Growing Pains

Dalton had to learn how to handle his new horse Smokey while calf roping. (Photo courtesy of the Denney family)
Dalton calf roping aboard Monkey. (Photo courtesy of the Denney family)

By Ddee Haynes

If you were to search the word “grow” online, you will find the following definitions:

To increase in size or amount, to become better or improved in some way and to become developed or mature. All those definitions are directly correlated to what happens to rodeo kids as they began to mature as well as to the horses they ride.

Both of my daughters have been horseback almost from the day they were born. In fact, my oldest daughter first rode on a horse at the ripe old age of two months. We were at a team roping when a friend rode up and asked to hold Melissa while he was sitting on his horse.

Much to my dismay, he rode off as soon as he took her into his arms. As a new mother, I was horrified as the friend trotted off on his horse carrying my infant daughter over to the other team ropers to show off as if she were a new buckle he had just won. To me that was a day of terror and growth as a new mom.

Having watched my girls and other rodeo kids more years than I want to believe, I have determined that growth is not only a natural and necessary process, it is unpredictable and often an evil adversary. While this theory has not been scientifically tested or proven to be true by the FDA, the results of growing rodeo kids has been verified accurate and agreed to be true by “expert” rodeo parents worldwide.

The two types of growth I want to talk about are

  1. Actual growth of the child in size and maturity
  2. Growing with a new horse.

Growth of the Child

With every negative you will almost always find a positive. Last summer we lengthened my youngest daughter’s stirrups three times. During that time, we saw two very different changes. The first change was positive—her break-away roping improved. She was taller and stronger, making it easier for her to swing and control her loop.

The negative change was her goat tying—what was once fun and came natural was now hard. She had grown close to three inches and her mind and body had not yet made the connection. She continually fell on her get-offs, and how she handled the goat was completely different.

Frustration and lack of confidence were also other negatives she faced because she was not competing on the level she once was. So, we did the only thing we knew to do. We broke her goat tying back down to the basics and started over.

After many hours in the practice pen and many tears of frustration, she eventually regained the muscle memory so important to not only rodeo athletes but other athletes as well. She is now tying at an even better level than before her growth spurt.

Growing with a New Horse

A friend of mine, Dalton Denney is an awesome calf roper, and for years he rode the same horse named Monkey. Monkey knew his job well and he did his best to put Dalton where he needed to be in order to be successful. But like all good horses, he was getting older and slower and the calves were getting younger and faster.

Last summer Dalton moved up to a younger and quicker horse, Smokey. Smokey is a great roping horse, knows his job but is not the best mannered horse. While Dalton never missed a beat in his roping skills, he had to learn how to handle his new horse.

Smokey has a few quirks in the roping box, but Dalton learned patience and figured out how to work through those issues. I know from experience it can be very frustrating when a horse does not want to do his job. Just like my daughter’s goat tying trials, Dalton and Smokey continue to spend many of hours in the practice pen, and they are growing together.

Each rodeo I see improvement in team Dalton and Smokey. I can also see a maturity in Dalton on how he handles his horse, a maturity that was not there a few years ago.

When you hit a growing spurt in life, always remember with every negative there is a positive. Improvement each day will bring success, and success is only awarded to those willing to take on the challenge.

Until next time…