Cutters, reiners, ropers break new ground in rope horse industry
WEATHERFORD, TX – A landmark meeting of the minds last month brought nine pillars of the equine community to the roundtable for the first time – and the results were extraordinary.
The “Who’s Who” gathering in June included AQHA world champion Robbie Schroeder; NFR heeler Britt Bockius; PRCA and AQHA champion CR Bradley; Hall-of-Fame reiner Clint Haverty; PRCA heeler Twister Cain; working-cow and ranch horse extraordinaire Thomas Saunders; AQHA world champion Clay Logan; NCHA cutting horse trainer, judge and monitor Bobby Hunt; and APHA world champion AJ Garcia – all performance-horse superstars who proceeded to hammer out the exact moves that make up the perfect team roping run.
In doing so, the nine bridged the chasm of standards between show horses and rodeo horses by finding one point of reference; they defined one great rope horse regardless of venue.
“It was amazing, after we worked a day or two, how really close together we all were,” said Hunt. “You know, for years you either won from being fast or you won from being judged. This method where the time is involved is a really neat concept.”
The new National Team Roping Horse Association is sanctioning events using a unique maneuver-based and time-to-points conversion system, and is tracking lifetime earnings and genetics of rope horses – a component that’s been missing in the rapidly growing team roping industry. The NTRHA’s 2009 schedule includes major events such as a 5-year-old Futurity, Sweepstakes for 6- and 7-year-olds, and an 8-and-over Challenge, in addition to its World Championships.
The nine individuals in attendance at the first-ever NTRHA seminar, hosted by the National Ropers Supply Training Center in Decatur, Texas, represented a one-room assembly of knowledge that, in Hunt’s opinion, happens only once in a lifetime. Hand-picked by NTRHA Director of Judges John Miller (an AQHA and PRCA world champion team roper), they’d walked in packing millions of dollars in earnings and centuries of experience, but had also brought widely varying perspectives. The fact that all nine found themselves on the same page surprised even them.
“Everybody was dead-on,” said Cain. “We judged 45 head of horses making live runs, and the top three were the same for all of us.”
As videos and live runs were analyzed, the horsemen’s open-minded approach and the format’s objectivity melded differing opinions into one. Any of the inaugural judges who worried that the faster runs would supersede the high-scored runs was relieved to see that if a horse had all the right moves and scored high, he was usually also fast. Anyone who worried that the high-scored runs would be too tough to beat was relieved to see that the addition of time helped balance the payoff.
“I didn’t know how the time deal would work being part of the format, but this seminar showed me that it sure took care of a lot of stuff – it made it like another judge,” Schroeder said. “Like instead of five judges, there’s six counting the time. It evened everything out. I think it’s a really good deal.”
Speaking from the rodeo side of things, Cain liked the fact that a guy who’s fast could get a bottom-hole check even if his horse didn’t work at the top of his game that day. On the flip side, Haverty liked the way the scoring end of it could push a slower run into the money.
Schroeder feels the balance of the time element will get more people involved in the rope horse industry, while Bockius’ favorite aspect was that the format will give rise to a new kind of rope horse to market to the public – one that’s more user-friendly and stays sound longer.
“Guys that make rope horses right now have to try to create a rodeo horse that’s so fast some people can’t manage it,” Hunt said, or they “have to make a $75,000 World-Show type horse” that has what Bockius calls “too many buttons” for the average Joe.
What’s more, Schroeder thinks the NTRHA’s concept will allow clients to let trainers keep horses longer and show them more, because with goals of winning the Futurity and other “majors,” they have a chance to earn the kinds of dollars that pay for their investment.
The NTRHA held its second seminar for sanctioned judges July 21-23, also at the NRS Training Center, where it certified the likes of AQHA champions Rick Rosaschi and Elzie Harrison, Open Snaffle Bit Futurity champion Robbie Boyce, nationally ranked PRCA heeler Zane Bruce and NRS Training Center Director Krece Harris, among others.
For more information on the NTRHA’s introductory events this fall (featuring free horseback clinics by John Miller and the respective judges), call 817-598-0110 or visit http://www.NTRHA.com.