Many novice and amateur ropers are devoting considerable effort to improve their horsemanship and rope handling skills to not only achieve success in the arena, but also to leverage these skills to make better rope horses.  It isn’t always easy.  One must have not only the ability to bring a green horse along, but the wisdom to know when to try a different approach or seek help from an instructor, trainer or someone else.
Ropers must, first, be horsemen and developing a greener horse into an improved team roping mount is part of the natural evolution in the commitment to becoming a more complete horseman and roper.  Enhancing your and the horse’s abilities will give you a greater sense of accomplishment, make the horse better and result in more trips to the pay window.

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