Why thumbing a ride tough for some team ropers ..

There is inherent risk in almost any sport.

Concussions playing football or soccer.  Groin/hamstring pulls/shin splints or tendonitis for runners.  Falling on the ice curling and cracking your head.  Tennis elbow.   Rotator cuff.  Catching the ball with your body not your glove.  Sprains, strains .. stray balls hit your way playing golf.  Or my girlfriends and I drinking too much over the course of 18 holes.  It can all hurt.  You get the drift …

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I mentioned yesterday I wanted to spare my thumbs until I had practiced roping enough to feel confident I could keep them?

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I’m not sure how long we had been dating that I noticed the HUGE scar around the Cowboy’s thumb.

“What happened,” I gasped.

“Oh,” he says nonchalantly.  “There are a lot of team ropers minus a thumb.”

And he laughs.

…………

The cowboy nearly lost his thumb, oh .. ‘probably 10 years ago’ he tells me, in Sydney, Iowa at a big team roping competition.

Why is this a common injury among team ropers?

Those who have done it, know.  Those who haven’t ever roped but want to try, should know.  And the rest of us, well it’s just useless trivia perhaps.  But I think it’s interesting enough to warrant its own post as we head into another weekend of clinics.

Ropers do something they call, dally.  Which is when they take the rope and wrap it around the saddle horn after they have either headed or heeled the steer.  I think I’m describing that right, anyway..

There is a piece of rubber around the horn (usually a piece of inner tube that’s been cut to size) and that is what makes the rope stick.

http://www.ehow.com/how_8240541_do-dally-team-roping.html

You dally because you either have a four or five hundred pound steer you are trying to turn for your partner to grab its hind legs, or because you’ve got the hind legs and you’re wrapping up your run and that dally and pull is what stops the clock.

The goal is, to not get any fingers caught up in the mix.

But the Cowboy tells me, “When you pull your slack and you take a wrap you have coils in that hand.  If you let go of that ..” OR, “Sometimes you get your thumb caught in when you’re cinching the rope down tight around the saddle horn..” OR, “You put a little twist in the rope and it gets caught going about 30 mph..”

POP goes the thumb.

Like this guys (Story from KBOI2.com):  Idaho team roper competing despite loss of thumb http://tinyurl.com/c28p2ct

The Cowboy says, “When you’re in a storm .. When things aren’t going right and you know you’re in trouble, you’re taught to let go.  But when you’re roping for a big prize and things are moving fast, you don’t always have time to think.”

The Cowboy (knock on wood) still has both thumbs.  But, he says, he’s probably got 5 or 6 friends that are missing theirs.

Like most other athletes though, with any given sports injury .. this particular cowboy along with every other thumbless friend, has gotten right back on that horse.

Is back in the box.

And is giving .. another nod.

Holding onto my thumbs, for now .. (catch up post from the weekend)

I love learning something new each day.  I love getting my hands dirty, getting involved, putting myself in situations that challenge me and make me think about who I really am and what I am capable of or able to do.

But there are also many times where I thoroughly appreciate learning something through the eyes of others and sharing their stories.

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The owner of the ranch hosting the Cowboy’s roping clinic had this past Sunday asked if I wanted to ride as they were all roping in the arena, and said it’d be a favor to him if I’d run one of his.

So I did.  A little bit.

And it didn’t take long for the Cowboy to ask a question I knew would be coming.

“Want to chase a steer?” he says to me.

He’s been after me to give roping a try .. which I’d love to.  And I’ve tried my hand at it, very meagerly, on the ground, a few times.

But I’m thinking I need like a year or two, where I can take off of work entirely and do nothing more than rope, to have all that much fun with it.  And more importantly, not injure anyone including myself.

It’s an incredibly acquired skill.  And while I consider myself blessed to be able to pick up most things quite easily…

This is one sport where I’m concerned I might lose a thumb.  (Which isn’t all that uncommon, apparently.)  Get completely tossed and break a limb.  Maim or plow over the steer because I didn’t better ‘steer’ my horse.  Or quite possibly, severely injure the person I would otherwise be roping with.  Like throw the rope around them .. and pull.

That .. would .. be .. bad.

“No thanks,” I replied to the Cowboy kind of chuckling under my breath.

The horse I was on would have loved nothing more than to rope that day, too and he was trying to let me know in no uncertain terms he was ancy to get to work doing what all his buddies were.  All he wanted to do is run.  Fast.  And chase more than the air I was giving him up and down the other side of the arena in-between the guys running the steers.

(All my own horse ever wants to do is walk, maybe trot.  She fights me to get her to lope.  But we’re working on that.  It would help if I would get out to ride her more often.  That’s a whole other story.)

“C’mon,” said the Cowboy.  “Just chase one out, see what it feels like, you don’t have to even have a rope” he added, as he walked me over and into the ‘box’.  I tried backing Roper in, kind of.  Didn’t feel good about it.  And walked him out.

“Not ready for that,” I nervously smiled and said to the Cowboy.  He laughed.

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‘What is it, about roping that has so many people seemingly addicted to it,’ I asked the Cowboy Sunday night after we had both returned home, my daughter was asleep in bed and I had originally sat down to write this.

“It’s competitive,” he replied.  “And it’s kind of addicting.  Rodeo is addicting.  The people, the competition.  The gambling.  It’s like gambling, only you have some control over it.”

He laughed.

“Well, in theory you do.  Have control over it.  You put the money up and you win if you do well.  But you have two horses, two cowboys and one steer.  A lot can go wrong with that.  But if it goes right, it’s great.”

The Cowboy used to practice two to three hours a day .. and have a ranking most others strive for, I believe.

While he’s removed himself the past couple years through life changes from the rodeo circuit for the most part .. and says he doesn’t miss the 10 hour drive to get somewhere, the money it takes on gas and to enter, having to win and knowing if he didn’t the truck payment wouldn’t get made that month ..

He still loves the sport.

And says one of his favorite things now, is helping others learn.

Learn how to get along better with their horse .. how to use their rope better .. how to win more when they do enter.

This past weekend must have been a win for everyone .. because there’s already an invite for next year’s clinic.  Same time .. same place ..

Next clinic:  next weekend in Wisconsin.

(And I’m thinking I might put down the camera long enough to try a little ground work with the rope, get going on that yearlong or lifelong project to learn this sport, myself.)