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Roping up Through the Ranks

Jo Chytka
Hemingford, Neb.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer WorkmanJayce Johnson riding Jasper at Estes Park, Colo., in 2010.

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“I was born with a passion for calf roping, I don’t know when I discovered it, it was just always there,” Jayce Johnson from Hemingford, Neb., said, “I was 10 or 11 years old when I tied down my first calf. Roy Cooper and Joe Beaver were battling it out at that time and doing some awe inspiring things, and I wanted to try to realize those dreams for myself. I had a desire in my heart to rodeo at a professional level and recently had a sit-down with myself and decided that whatever I pursued, I would go 100% without quitting. My dad rodeoed when I was young and that was a big part of me wanting to rope. I knew I wanted to be a part of something that was bigger than me.”

Johnson has progressed through the ranks of rodeo from Jr. rodeos to the pros. In high school he qualified as a freshman, as sophomore made the top 15, junior year he was in the top 10 and as a senior was 5th, just one out to make national finals. In college he was second in his region in 2006 and first in 2007. In the PRCA he filled his permit in 2005 and was in the top 15 in PRCA rookie rankings in 2006. In the Mountain States Circuit in 2008 he was in the 10th hole and this year he’s 3rd in that circuit going into the finals in Denver at the Event Center November 12-13, 2010.

Jayce said, “A lot of what I do is modeled after Stran Smith, we have the same body type; tall, thin and athletic. If he can make it work for him, I can try to make it work for me.

“I’ve learned a lot in the last four years about my own style, speed and horses. It is a lot of trial and error. My rodeo goal is obviously to make it to the National Finals and win that gold buckle. I would like to finish in the top 40 in 2011, I think that is doable. But I want to go a step farther and never let myself be satisfied, not just get to a level and plateau, but just keep climbing and make it a life-long career. I want to make a name for myself as a great roper, person and horseman. I won’t ever reach a point where I can’t be better. I will always strive to improve and never quit trying.”

Jayce has raised and trained the three horses, Scar, Soupy and Jasper that he has competed on since his last year in high school. “My dad is my training mentor and I’ve done a lot of studying on my own. I’ve talked with many people I respect in their particular discipline. There is something to learn in every one of them whether it is reining, cutting, pleasure, racing, bull dogging, team roping or barrel racing. There is always something you can take from each one. Little things like the measure of a tie-down dictating how fast a horse will run, imitating how a jockey pulls on a race horses mouth; both giving the horse something to push against for balance and speed. Mostly what I do when I train is with hand and body movement; manipulation of the horse to get them supple. But, first a horse has to be smart; it takes a special horse that loves what he does.

“I think the only way you are going to win in the pros is if you have a rock-solid horse that possesses tremendous speed. It’s not the calves or the roper, it’s the horse. A person can only be so fast – I’ve observed fast, athletic humans in this sport, but the right horse will make you win. You need to be 100% confident that your horse won’t hurt your run.

“The biggest challenge I’ve had with my roping is allowing myself to win. I’ve always over thought my runs, I need to just react; the single thing of over thinking, has kept me from winning. I think I’ve finally gotten my brain wired, so I can consciously turn off the switch and just go along for the ride and feel the run not think the run.

“I’ve gained a lot from calf roping; camaraderie, humility, how to lose and how to win, and not to let the good get me high and the bad to get me down. Those are all things I can take with me and apply to my whole life.

“One of the most difficult things I’ve learned is how to get over a slump. You can’t play the blame game; had a bad calf, hand was sore, whatever. I just messed up, you have to swallow that and get over it. I honestly believe that what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger. If you don’t have down times, you can’t go up. The night is always darkest before the dawn – there is power in those words.

“My analogy for my calf roping is that I have built a fire and have it going; now I just need to keep on feeding it with knowledge, work ethic and blood, sweat and tears. I’m still cutting firewood.

“I’ve been blessed with many people that have wanted to see me do good and given me advice. I think the best and most inspirational advice I’ve ever gotten was from John Bilby. It was after I had gotten to the short go at a college rodeo in Chadron, Neb., in the fall of 2006. I had made a good run to get there and was expected to win. Well, I missed my start, didn’t have a good flank and messed up my tie. I was very frustrated with my run and John said, ‘you know – never, never, never, quit – don’t give up on a run. It’s not done until you call for time.’

