Pushing the Barrier

It’s Time For The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo!

Speed WilliamsIt’s very likely the WNFR is going on while you’re reading this. People ask all the time if I miss competing at the NFR. Without question, I miss the adrenaline rush that comes from backing in the box, with packed stands, and roping for so much money. There’s no way to explain what that feels like.
What most people don’t realize is the amount of sacrifice and commitment it takes to get to that moment. There are many sleepless nights and miles of driving expensive rigs that haul horses that can cost a much as a starter home. There are so many things that must be done all year in order to get to the finals and have a chance to win $100,000 and a world championship.
Though grateful for the opportunity, this particular ten-day span is anything but a vacation. During the NFR, contestants are busy during the days fulfilling commitments to their sponsors for autograph sessions and appearances. There is lots of visiting and handshaking with fans and long lost friends. Many guys keep their horses off grounds where they can practice and have access to nicer stalls. Then they have to haul their horses to the rodeo through the traffic, which is nuts from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. I always tried to have my horse on the grounds by 4 p.m. and to be on the grounds myself an hour before the performance. Sometimes, if I was lucky, I could catch a fifteen-minute nap in an effort to unwind.
Team ropers get a chance to run the steers through at the Thomas & Mack a day or so before the rodeo starts. We would video the steers and keep a list of what each steer did. Every night I would find out the steer I’d drawn and then watch him go on video. Steers don’t always make the same run, but it’s important to have an educated guess of what to expect and be able to overcome any bad habits they might have.
The first year I went to the NFR and didn’t compete, I didn’t really enjoy being there and didn’t want to watch. Last year, however, there were so many guys wearing a speedroping.com patch that it was exciting for me. It meant a lot that my peers were willing to help promote my business. Sitting in the stands, texting and talking to them every night is a big rush. It’s exciting to see what their mindset is.
One of the hardest things to overcome at the NFR is getting off to a bad start, which I’m famous for. I don’t wish that to happen to anyone, but it does and it’s interesting to see guys overcome it. The whole world is watching and you need to be able to deal with and fix your problems. You have 23 hours and 59 minutes to dwell on what you did wrong, overcome it and turn it into a positive. Usually the guys who let the previous night’s mistakes affect them will endure some grief. Probably the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me was getting my rope under my horse’s tail. This was caused by a mistake on my part and almost cost us a world championship. But, I got it out and we were able to place in the average and ultimately win the world title.
Without a doubt one of the most stressful parts of competing at the NFR is trying to field hundreds of calls from people who want tickets to the rodeo. This year I’m in the same boat. Being an 8-time world champion doesn’t mean anything when it comes to getting tickets. I try not to bother the guys roping because I remember the drama it caused me.
Speedroping.com will have a booth at the South Point so I will be there for the World Series of Team Roping Finals. Any of my subscribers competing need to stop by the booth and pick up some patches. We will have a random drawing for subscribers where we will give away a new Hot Heels roping machine. You can also subscribe at the booth. Please don’t forget to wear a patch while you’re roping – no patch, no prize – even if you’re name is drawn. Feel free to stop by the booth and visit. Good luck to everyone roping at the NFR and the World Series.
What’s new with me:  Yesterday was exciting at the Williams ranch. I had a deal with my seven-year old daughter, Hali, that when she caught five steers in a row she would be allowed to turn off. She’s been working on it for a couple of months and yesterday was the day. I would have been happy if she didn’t turn any until she was nine or ten but she worked very hard at it and I have to keep my word. I have to admit I was pretty nervous and will be for some time. When you are dealing with animals and people, anything can happen and you have to be willing to deal with it.
We now have over 1,250 videos online with over 1,000,000 watched. Recent videos include practices with Jade Corkill, Brad Culpepper and Kaleb Driggers. Quite a few guys are supposed to come rope before the NFR. We video this practice and I break down the runs in slow motion. Stop by speedroping.com and see what’s new.
I will be staying at the MGM during the NFR. If you need accommodations during the NFR, you can visit speedroping.com and click on the MGM link to get a special rate.

