In perfect position: Ropers intend to use team effort in Oklahoma City
The stars must align for a pair of rodeo contestants to win a team roping contest.
The horses, the steer and the two ropers must almost be in concert with each other.
In order to win a national rodeo, they have to be perfect.
That’s the quest of seven area contestants beginning this weekend at the United States Team Roping Championships in Oklahoma City.
In most rodeo events, the competitor need only worry about themselves, possibly their horse and the rough stock they’re riding.
Team roping adds a different element. They have to have a partner with whom they work in unison.
“We practice more than any other event,” said Bo Simon, who will team with Denny Hansen of Grand Junction and Ralph McCarty of Montrose in two different rides.
Hansen, in fact, will be a busy man. He’s riding in no less than 11 competitions during the week-long championships.
Simon alone estimates that within the past 10 days, he’s practiced on 600 steers, trying to get everything down pat.
Team ropers qualify by winning qualifying events during the regular rodeo season. Since they can compete with different partners at different rodeos, they can qualify for more events, such as Hansen has accomplished.
Winning a qualifying roping event is one thing. Winning a national championship, where you’re riding against the best of the best in your division, is another proposition.
It all starts with the horse, the animal any rodeo contestant must train, work with on a weekly basis and trust.
“That is the key,” Simon said. “If you don’t have a good horse, you’re done.”
Larry Wehling of Grand Junction, who will ride with his son Chris and with David Smith, has been as diligent as Simon about taking care of the details before the competition.
“We’ve been practicing four or five times a week,” Wehling said.
Other locals who are headed to the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds are Mark Bonella and Kevin Norell.
Bonella will team with Smith and with Blake Nelson from the Front Range in two events. As the header (the one who ropes the steer’s head), Bonella knows if he doesn’t get the team off to a good start, it doesn’t have a chance.
“The key is you’ve got to handle the steer right so the heeler (the teammate who ropes the steer’s two back legs) can rope,” he said. “The header can make or break a ride.”
And in order to win the overall competition, they’ve got to do it four times.
If he can’t win the big money, Bonella would love nothing better than for some other Grand Valley riders to do it.
“I’d like to see the Western Slope do well,” Bonella said.
A good week in Oklahoma could net some lucky (and talented) Grand Valley roper a six-figure bonus check to cap off their season.