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Taking the Best Advice from Different Disciplines: PRCA 2018 World Champion Clay Smith

We may ride in different saddles, but we all mount from the same side.

We have all witnessed the diverse talents of our fellow riders as they strive to perfect and compete in their desired sport. The vast equine disciplines are countless, but the respect we hold for the rider and horse is all the same.

It takes an open mind to look beyond the stereotypes that each style has, and if we could take the most beneficial advice from these disciplines and apply the techniques to our riding and horses, in doing so, we’d create an unbeatable horse and rider team in any class in any show ring.

Roping in the show pen?

What words of wisdom and horse training tips could a four-time NFR qualifier and the PRCA 2018 World Champion header possibly give to the horse show enthusiast?

Clay Smith, a 25-year-old cowboy from Broken Bow, Oklahoma, now holds that impressive title. His natural horsemanship has deep family roots as his parents, Mark and Tammy Smith shared their passion for roping and had him swinging a lariat at two-years-old and entering dummy ropings from Columbus, Ohio to Las Vegas, Nevada, at only four years of age.

Following in their big brother’s footsteps, Jake 23, and Britt 17, continue to fill their family ranch and home with over 1,500 belt buckles and 200 champion saddles, with those numbers still climbing…not to mention, the big checks these skilled ropers cash in.

Clay and Jake at the ages of seven and five, appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to show off their champion dummy roping talents. Between the ages of 11 and 15, Clay had won three trucks, all before he was even old enough to drive.

Work and Practice – Hard to Relax

When we asked Clay Smith to share some valuable tips of his roping trade, he told us, “You have to spend a lot of time with your horse inside and outside the arena. You can’t ask any horse to be focused on their job 24/7; they will burn out and lose their fresh edge.” Smith added, “They need the reward of doing something they enjoy just as much as we do.”

Whenever Clay feels his horse is struggling with the pressures of practice or the demanding rodeo schedule, he asks his wife Taylor to go on a relaxing trail ride and even lets her spoil the horse a bit. Smith stated, “A mental break is just as crucial as a physical one. Getting your mind away from the job and your horse out of the arena to focus on something different is so important.”

If you want a quiet horse at a horse show, make a lot of noise at home

This champion header puts his horses in every possible situation at home that they will face at rodeos. Smith’s advice on getting a no-drama horse is to haul it to as many events as you can. If he has an empty stall in his trailer, he fills it with a young prospect for exposure.

“It may take years to get a handle on the uncontrollable circumstances we deal with because rodeos are unpredictably intense,” Clay told us. “Getting them to trust you is one of the hardest things to do, but when you have your horse’s attention and have them making a solid effort to stay motivated on their job, nothing should shake your performance.”

Smith also stated, “You need to know your horse’s weak spots so you can spend time strengthening them.” He also mentioned, “finding out what triggers your horse’s nerves will tell you exactly what they need to work through.”

A Roping Run with a “No Time” and a Class with “No Ribbon” Carries the Same Disappointment

When Smith and his partner have a rough run and leave the arena with a no time-no score, he allows himself ten minutes to cope with the frustration and recover from the loss. Then, with his partner, they work together to figure out what went wrong and support each other to get better before the next rodeo.

Clay said, “Understanding mistakes and learning from them will force you to look beyond the disappointment.” He uses these opportunities to regain momentum and put in the needed effort to overcome any weakness of their rides.

There are many lessons to be learned and hours needed in the saddle, whether you ride with a lariat rope aiming for the steer’s horns or perform for judges in a show arena.

A few highlights from a world champion roper that carry over into the show circuit, no matter what classes you enter:

-There will be hardships and rewards with any riding sport

-Letting your horse know you appreciate their work ethic with a relaxing trail ride is a great idea

-Knowing your horse in any situation is vital

-Never dwell on a mistake for more than ten minutes

-Realizing a loss is just as meaningful as a win, hopefully, will put things into perspective and help re-prioritize your show goals and reroute your practices

About the Author: Laura Boynton’s steadfast love for animals started as a young child and continues to a big part of her life today. Being a veterinary technician for over fifteen years, she now spends her days managing Casalae Farms, an equine boarding, and training facility in Traverse City, Michigan where she was born and raised. Laura shows in the all-around classes with her two mares, Good Chip Happens, and Just A Good Lady.