A cowboy, or a cowgirl, can make a pretty good living team roping.
Clay Tryan and Travis Tryan have both cleared $1 million in career earnings, with Clay Tryan winning world titles in 2005 and 2013.
But after factoring in entry fees, fuel costs, feed and everything else associated with hauling high-money horses around the United States and Canada, the definition of how good a living changes.
Then the list gets a little shorter.
Ty Yost would like to add a few more names to the register.
Names of competitors who maybe prefer to rope more for fun rather than business.
Team roping is big. It’s been rodeo’s fastest growing event for the past past two decades.
Along with the better-known sanctioning bodies of rodeo, there are all kinds of organizations devoted strictly to team roping.
Every year, stories emerge of competitors winning more than $100,000 at the George Strait team roping event in Texas or the Bob Feist Invitational in Reno, Nev.
Those are usually the same cowboys who are roping at the Thomas and Mack Arena every December in Las Vegas.
Yost wants to help the other ropers.
“The idea is to give amateur ropers big opportunities to get big money,” said the Billings native.
With that idea, Yost has created the National Team Roping Tour.
Yost has been around team roping all his life. His family has been staging team roping events at their place in Billings for as long as he can remember. The Billings West High School graduate has also done some work for the Professional Bull Riders and for a stretch of years, was the producer of the Northern Rodeo Association/
Northern Women’s Rodeo Association Finals when it was held annually in Billings.
Lately, he’s been putting on weekly team roping events in Wickenburg, Ariz.
“If you look at it, about 50 to 60 ropers really making a good living,” Yost said. “We want to gear this toward the amateur and novice ropers.”
Ropers are classified by numbers for events. The better the roper, the higher the number assigned.
“There are the top guys (above five), but I’d say 85 percent of the ropers are rated five or below. We want to give more opportunities to the low number ropers.”
Yost just staged the Billy King Memorial in Sheridan, Wyo., this past Sunday and the Fuddrucker’s All-Amateur Roping will be this weekend at his parents’ place in Billings.
The National Team Roping Tour currently has events scheduled in eight different states.
“We’re constantly adding events,” he said.
To spur entries during the inaugural season, the new tour features the National 9, a chance for ropers to earn $100,000.
With a $100 entry fee per roper, the top three teams qualify from each tour event for the National Team Roping Tour Finale, scheduled for 2015 in Phoenix. Their entry fees will already be covered for the event.
“The low-number ropers have been our best customer for the last five years,” said Yost. “We just want to give them more opportunities.”
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Kaley Bass had qualified for three National Finals Rodeos.
Entering July, a fourth was looking like a long shot.
The young Florida barrel racer was barely among the top 40 in the world standings as “Cowboy Christmas” approached.
Now, in a two-week span, she’s guaranteed herself another trip to the NFR in Las Vegas.
Bass, and her horse Cowboy, earned $29,000 – the most for any barrel racer – during the frenetic Fourth of July run. That was enough to pull her to 15th in the standings, the last qualifying spot for the NFR.
This past Sunday, by one-hundredth of a second, a blink of an eye, Bass won the $100,000 bonus round at the Calgary Stampede.
The last racer out, she won in 17.61 seconds, edging past Fallon Taylor and Jean Winters.
Bass earned $115,000 north of the border, $65,000 which the WPRA is allowing to count in the world standings.
She is 16th this week. When the Calgary money is added, she will jump to the top spot.
Other $100,000 winners at Calgary were: Kaycee Feild, bareback; Dustin Flundra, saddle bronc; Scott Schiffner, bull riding; Trevor Knowles, steer wrestling; Morgan Grant, tie-down roping.
Schiffner, of Strathmore, Alberta, also won the bonus round in 2001, while Grant also tied for second in steer wrestling. Flundra and Wade Sundell had to have an additional ride off after posting identical 89-point scores in the round. Flundra was 87.5 on his second ride of the day, while Sundell was 86.
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Two-time world champion steer wrestler Lee Graves of Canada endured a terrifying night on July 9 when his truck and trailer, containing his three horses, was stolen outside his hotel room in Black Diamond, Alberta.
Graves told Royal Canadian Mounted Police that he parked his rig beside the hotel that night but noticed it was missing when he came out an hour later.
The police and Graves searched the area before Graves spotted it in town.
According to a PRCA release, Graves climbed aboard the running board of the truck and pleaded with the driver to stop before something happened and the horses were injured. The driver sped away and crashed into a barrier, throwing Graves off. Police located the truck and trailer in Turner Valley with all three horses still inside. The RCMP said the horses were distraught and sustained cuts and bruises from being bounced around during the crash. A canine team eventually found the driver and he was arrested.