Schools & The USTRC Finals

Speed Williams

Pushing the Barrier – November 2011

Rich Skelton and I have been teaching a few schools lately. Recently we had a school in Amarillo and one at Rich’s house in Llano. We have a school in Elk City, OK this weekend, and one in Idaho the first week in November.
We have made a significant change in our schools where the first thing we do is film students roping steers. Then we stop and watch it on a television to show people what they are doing wrong. This is so much more effective than explaining what they did wrong after their run is finished. This way they don’t have to try and process the information, they can see it themselves and know immediately what we’re explaining. Using this method has made a huge difference in how quickly people improve.
Video cameras and video technology have improved tremendously in the last four or five years. The biggest improvement is the ability to freeze-frame in high quality letting us be more effective teachers. We can freeze-frame or slow down the video and show students in great detail exactly what’s happening and how to fix it.
The number of people who have never watched themselves rope on film is amazing to me. Many of these people have roped for more than twenty years. I have used a video camera as tool since I was 14 or 15. The quality was not particularly good back then, but it was still a valuable tool.
If you are going to spend your time, effort and money roping, you need to take the time to film yourself and watch it. This way you can see what you and your horse are doing and where you need to improve. It is incredibly hard to be aware and able to pin point this while making a run. Seeing it with your own eyes makes all the difference in the world. If you are serious about improving your roping, this is one of the most valuable tools you can use.
What’s new with me:  This week we’re headed to Oklahoma City and the USTRC Finals. I have a terrific opportunity for speedroping.com subscribers. We will have a drawing for a complete NFR package that includes two tickets for the last five performances to this year’s NFR, along with a suite at the MGM Grand Hotel.
To qualify for this drawing, you need to be a speedroping.com subscriber and wear a speedroping.com patch while competing. To subscribe to our site and/or pick up your patch stop by our booth located in the coliseum, between the Hot Heels and Priefert booths near the concession stand. The drawing will take place on Sunday, right after the #8 roping starts. You do not have to be present to win. Subscribers will also be eligible for the drawing for a private school at my house.
At speedroping.com, we now have 1,170 videos online and have crossed the 1,000,000 videos watched mark. It is a very exciting milestone for me. Please feel free to stop by our booth at the USTRC Finals.

A New Rope From Fast Back: Redline

Fast Back Ropes is excited to announce an addition to their arsenal of premier ropes.  The new Redline will be available for purchase in stores October 1, 2011.
Fast Back has enjoyed an overwhelming response to their last rope released in 2010, the Natural. The Natural was built with a slightly deader feel than other Fast Back ropes, and an accented tip feel. All feedback indicates that ropers love the Natural. There are some who crave a lighter, snappier version of this best seller, so master rope-maker, Al Benson, started development on a new rope based on these requests. After months of testing, the Redline was born.
The Redline is a nylon-poly blend that is red in color. The Redline is slightly smaller and lighter than the Natural with some of the same desirable characteristics that make the Natural so popular.
“We anticipate the Redline will appeal to both headers and heelers,” explains Al Benson. “This rope is made with a unique poly fiber developed specifically for the Redline.”
The Redline will be available in stores October 1, 2011.


