Shooting for the Safe Mark

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

Riley and I aren’t the fastest team out there, but we’re one of the more consistent.

by Brady Minor


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In the team roping, you feel like you’ve got the National Finals made when you get to seventy-five thousand won. That’s a safe mark we shoot for. Guys that have a good winter can rest a little easier knowing they’ve got a jump on things. Unfortunately, me and Riley didn’t tap that big money this winter.

We haven’t had many strong winters. I mean, the San Antonio Rodeo is as big as it gets, and the best I’ve done down there is win a couple thousand dollars. It’s almost like we’re jinxed in wintertime.

As the season gets underway, I don’t look at what everybody else has won. Our rodeo count was seventy-five this year. The way I figure it, if you average a thousand dollars per rodeo, you’re on pace to reach that safe mark.

As far as team ropers goes, Riley and I maybe aren’t the fastest team out there. But we’re one of the more consistent teams. We win a lot of fourth- and fifth-place checks versus first-place checks. That’s how we’ve rolled over the years. Riley turns a lot of steers and gives me a lot of chances. We might be a couple of tenths off, but those fourth- and fifth-place checks add up when you win a lot of them.

It helps that we’ve been partners since 2007. For brothers, we get along good enough. In the team-roping world, people change partners often—once a year, every other year, sometimes three or four times in a year. If we weren’t winning together, we might try something different.

We’re both lucky to have good horses. Riley’s horse, Bob, was named the 2018 Head Horse of the Year. Bob’s really fast, which allows Riley to run closer to the steer and take more consistent shots. My horse, Sug, may not be the best horse out there, but he’s about the easiest. He gives you the same shot every time. He’s smart and forgiving. He doesn’t try to screw you. Horses get smart from being rodeoed on so much. Some might want to stop and take your throw away. Some might not work as good if they’re sore. Sug is solid and real easy to go catch on.

Like I said, we didn’t have a strong winter, but most of your rodeoing’s done in summer. The Fourth of July was a turning point. We won a few seconds and thirds at Ponoka, Alberta, and left there with sixty-seven hundred each. At the end of the Fourth of July, I had been to thirty-four rodeos for the year, but I had won thirty-nine thousand dollars. That put me above my thousand-per-rodeo average but only about halfway to the safe mark.

As the weeks ticked by, we didn’t have many big wins. We won a thousand here, thirty-five hundred there. We hit a slump during the first couple weeks in August. Then came Ellensburg, Washington, our hometown rodeo. For the first time ever, we won the Ellensburg. That was pretty special. (Here’s what Riley had to say about winning the hometowner.

Ellensburg added another six thousand to the season’s winnings. That finally pushed us past our safe mark. When the season ended, I was tenth in the standings. I’m not at the top of the pack, but I’m glad to be heading to Vegas in December.

Making the National Finals was especially exciting the first time I qualified back in 2006—and also the second, third, fourth and fifth times. This will be my tenth NFR. It’s always a great chance to make some money. After all, this is what we do for a living, and I have a family to support. But now there’s only one goal in mind—the same goal that’s on the mind of everybody going to the NFR—and that’s winning a gold buckle. It’s the best thing in rodeo. It can’t get any better than that.

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