With the explosive popularity of television shows like “Yellowstone,” cowboy tricks have gone mainstream across the country.
But how exactly do those guys and gals learn to twirl a rope and lasso a calf?
They are skills and techniques many ranching youngsters pick up while out of necessity while helping out with the family herd.
Not everybody who wants to rope a cow, however, has that opportunity, even in areas where ranching is prevalent, said Curt Miller, who is trying to change that by bringing the Jake Barnes/Clay O’Brien Cooper Team Roping School to the Dewey Severs Arena in Edgewood.
“When I was a kid, there were a lot of different opportunities for clinics for kids and adults with professionals with former cowboys,” Miller said. “And now it’s gone by the wayside.”
Miller, who built the Severs Arena through his ministry at the East Mountain Cowboy Church, said he wants to make this a regular event while adding clinic for other rodeo disciplines.
“I’m trying to use this as a ministry and an opportunity for people to get better at their skills,” he said. “I’d like to add saddle bronco schools, and breakaway roping schools.”
Bringing in the Barnes-O’Brien Cooper school is a real coup, he said, because of their long history of success.
“Each of them were partners in professional rodeo as team ropers,” Miller said. “They do a lot of schools. They won the world championships in professional rodeos seven times. They’re retired now and they’re putting on a bunch of schools for kids and adults, too.”
Barnes actually is from New Mexico, having grown up in Bloomfield and briefly competing and attending Eastern New Mexico University before heading out on the professional circuit.
“I’ve toured around the country, made the national finals 27 times and won seven world championships with Clay O’Brien Cooper,” Barnes said. “We don’t go rodeoing like we used to. Now we pretty much do roping clinics, about 20-30 roping clinics a year.”
Barnes is the header and responsible for getting the first throw over the cow’s horns, while O’Brien Cooper is the heeler, finishing up the sequence by snagging the cow’s legs.
Each teaches his particular specialty to the attendees, who must provide the their own horses.
“It’s kind of a two-phase process,” Barnes said. “Some people have had the opportunity of growing up riding horse and roping, But there some people who have never rode a horse before.”
So the goal is so identify and prepare information to help both out, he said.
“When you’re trying to put riding and roping together, it can be very difficult for a beginner who is trying to learn to rope who has never or rarely ridden a horse before. A roping instructor has his hands full trying to teach them how to ride and rope.”
Then there are some participants who already have a working knowledge of the sport and are ready for more advanced training. And the difference is apparent quickly, he said.
“When we start, you can pretty much tell a tell a novice roper by the way they swings their hat,” Barnes said with a chuckle. “Instead of roping cattle we have a quad and pulling a roping sled around and it can go really slow. For a beginner, it’s too many moving parts to try and go at a full speed with a live steer.”
The more advanced participants, however, get the chance at cows pretty quickly.
“You have to treat every student on what level they’re at,” Barnes said. “You teach them at whatever level they’re at. We start off roping dummies that are simulated like a live cow. You’ve got to learn how to execute that loop so it can hit its target and make the catch. Second half of the day, then you start live roping.”
Passing on their knowledge is rewarding because they know the art is not being lost, he said.
“It makes you feel good to do a roping clinic and give them pointers,” he said. “You’re helping reach toward their dreams.”