The USTRC Finals, the biggest event of the year for most ropers, is just around the corner and being properly prepared is key to roping well and winning. There are a number of things you need to make sure are in order. Make sure your horse is recently and properly shod so that you don’t have to hunt for a farrier at the finals. Make a trip to the vet so your horse is current on his shots and coggins. Have the vet check him over to make sure he’s not sore anywhere.
Making sure your horse is physically ready is just one part of being prepared. Now, how are you practicing? Are you doing things that will benefit you when you rope in Oklahoma City? Make sure the steers you practice on are not slow and worn out because that’s not what you will be roping at the finals. You need to be ready to rope when you get there and have control of your horse.
The worst thing you can do is to practice a lot on the horse you’ll be competing on. I see many people make this mistake of practicing too much at home where things are going well, but when they get to the finals their horse doesn’t work the same. Don’t run too many on him in the practice pen at one time. If your horse is sore or tired he will not be able to perform like he did at home.
Practice and prepare at home so that your horse is performing at peak and working well when you compete. There are many drills you can do at home that will give you a better chance to win once you get there. Check out my videos on getting your rope up, swinging your rope, riding your horse across the line and how to prepare your horse at my website at speedroping.com. Studying these will help you prepare. You have to remember, not only do you have to be prepared, but your horse must also be prepared.
Remember, it’s not about roping well in the practice pen. It’s about you and your horse preparing in the practice pen so you can rope well when you leave home. I’ve spent my entire life preparing to perform to the best of my ability so that when I left home my odds of performing well were high.
I didn’t start off winning when I went pro. There’s much to be learned from your failures. It’s just that wins receive much more publicity.  You must realize the importance of practicing correctly at home if you’re going to have a chance to succeed during competition where you’ll have obstacles to overcome. Most people that put up money and rope at the USTRC Finals can catch if they draw well. But, what if you don’t? You need to be able to overcome circumstances like steers that don’t start, steers that slow down or run left.
Proper preparation includes reserving stalls and having plenty of shavings in them to prevent your horse from having to stand on concrete for days. You should have your truck and trailer maintained and ready to go. Another consideration is your ropes. I’ll have ropes on hand in a variety of lays, from XXS to Soft. You never know beforehand if it’s going to be 80 degrees or 30 degrees when you get to Oklahoma City, and that makes a major difference in how your ropes feel.
There is so much preparation involved in making a winning run. You need to make sure you have taken every step necessary. Throughout my career I have had many failures and it makes the drive home much better if I realize, as I go through my mental checklist, that I didn’t overlook anything.








Pushing the Barrier by Speed Williams – July 2010

The Handle

Handling steers is one of the most important factors that allow headers to be successful. There are two common scenarios that prevent good handles. One is where the head horse drops his left shoulder and ducks, going left really hard. This causes the steer to jerk away from the heeler and his back end to be wild making him difficult to heel. The other scenario is when the head horse doesn’t respond to the bridle, or is weak, and doesn’t have control of the steer’s head. Here the steer seems to drift down the arena and the heeler ends up inside and has to throw over the steer’s hip where the right front leg is blocking entry of the heel loop.
There are many headers who reach and have acquired good range with their rope but still don’t realize how important it is to protect the heeler and keep the steer’s feet together. The header’s job is to get it on as fast as you can and to give their heeler the best throw possible.
Most jackpot headers who set up their runs and have a lot of steers caught behind them are very disciplined. They understand the importance of taking care of their heeler and setting up the run where the heeler can finish fast. There are a lot of headers who complain that their heelers can’t catch. If you consistently have heelers who can’t catch behind you, take a good look at you and your horse to see what’s causing it, especially if they’re catching for other headers.
The art of handling a steer is to get control of his head as smoothly as possible without breaking stride or changing speed. When I started heading I was taught to slow a steer down and hop him off and that is still widely taught today. The problem with this is once a heeler picks up the bridle reins, he loses all the momentum he had going down the arena. When heelers have to pull on the reins, they quit swinging their rope as fast and when the steer takes off again they have to start over from scratch. Heelers rope better when they can keep speed on their rope. Once they have to pull back a lot of things can happen: their swing goes to the right, it slows down, they lean forward, and all of these can make getting the heel rope under the steer more difficult.
You want to handle the steer smoothly in full stride and come back towards the heading box in a 10 to 15 degree angle. This angle allows for better entry of the heel loop. I learned this heading for Clay O’Brien Cooper.



