Member Grabs the Bull By the Horns...Literally!
Friday, July 26, 2013

Andreas Sanchez is a controller at Albuquerque Tower/Approach (ABQ) by day, but during his free time, he is a member of the New Mexico Rodeo Association (NMRA), competing throughout the southwestern United States. What started as a stress reliever for Sanchez has evolved into a lifestyle.

Sanchez grew up helping out on his family’s ranch in Arizona, which is spread over 32 sections (32 square miles or 20,480 acres). In 2004, he was approached by his cousin, who rodeos professionally, who asked if he wanted to compete in an event called team roping. From there, Sanchez said, it was down the rabbit hole.

The team roping event is a popular one, and the only team event in rodeo. It originated on ranches when cowboys needed to gather up a steer on their horses, which was too difficult to do solo.

In team roping, one partner is the header and the other a heeler. A steer is released in the arena, and the header takes off on his or her horse first to catch the steer. There are three ways the rodeo recognizes catching a steer: roping it around both horns, around one horn and the head or just around the neck. After the header catches the steer, the heeler must try to rope both of its hind legs.  

Team roping is a timed event, with penalties given for beginning too soon or incorrectly roping the steer. The clock stops when there is no slack in the two ropes and both horses are facing one another.

Sanchez and his heel horse, Blu Duck, competing.

Sanchez first competed in 2006, after two years of training with his cousin. Each year, the top 15 people in team roping advance to the finals and Sanchez has made it to the top 15 every year. In fact, in 2012, Sanchez won the finals and is currently the reigning champion in the NMRA!

In December, Sanchez travelled to Las Vegas to compete in the World Series of Team Roping. Although he says he isn’t competing as hard this year, he is still currently ranked eighth in team roping.

Sanchez's trophy buckle after winning the 2012 NMRA Championship.

“Due to my schedule at work, the amateur pro is about as high as I can go,” Sanchez explained. “To compete professionally you need a card, and it’s pretty much a full time job.”

Competing as an amateur pro provides Sanchez an opportunity to travel to many different rodeos in the Southwest. He competes in New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Nevada. While on the road, Sanchez has different rodeo partners with whom he practices in the days leading up to the competition.

Sanchez also devotes much of his time outside work to practicing for the rodeo, taking care of his animals and teaching others the intricacies of rodeo. He has a practice arena at home that boasts baseball field lighting so he can practice when it’s convenient for him. Sanchez also has his own steers, two header horses, one heeler horse, and two horses currently in training.

His devotion to rodeo has spilled over into his community as neighbors frequently come over to watch him practice. Sanchez also trains and teaches local kids about rodeo, with their ages ranging anywhere from high school to his two-year-old godson. Training is a large part of learning about rodeo, he said.

Sanchez's godson proves its never too early to start learning rodeo.

“First and foremost, find somebody who knows what they’re doing so you don’t get hurt,” Sanchez advises. “It makes kids more responsible at an earlier age. They understand things other kids don’t. They get invaluable learning outside of school.”

Sanchez said there were five key things that a person should know about rodeo:

1. Don’t ever take a cowboy’s hat off his head because it won’t end well for you.
2. Be careful around the animals.
3. Have fun because that’s what rodeo is meant for.
4. Realize that you’re watching a tradition being passed down from generation to generation.
5. The animals do about 80 percent of the work and the competitor only does about 20 percent.

Sanchez takes great pride in his horses and the animals in his care. Each year, members of the NMRA vote on a horse that they feel has performed exceptionally and last year, Sanchez’s horse, Jaws, a 14-year-old American Quarter Horse, won the title of Head Horse of the Year!

Sanchez poses with Jaws after last year's wins.

Sanchez encourages anyone who has the opportunity to go see a rodeo to take advantage of it.

“All of these events derive from something we had to do either on a ranch or back in the old days,” he said. “This is a dying tradition that we have across the country.  Next time you get a chance to go to a rodeo, do it.”