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Rope Like a Girl

A lifelong rider, Lari Dee Guy has made her way as a champion roper, expert trainer and renowned clinician. Based in Abilene, Texas, the 39-year-old works hard to never give up a competitive advantage.

Growing up on my parents’ ranch in Abilene, I could do everything my brother, Tommy, could do. He was three years older than me, but when we were really young, that didn’t matter in the arena—I could stick with him steer for steer, calf for calf. As we got older, though, I started to notice Tommy beating me in things he didn’t used to. He could tie his calves faster and spin a steer quicker.

Early on, I started thinking about how I could overcome his strength and his speed in the arena. I’m a realist, and I know sports that involve strength and endurance give men the edge. Because of this, women have to use other avenues to overcome those challenges. I say challenges, not obstacles, because they really should just push us to work harder rather than get in our way. We’ve got to use our brains and the skills God gave us to improve and to compete in a guy’s world.

Three things I learned in my parents’ arena roping against Tommy all those years ago have stuck with me to this day: physical work ethic, horsemanship and mental preparation.

Get Physical
When girls and boys start in the junior rodeos, the girls are on par with the boys. But as boys and girls hit puberty, the boys seem to jump from #3s to #7s in team roping’s TRIAD handicap numbering system, where the girls might go from a #3 to a #4 or maybe a #5 by the time they move out of junior rodeo. Strength has a lot to do with that. No woman has moved passed a #7, and physical strength is the biggest factor.

When a man picks up a rope, he can swing it with his forearm. A woman almost uses her whole body to get the rope going. Women want to lean and use their entire body to compensate for a perceived lack of strength. By working on physical strength in your hand’s grip, your arms and your shoulders, you can make up a lot of ground. Making yourself as physically fit as you can really makes a difference in the roping pen.

To enhance your physical fitness, you must practice with purpose every time you back into the box or swing a rope. Every swing counts. Once you have the basics down, it’s about quality of practice, not quantity.

Quality practice means going at it with the right frame of mind. You should not feel obligated to go to the practice pen—it needs to be something you want to do. Quality practice doesn’t mean being hard on yourself and not accepting mistakes. But when you focus on what you’re supposed to be doing right, and you’re truly working at each swing, each score and each move of your horse, that’s quality practice. It’s got to be a good time, but it’s got to be focused, too. The fresher I am mentally, the sharper my practice and the more I accomplish.

Horsemanship Matters
Additionally, your horse must be as fit as he needs to be. He needs to be working at the top of his game. He needs to score like a statue, leave flat, run hard and stay in there as long as you need him to.

Horsemanship is an area where women can truly excel in roping sports. Horses have a brain, and they have reasoning. A woman’s ability to reason with them a little bit makes a huge difference. Giving the horse a chance to work with you, and not just making him do something, makes a woman’s job a lot easier.

Like scoring: I’ve never had a horse that I’ve forced to score actually score well consistently. If I show him how and taught him to do it, and then give him the opportunity to score, he’s scored. I can’t make them do it. It’s not long lasting.

When we take the chance to get to know a horse, and to know how to get them to do what we need them to without forcing it on them, we can get ahead in our horsemanship. I compete against the guys at the jackpots all year, and what keeps me in the mix is my horses’ longevity. Throughout a roping, my horses stay consistent. I’m in control of their faces, their shoulders, their hips—my horses are not cheating me.

Mental Game
If you’ve put in the quality time in the practice pen, know you’re strong and your horses are working honest, your mental preparedness should really take care of itself.

I try not to think about the competition, ever. No matter how loud the music is or how tough the competition is, I can only do what I can do and accomplish what I can accomplish with what I have. If they run the wrong steer in there, I can’t do more than I’m capable of. The first thing that goes through my mind before I go into the box is to go make my run. I’ve prepared the best way I can, so all that’s left to do is to play ball.

And playing ball, whether it’s at a weekday jackpot or at a finale with $100,000 on the line, means going at it with everything I have. Everything I have comes from the work in the gym and the arena, the finesse of my horses, and a clear mind. To compete in this man’s world, we’ve got to be on top of our games. And it’s strength, horsemanship and mental toughness that make that possible.

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