Sometimes I feel like the old veteran set in his ways, but Paden’s rookie enthusiasm is contagious.
I won the world title in 2017 roping with a veteran heeler, Cory Petska. This year, I’ve partnered with a rookie, Paden Bray.
I knew what I was getting into when I asked him. I’m from Arizona and for about ten years I’ve stayed with Paden’s family near Stephenville, Texas, over the winter months so I could keep roping. Paden tagged along with me everywhere. I remember him being a little kid and wanting to rope and go to the rodeos. He got bigger and stronger and way better with his rope.
This winter, we went to a bunch of jackpots together, and it was just clicking. So, I sat down with his parents to ask if I could rodeo with him. I’d like to help him win the Rookie of the Year title and maybe a National Finals qualification.
Traveling with a rookie is different. I’ll tell him to go somewhere or do something a certain way, and he’ll ask why. It totally throws me. For instance, Paden wanted to just put the next rodeo address in his phone and let Siri guide us. I had to explain that Siri doesn’t know if you’re pulling a four-horse trailer with living quarters. I had to show him how to look at a map and make sure he wasn’t going to get in a tight spot. This is also why I drive ninety-five percent of the time.
I’m hauling two horses—a thirteen-year-old bay called Hotshot and a twelve-year-old dun called Boogeyman. The dun likes the short setups, and the bay likes the longer setups. It works out well. I know exactly who I’m going to ride at each rodeo. I don’t have to think about it. I just do it. Paden’s riding really good horses, too.
My main goal is to be the header that can turn a lot of steers for Paden. I want to keep his confidence going. It can be scary for a twenty-year-old to come out and rope with the pros. It’s intimidating. I want Paden to realize that he can do this. I need to be able to give him a look and keep him focused.
I’m thirty-two. Sometimes I feel like the old veteran set in his ways, but Paden’s rookie enthusiasm is contagious. It’s been a while since I was this excited to get to the rodeos and rope.