It takes a herd to make a successful team roper – a herd of
horses, friends and family, and mentors
Along with hard work and determination, it takes a herd to make a successful team roper – a herd of horses, friends and family, and mentors – just ask Charly Crawford.
He has qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) three times in the heading and is on his way to his fourth this December. Along the way, he has been underneath a horse as nearly as much as he’s been on top of one, shoeing to make money for entry fees. He has also ridden outside horses and done whatever it took to realize his goals.
Crawford grew up splitting time between his mom and dad’s. His mother, a hairdresser in Canby, Ore., did all she could to support her son and in Charly’s opinion, probably spoiled him. His dad worked at a power company in Portland, was a horse shoer and rode bareback horses and roped.
Traveling to rodeos with his father instilled a love of the sport from the get go. He started competing in dummy roping and when he was on a horse, there would be a challenge among his friends for a horse race. That led to roping.
“Before long, you win your first buckle, win your first saddle and then, it’s all you want to do,” Crawford said.
While roping was all he wanted to do, initially people tried to discourage him telling him there was no future in it. That made Crawford more determined than ever. He won the Oregon State High School Rodeo Association team roping title in 1996, the same year he bought his permit in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). That led to college, first at Lewis-Clark College (Lewiston, Idaho), then on to Central Arizona State University (Casa Grande).
He spent his summers in Oregon and after college came back to his home state. He spent his time at the Crossley home in Hermiston where Shane Crossley became Crawford’s first team roping mentor.
“Shane was like a second dad to me,” Crawford said. “After high school we roped all summer. I had set a goal of winning the (PRCA) rookie but I didn’t think I had what it took to go hard, so he encouraged me to go to college.”
After a year at Lewis-Clark, Crawford made the move to Arizona where he partnered up with Shain Sproul. The two college rodeo athletes started 1998 off well earning a check at the National Western Stock Show Rodeo in Denver. Things kept clicking and Crawford realized his first goal of winning the Rookie of the Year. He also finished second at the College National Finals Rodeo that year.
It took seven more years of sweat, tears, disappointments and triumphs before he finally realized his dream of competing at the NFR, qualifying in 2005 with Richard Durham. After college, he went back to Oregon, was shoeing horses to pay his entry fees and really struggling. In 2001, he had the opportunity to move to Salado, Texas, and jumped on it.
Texas was a brand new experience that Crawford took advantage of in every way. He had horses to ride, could rope all the time, and had the opportunity to learn from horseman and ropers. Popeye Boltinghouse, a horseman and roper from Cherokee told him “It’s not how much you can win off a horse, it’s how much one keeps you from winning.” That caused Crawford to rethink his horse herd.
He changed his focus from qualifying for the NFR to setting more realistic goals and putting him in situations to win money. He followed the advice of Tyler Magnus who taught him a lot about horses and how to win.
“Tyler told me not to worry about losing, but to think about winning,” Crawford said. “He told me to think about how many horses I wouldn’t need to shoe if I won. That put things in perspective for me.”
When that first NFR qualification came, Crawford arrived in Las Vegas early, put his horses away and couldn’t wait to see the inside of the Thomas and Mack Center. He ran down the alley in a nearly empty building, stopped in the heading box and fell to the ground and made a big dirt angel.
“I couldn’t believe that I was finally there,” he said. “That is one of the things I was thinking about when I was underneath a horse putting shoes on when it was 100 degrees outside, with sweat dripping off my nose. When I finally made the finals it was all worthwhile. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The hard work paid off and made me appreciate being there.”
In 2006, he started roping with Durham again, then roped with Allen Bach and finally Cody Hintz at his second NFR. He bought a place in Llano with his new bride Lindsey who he met through the Crossleys. He was taking care of his horse shoeing clients and driving up to Weatherford to practice with Bach. It was beneficial both in and out of the arena.
“Roping with Allen was probably the best decision I ever made,” Crawford said. “He taught me how to make a run with my partner and to be consistent. Getting to pick his brain for a year was awesome. That was the point in my life that I decided to make a career out of roping. He taught me to believe in myself.”
In spite of the newfound faith in himself, 2007 was a year with more struggles. He was driving his pickup pulling a three-horse trailer in Llano when a woman pulled out in front of him. He tried to keep roping in spite of two bulging discs that were pushed up against his spinal cord from the accident. Following advice of Magnus, he finally went home, took some time off and spent a month doing therapy. His partner, Cody Hintz, was with him all the way.
When he was healthy again, they started winning money and had a shot at the NFR. It came down to the last steer of the season. They had been to seven rodeos in four days from Harrison, Ark., to Poway, Calif. They were late getting there, got horses out, made three quick circles to get them warmed up, got in the box and went after a hard running steer. Crawford threw a Hail Mary loop that surprisingly connected and Hintz cleaned up and they won $800.
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It was enough for Crawford, but not Hintz. The 2007 NFR found him roping with Britt Bockius. 2008 was another transitional year. He started roping with Tyler Magnus, again thinking about what he could learn. Magnus is known for his teaching and ability to help ropers improve their skills. He has made a career away from the competition with “The Roping Show” that airs on RFD-TV. This was an opportunity for Crawford to learn more about clinics and schools and prepare for a future outside of the arena. He also roped with Jhett Johnson.
He finished the year in 26th place in the PRCA standings. He had been talking to Russell Cardoza and they paired up at the beginning of 2009 and have been a duo all year. Cardoza is now headed to his first NFR.
“Russell is young and excited and I guess I needed someone like that so I could remember how much I love roping,” Crawford said. “He ropes good, is smart and has great horses.”
Crawford has also found help in 2009 from the 2007 world champion header Chad Masters. When he had problems, it was Masters or Magnus that would be getting a phone call.
“You never feel like you get team roping figured out. When you think you do, you get in a slump and wonder what you’re doing,” he said. “Every time that happens, I humble myself enough to talk to Chad or Tyler. It motivates me and makes me want to work harder.”
The one consistency in Crawford’s career has been ropes from Cactus Ropes. He currently uses the Xplosion or the Whistler depending on the weather conditions.
“Things are getting so fast in the arena now, when you pick up that rope it better feel like it’s going to do what it’s supposed to do,” he said. “If you have the right horse, saddle and rope, you can tear down your roping and build it back up again.
“It’s a blessing to have friends that can help you. I’ve learned something from all of my partners and my friends. When things aren’t working, that’s when you find out what makes you better.”
Other partners on Crawford’s rodeo roster have been Mike Beers, Bucky Campbell and Matt Funk. Regardless of who he is roping with, what part of the country he is driving across, or which horse he is riding, Crawford will be depending on his herd to help him achieve his goals and keep reaching higher.
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