Photo by Dan Hubbell
Adam Gray was hands-down the most consistent force in tie-down roping at 2012's Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. We caught up with him a few weeks after his big win to ask him your questions. To join in the discussion next month, visit facebook.com/spintowinrodeo.
Susan King Neighbors: How did you get started calf roping and how old were you?
Nobody in my family has ever rodeoed. My dad can ride a horse but he can't swing a rope. When I was growing up, my dad and grandfather had a small farm and ranch. We had one horse, before the four-wheelers, and we'd use him to pen sick cows and so forth. When I was 4, I refused to go to the babysitter with my sisters, and I would go with my dad and ride with him on my horse all day long, and if I got tired or sleepy, I would load my horse, sleep in the truck, and then get my horse off the trailer and get back on and lope back to wherever he was at across the huge pastures. I really enjoyed riding, and they had a playday in my hometown when I was 6, and I was a really good rider by then. By the time I was 6 I rode good enough that I could win every little event and get ribbons, because that's all they gave.
I was hooked. We started going to everything we could. When I got to be 8, we went to a junior rodeo association. I won the all-around saddle. When I got to the 9-12 division, breakaway was one of the events. We still had that same one horse, and he was not a rope horse, and we didn't know the difference. We took some big calf, and I just chased him around in the arena. It took a lot longer to learn to rope than it should have because we didn't have any idea what we were doing. My dad read a lot about it, and we bought every roping video there was. We watched every video, and we'd go outside and try that. When I was 9 or 10, a guy told us we needed to actually get a rope horse, and we bought a little horse for really cheap, and we built the arena. Where I lived in Seymour, Texas, it's really isolated from people and it wasn't like there were 15 men in that town that roped. It really wasn't until I went to college that we kind of learned the difference. I trained all my horses, and it wasn't really until I came across Cletus, and in three months (that's no recipe for success for any young person and horse) I was hauling him to the college rodeos. At six months, he was good, and after I got him and he was so much better than anything I've ever rode, that was when everything really clicked. It was nice to have a horse that actually worked.
Wes McKee: What portion of your success do you attribute to having a good horse heading into the NFR?
Every bit of the runs boils down to the horse. I'd say Cletus was 80 percent of it. There's no calf roper out there that can win without their horse.
Tyler Glasses: What kind of saddle do you ride, and do you think the saddle makes a difference in your roping?
Saddles make a huge difference in your roping. If your saddle doesn't fit your horse, your horse is not going to work. The saddle I ride mostly at the rodeos is a Billy Hogg saddle. It fits that horse really well, and it fits me really well. The seat keeps me from getting blown back because that horse is really powerful. That's the best saddle I've got. It just makes a huge difference. There are so many good saddles, the Sloans are a good tree if your horse is round backed, and I've got one of those, too.
Garrett Stewart: What's in store for you in 2013?
I don't know what's in store for me, I wish I could tell the future? My goals are the same, though, they're really simple. I want to enjoy my season. My success in the arena doesn't determine my success in my mind. My goals are not to let opportunities slip through my hands. If I draw a calf I can win on, I want to win. I break my year down one calf at a time. If I can score good, rope the neck and tie good, I don't want to lose any chances to win any money.
Susan King: What is your most memorable moment in rodeo so far?
My most memorable moment in rodeo would have to be in 2007, I bought my permit, just got out of college, and accepted a job. They didn't want me to start working right away, so they told me to take the summer off to go to Europe or something. I bought my permit, and decided to try the ProRodeo thing. I had that great horse Cletus, and I won $35,000 on my permit that summer alone. Anyway, I won Prescott, Ariz. That was over the Fourth. I remember calling home, and I called the company that morning and turned the job down and decided to make a go at rodeoing full time. That's why I wear the buckle from Prescott. If I hadn't have won that one, I'd have never made the others. I may not be here today. I had no idea I would get to rodeo for a living. It had just paid for my college, I always rodeoed, I always loved roping, and I just thought I'd try it. I felt like the Lord was calling me into a different career path than I had intended, and as long as I feel like I need to be I'll be here. I don't want to be one of the guys that's here until he's 40, and with rodeo you're married to your job. I don't want to live my whole life that way. I don't like being gone three straight months and not having weekends off. I'm just thankful that I'm here and get to pursue this for a short time. It's been kind of neat for a kid that's not born into a rodeo family, and we don't know anything about it, and here we are. Other than being born in Texas, that's my only tie. My family, they're cowboys, but they're more cattleman. My grandfather always hated me roping them when I was growing up when he was trying to let them grow, he just didn't get why I'd rope them.