Approximately 40 lasso learners attended the first roping clinic of the season at Alex Fraser Park last Saturday (Dec. 1).
Gary Nicholson, president of the Quesnel Team Roping Club, is extremely pleased with the turnout for those interested in getting a start in team roping.
“Last year we had a high of 31 [students] and we averaged about 20. Out of that 20 we have five steady people who came out and roped all the time,” he says.
The club plans to hold five sessions on the first Saturday of each month, the first of which was dedicated to the basics.
“First thing we’re teaching them is safety, above all else,” says Nicholson, “Then we teach them the parts of the rope, how to swing the rope, and proper body position.”
Students lined up to take a turn at throwing a rope around one of a half dozen imitation steers set up around the indoor grounds at Alex Fraser.
Once they have the fundamentals somewhat down, the instructors direct them towards head or heel roles, depending on their interests and skill level.
Those who end up as heads will concentrate on lassoing the heads of cattle, while those who choose heels, will aim to rope the calves’ hind legs.
Further on down the line, the class will focus on combining all the variables that go into team roping.
“It’s tough,” Nicholson says of the synergy required to become proficient in the popular rodeo sport. “You have yourself, you have a horse, you have a cow, you have a heeler.
‘There are lots of things that have to mesh together properly to get everything done great.”
The latter half of the day was spent on getting the first taste of movement.
“We have an ATV and an imitation steer that we drag behind it and [the ropers] will walk or trot or lope and rope it.
“It’s just a more controlled environment. When you add a love cow and live horses, there are a lot of things that can happen in a hurry.
“This we can slow down.”
Nicholson says the first two sessions will be much of the same and in the third they will probably add a live cow to the mix.
All of Nicholson’s five children have taken part in the sport and he talks passionately about the transformative effect roping can have on kids.
“It’s a great thing for them,” he says. “They earn responsibility because they have to be responsible for their horse and their equipment.”
The club’s president admits he is addicted to the sport.
“This is my drug,” he jokes. “I used to be a ski instructor, I used to go fishing, I used to go hunting and I don’t remember the last time I did any of those things.”
Team roping is an addiction with a future, he adds.
“With this, kids can go to the Canadian Finals. We even have members that have gone on to the National Finals in the United States.
“It depends on how much dedication and time you want to put into it.”
Leif Brandson, 15, took part in last year’s program and is a great example of someone who wants to excel.
He just needs to tweak to his technique.
“The hardest thing to pick up has been the horse control part,” he says. “Last year I just wanted to rope and rope and started losing it a little bit with my horse, but now that I’m picking that up it’s getting a lot easier for me.”
The young rodeo aficionado has plenty of praise for the community’s part in assisting him.
“Everybody that I’ve ever met in the sport of team roping has wanted to help me more than anything,” Brandson says.
“I’d like to go to the British Columbia Team Roping Association finals,” he adds. “They’re in town this year, so that would be amazing.”