“What skills and talents I do have are a direct blessing from God. Many times I’ve wondered why things worked out a certain way and I realized how He made me stronger in the end. Knowing He has a design, makes it exciting to see what the next stage will be and where He will lead me.”

“I was born with a passion for calf roping, I don’t know when I discovered it, it was just always there,” Jayce Johnson from Hemingford, Neb., said, “I was 10 or 11 years old when I tied down my first calf. Roy Cooper and Joe Beaver were battling it out at that time and doing some awe inspiring things, and I wanted to try to realize those dreams for myself. I had a desire in my heart to rodeo at a professional level and recently had a sit-down with myself and decided that whatever I pursued, I would go 100% without quitting. My dad rodeoed when I was young and that was a big part of me wanting to rope. I knew I wanted to be a part of something that was bigger than me.”

Johnson has progressed through the ranks of rodeo from Jr. rodeos to the pros. In high school he qualified as a freshman, as sophomore made the top 15, junior year he was in the top 10 and as a senior was 5th, just one out to make national finals. In college he was second in his region in 2006 and first in 2007. In the PRCA he filled his permit in 2005 and was in the top 15 in PRCA rookie rankings in 2006. In the Mountain States Circuit in 2008 he was in the 10th hole and this year he’s 3rd in that circuit going into the finals in Denver at the Event Center November 12-13, 2010.

Jayce said, “A lot of what I do is modeled after Stran Smith, we have the same body type; tall, thin and athletic. If he can make it work for him, I can try to make it work for me.

“I’ve learned a lot in the last four years about my own style, speed and horses. It is a lot of trial and error. My rodeo goal is obviously to make it to the National Finals and win that gold buckle. I would like to finish in the top 40 in 2011, I think that is doable. But I want to go a step farther and never let myself be satisfied, not just get to a level and plateau, but just keep climbing and make it a life-long career. I want to make a name for myself as a great roper, person and horseman. I won’t ever reach a point where I can’t be better. I will always strive to improve and never quit trying.”

Jayce has raised and trained the three horses, Scar, Soupy and Jasper that he has competed on since his last year in high school. “My dad is my training mentor and I’ve done a lot of studying on my own. I’ve talked with many people I respect in their particular discipline. There is something to learn in every one of them whether it is reining, cutting, pleasure, racing, bull dogging, team roping or barrel racing. There is always something you can take from each one. Little things like the measure of a tie-down dictating how fast a horse will run, imitating how a jockey pulls on a race horses mouth; both giving the horse something to push against for balance and speed. Mostly what I do when I train is with hand and body movement; manipulation of the horse to get them supple. But, first a horse has to be smart; it takes a special horse that loves what he does.

“I think the only way you are going to win in the pros is if you have a rock-solid horse that possesses tremendous speed. It’s not the calves or the roper, it’s the horse. A person can only be so fast – I’ve observed fast, athletic humans in this sport, but the right horse will make you win. You need to be 100% confident that your horse won’t hurt your run.

“The biggest challenge I’ve had with my roping is allowing myself to win. I’ve always over thought my runs, I need to just react; the single thing of over thinking, has kept me from winning. I think I’ve finally gotten my brain wired, so I can consciously turn off the switch and just go along for the ride and feel the run not think the run.

“I’ve gained a lot from calf roping; camaraderie, humility, how to lose and how to win, and not to let the good get me high and the bad to get me down. Those are all things I can take with me and apply to my whole life.

“One of the most difficult things I’ve learned is how to get over a slump. You can’t play the blame game; had a bad calf, hand was sore, whatever. I just messed up, you have to swallow that and get over it. I honestly believe that what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger. If you don’t have down times, you can’t go up. The night is always darkest before the dawn – there is power in those words.

“My analogy for my calf roping is that I have built a fire and have it going; now I just need to keep on feeding it with knowledge, work ethic and blood, sweat and tears. I’m still cutting firewood.

“I’ve been blessed with many people that have wanted to see me do good and given me advice. I think the best and most inspirational advice I’ve ever gotten was from John Bilby. It was after I had gotten to the short go at a college rodeo in Chadron, Neb., in the fall of 2006. I had made a good run to get there and was expected to win. Well, I missed my start, didn’t have a good flank and messed up my tie. I was very frustrated with my run and John said, ‘you know – never, never, never, quit – don’t give up on a run. It’s not done until you call for time.’

“What skills and talents I do have are a direct blessing from God. Many times I’ve wondered why things worked out a certain way and I realized how He made me stronger in the end. Knowing He has a design, makes it exciting to see what the next stage will be and where He will lead me.”