Pushing the Barrier by Speed Williams – May 2010

The difference between being fast and just catching

There are two very different styles of headers. One is the catcher who scores well, usually rides a nice horse, doesn’t miss much, seldom breaks the barrier, sets up his runs and wins by being consistent and not making mistakes.
The second style is a reacher who hits the barrier line, has lots of rope ability, possibly does not own a really nice horse and has learned to use his ability to overcome the lack of a good horse. This guy wins a lot of day monies and if he wins at a jackpot he wins first. But he’s not very consistent and makes a lot of mistakes.
When I started heading these were the two groups that most people fit in. There were guys that could catch and win and then the guys who could reach but struggled at the long score set ups.
When I was growing up and my dad was training a heel horse, he wanted the steers turned in the first forty feet of the arena. It didn’t matter what the steer was like, that’s where he wanted them turned and so I learned to rope fast. But when a customer was trying a heel horse, I was supposed to go catch, handle the steer and set things up for the heeler. That was good for me because it gave me a taste of both worlds – I had to be able to rope fast and also learned to go catch. If I missed when heading for a customer my dad would give me a look that did far more than any lecture and words spoken – so I tried very hard never to miss.
One of the reasons most guys from the east can reach is because of all the short score rodeos where they have to be some kind of four to win anything. Consequently they have a lot of range with their rope. The west brings more catchers because of the 18’ to 25’ feet boxes where they have to let the steer out and go run him down. That’s the way it is everywhere they go and they don’t get a chance to work on the short scores.
I recognized these different styles and realized very few people excelled at both.
That’s the problem with the two meeting in the middle. The east doesn’t have many long score rodeos and when those guys go out west they’re out of their element. It’s two totally different styles of roping. Everything about it is different and that’s why a lot of people struggle at being successful at both.
It’s important to be able to change your style and adapt to the situation. When you need to catch, use a smaller loop and run closer to the steer and let your horse do all the work. Your horse will dictate whether you win or lose.
To be fast, you’re going to hit the barrier, then fire and reach to where ever the steer is. You won’t rely on your horse’s speed as much but on how much control you have so he doesn’t duck. You’ll rely more on your arm and less on your horse and need to be able to operate in a small arena.
These are the two major heading styles that win. One is controlled and consistent; the other is creating your shot and being fast.
What’s new with me: I now have over 100 videos on my website and am continuing to add training videos regularly. We’re working on a classified section where folks will be able to upload video of horses they have for sale. The response has been great and I’m pretty excited. Most recently I’ve added videos from the USTRC roping in San Antonio, and rodeos in Austin and Corpus Christi where you can see how I competed in different situations. If you’ve never been to my website at speedroping.com, there are over 25 free videos to watch that may help your roping.


Pushing the Barrier 

by Speed Williams ~ April 2010

The Great Heading Debate

One of the biggest debates concerning heading is whether to rope both horns at the same time or rope horns from right to left.
If you’re going to run close, it’s better to have a little right to left with your delivery. This allows you to use a smaller loop while still covering a bigger area. When you run close and rope both horns at the same time, you will likely split horns, figure-eight a front leg or wave your rope off.
If you’re going to rope from 10, 12 feet or further back from the steer then you should rope both horns at the same time. When throwing from a distance you have to rope both horns at the same time – roping right to left will not work. One drawback to roping both horns at the same time is the odds of catching your steer if he moves to the left decrease dramatically. 
When I first started heading there were guys that ran up close to the steer and caught and then there were guys who reached all the time. There were only a few that did both and for that reason most people taught either one way or the other. The key to be being a successful header is to be able to do both.
What’s new with me: I’ve just gotten back from the George Strait Team Roping and have posted my runs on my site at speedwilliamsteamroping.com. Clay Cooper and I made two 3.73-second runs there that you can view. We now have 70 videos on the site and are adding more all the time. I’m getting some good feedback from subscribers.

Pushing the Barrier Archive


Nov ~ A New Job