Catching Corriente steers by their two back legs is the profession of Jake Long.
But, like all jobs, it requires lots of hard work and practice.
Just two days before Christmas, Long was back at his ranch home near Coffeyville, Kansas, taking it a bit easier, anticipating traditional Christmas Eve at his nearby grandpa Marvin Long’s place, and then other holiday get-togethers and relaxation.
It’s a well-deserved break for Jake Long, 27, a Coffeyville native, after returning from his second successful competition in the team roping on the heeling-end at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
Yet, the leisure time will be short-lived as Long has to head back on the rodeo and teaming roping trail within a few days.
“I rodeo full time, even though I have been taking it easy since the finals, and there won’t be too many rodeos during January,” Long said.
When Long claims to “take a couple of months off,” it’s a real misnomer.
“I still have to practice. Really, we practice more in the off-months than we do when we’re on the road,” Long admitted.
This could be as few as a dozen-and-a-half practice runs a day, but in reality it’s often a lot more than that. “That actually depends how things are going. Sometimes, we’ll run 50-60 steers a day,” Long said.
It’s the practice that pays off when the going gets tough, though.
After his second year at the National Finals Rodeo, Long returned $49,903 richer than when he’d left the Kansas ranch two weeks earlier.
Teaming with Brady Tryan of Huntley, Montana, as his header, Long collected that much money in Las Vegas with his lariat, not on the slot machines or card tables.
After having “no times” on the first and third go-rounds, plus failing to have fast-enough times in the second and fourth go-rounds to place and win money, Long and Tryan stretched a steer in 5.3-seconds, good enough for sixth place in the fifth go-round, worth $2,884 each.
The 3.9-seconds run in the sixth-round tied to split fourth and fifth places, and each collected a $6,057 check.
Their 3.8-seconds stop-on-the-clock placed second and added $14,134 to their individual pocketbooks in round seven.
Best run of their finals rodeo was 3.7-seconds that placed the Long-Tryan team first in round eight and their biggest single personal checks of $17,884.
The cowboys each pocketed another $4,615 for the fifth place run of 3.9-seconds in the ninth-round, but they were unable to complete a qualified run on the final steer.
After tabulations were completed, Long and Tryan ended up eighth in the average of the ten go-rounds with 15 teams, and added another $4,326 to each of their take-home totals.
Long was ninth-place among heelers, while Tryan was ninth-place header, in year-end standings of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for 2011, with total earnings of $129,060, each.
Most folks would consider that a good income for chasing about 80 steers across arenas.
Conceding he’d liked for it to be more dollars and higher placings, Long admitted: “All in all, it was a good year.”
However, there were lots of expenses, miles of travel and time-on-the-road to get where Long got.
The 70 regular-season rodeos took Long all across the country, and he had to haul his horse with him to every one of those rodeos.
“I’m blessed to have a great horse, a 12-year-old sorrel gelding I call Mikey, named after my cousin Mike White who passed away in 2008. I have to attribute a lot of my success to my horse. He’s really patterned and quite dependable,” Long credited.
However, Long is about as equally appreciative of his back-up horse, an eight-year-old sorrel called Colonel. “He’s a good horse too, and I use him a lot for practice and at jackpots,” Long added.
In addition to hitting the professional rodeo circuit full time, Long sneaks in local jackpot team ropings as well as United States Team Roping Circuit events.
“I’ll usually get to about a dozen USTRC ropings, plus its finals every year, too,” Long said.
Major 2011 winnings at professional rodeos for Long, with Tryan as his partner, included first at the Justin Boots Playoffs in Puyallup, Washington, the Southwestern International Rodeo, El Paso, Texas, and the Parker County Frontier Days Rodeo in Weatherford, Texas.
In addition, the team split first place at the Livingston, Montana, Round-Up Rodeo.
This was Long’s second year at the Las Vegas finals after placing in five of 10 rounds in his debut appearance there in 2010, with Tryan as his header. They won the fourth round in 3.5 seconds, as well as the seventh round with a 3.9 seconds run.
Long was sixth in the 2010 world heeling standings winning a total of $160,907.
With Coleman Proctor of Miami, Oklahoma, as his partner, Long was 43rd in the world in 2009, 39th in 2006, and 24th in 2007.
During those years, Long won professional rodeos in the following Kansas communities: Hardtner, Tonganoxie, Mound City (twice), Wichita, Coffeyville, and Abbyville.
Long was the champion heeler in the Prairie Circuit of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for 2008.
Another major accomplishment in Long’s career came last year when he and Proctor, who’s been a partner and friend since teenage days, beat 468 teams to win the George Strait Team Roping Classic during March in San Antonio with a time of 14.93 seconds on three head. Each won $79,815, plus prizes including a truck and horse trailer.
A two-time qualifier for the Dodge National Circuit Finals rodeo in both 2007and 2009, Long won that prestigious competition in 2007.
Joining the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 2003, Long’s professional rodeo career earnings now total S496,697.
“I’ve been riding horses and roping ever since I can remember,” said Long, who competed in junior, high school, and college rodeos en route to his professional career.
“My Dad (Crickett Long), who runs the wild horse herd now at the Mullendore Ranch near Copan, Kansas, has always been a team roper, and continues to go to some jackpots, but not as many as he used to,” Long related.
“Mom (Pam Weatherby of Coffeyville) is a school teacher and still barrel races at amateur rodeos. She was really good to haul me to all of those rodeos when I was growing up,” Long credited.
Active in the Oklahoma High School Rodeo Association, Long qualified for the National High School Rodeo Finals, one year.
Then, attending Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva, Long was on the rodeo team there and also qualified for the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Finals.
It was at college when Long met his wife, Tasha, and they were married in 2005, with their first child, a daughter, Haven, born in 2008.
While he’s tried his hand at calf roping, Long has really never had any other event interests except team roping.
“I’m a heeler, and that’s what I’ve always been and probably always will continue to be,” Long emphasized.
“I have done some heading, and I’ll head occasionally at small jackpots,” Long admitted. “Dad needed a heeler, when I was starting out, and that’s what I did. It’s easier for me than heading. Heeling just seems more natural.”
Future of rodeo is optimistic, according to Long. “The prize money is continuing to increase, so cowboys can make a career out of rodeo,” he surmised.
Team roping, however, is not just a rodeo event, Long evaluated.
“It’s just a good sport that anybody who likes horses and livestock can participate in,” Long recognized. “I consider team roping more of a mental sport than a physical one, like the rough stock events, or even other rodeo timed competitions.
“You can start team roping when you’re just a kid and continue to team rope as long as you can ride a horse.
“I plan to team rope professionally as long as I can do it profitably, but I’ll still team rope at jackpots and for the fun of it the rest of my life. At least, that’s my plan,” Long commented.
Teamwork is the main requirement for team roping, and Long is complimentary and appreciative of the headers he’s roped with throughout his career.
He’ll be partnering with Chad Masters of Clarksville, Tennessee, as his header during the 2012 season.
What’s the game plan?
“We intend to go to all of the big rodeos, win some of them, qualify for the National Finals Rodeo, and be the next world champions,” Long analyzed.