“I was born with a passion for calf roping, I don’t know when I discovered it, it was just always there,” Jayce Johnson from Hemingford, Neb., said, “I was 10 or 11 years old when I tied down my first calf. Roy Cooper and Joe Beaver were battling it out at that time and doing some awe inspiring things, and I wanted to try to realize those dreams for myself. I had a desire in my heart to rodeo at a professional level and recently had a sit-down with myself and decided that whatever I pursued, I would go 100% without quitting. My dad rodeoed when I was young and that was a big part of me wanting to rope. I knew I wanted to be a part of something that was bigger than me.”

Johnson has progressed through the ranks of rodeo from Jr. rodeos to the pros. In high school he qualified as a freshman, as sophomore made the top 15, junior year he was in the top 10 and as a senior was 5th, just one out to make national finals. In college he was second in his region in 2006 and first in 2007. In the PRCA he filled his permit in 2005 and was in the top 15 in PRCA rookie rankings in 2006. In the Mountain States Circuit in 2008 he was in the 10th hole and this year he’s 3rd in that circuit going into the finals in Denver at the Event Center November 12-13, 2010.

Jayce said, “A lot of what I do is modeled after Stran Smith, we have the same body type; tall, thin and athletic. If he can make it work for him, I can try to make it work for me.

“I’ve learned a lot in the last four years about my own style, speed and horses. It is a lot of trial and error. My rodeo goal is obviously to make it to the National Finals and win that gold buckle. I would like to finish in the top 40 in 2011, I think that is doable. But I want to go a step farther and never let myself be satisfied, not just get to a level and plateau, but just keep climbing and make it a life-long career. I want to make a name for myself as a great roper, person and horseman. I won’t ever reach a point where I can’t be better. I will always strive to improve and never quit trying.”

Jayce has raised and trained the three horses, Scar, Soupy and Jasper that he has competed on since his last year in high school. “My dad is my training mentor and I’ve done a lot of studying on my own. I’ve talked with many people I respect in their particular discipline. There is something to learn in every one of them whether it is reining, cutting, pleasure, racing, bull dogging, team roping or barrel racing. There is always something you can take from each one. Little things like the measure of a tie-down dictating how fast a horse will run, imitating how a jockey pulls on a race horses mouth; both giving the horse something to push against for balance and speed. Mostly what I do when I train is with hand and body movement; manipulation of the horse to get them supple. But, first a horse has to be smart; it takes a special horse that loves what he does.

“I think the only way you are going to win in the pros is if you have a rock-solid horse that possesses tremendous speed. It’s not the calves or the roper, it’s the horse. A person can only be so fast – I’ve observed fast, athletic humans in this sport, but the right horse will make you win. You need to be 100% confident that your horse won’t hurt your run.

“The biggest challenge I’ve had with my roping is allowing myself to win. I’ve always over thought my runs, I need to just react; the single thing of over thinking, has kept me from winning. I think I’ve finally gotten my brain wired, so I can consciously turn off the switch and just go along for the ride and feel the run not think the run.

“I’ve gained a lot from calf roping; camaraderie, humility, how to lose and how to win, and not to let the good get me high and the bad to get me down. Those are all things I can take with me and apply to my whole life.

“One of the most difficult things I’ve learned is how to get over a slump. You can’t play the blame game; had a bad calf, hand was sore, whatever. I just messed up, you have to swallow that and get over it. I honestly believe that what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger. If you don’t have down times, you can’t go up. The night is always darkest before the dawn – there is power in those words.

“My analogy for my calf roping is that I have built a fire and have it going; now I just need to keep on feeding it with knowledge, work ethic and blood, sweat and tears. I’m still cutting firewood.

“I’ve been blessed with many people that have wanted to see me do good and given me advice. I think the best and most inspirational advice I’ve ever gotten was from John Bilby. It was after I had gotten to the short go at a college rodeo in Chadron, Neb., in the fall of 2006. I had made a good run to get there and was expected to win. Well, I missed my start, didn’t have a good flank and messed up my tie. I was very frustrated with my run and John said, ‘you know – never, never, never, quit – don’t give up on a run. It’s not done until you call for time.’

“What skills and talents I do have are a direct blessing from God. Many times I’ve wondered why things worked out a certain way and I realized how He made me stronger in the end. Knowing He has a design, makes it exciting to see what the next stage will be and where He will lead me.”


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