Courtesy PRCA
Aaron Tsinigine of Tuba City ropes his end of the steer while his partner Clay O’Brien Cooper waits his turn in the 10th round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2014.

More Drivin’ Than Ropin’: Navajo Roper Places Second in Bob Feist Invitational Team Roping Classic

Rodney Harwood

Roper Aaron Tsinigine’s dream came to fruition last year when he, and roping partner Clay O’Brien Cooper finished third in the world in his very first National Finals Rodeo.

The former Indian National Finals Rodeo champion and Cooper roped nine of 10 draws to collect $85,511. Tsinigine moved up 11 spots in the world standings, from 30th to 19th and finished the season with $153,584 in earnings.

The 28-year-old Tuba City, Arizona cowboy is off to a good start in 2015 with a win at the Wrangler Champions Challenge in Logandale, Nevada.

ICTMN caught up with Tsinigine in Reno, Nevada, where he competed at the 37th Annual Bob Feist Invitational Team Roping Classic June 22. Tsinigine won second place in the classic, and split a payoff of $84,000 with heeler Ryan Motes.

You joined the PRCA in 2007 and finally got to the National Finals Rodeo in 2014. What was that experience at the famed Thomas & Mack Center like?

I tell you what, I’ve been waiting for a long time to get there, and I finally did it. I did my homework, and I was ready to go.

What do you mean by homework?

I studied ropers from the stands and watched videos of my idols to see how they handled things. I try to watch all the guys that always win, and see what they did differently than everybody else. I tried to copy that. To hang with these guys, who are the best in the world, they’re working at it every day because it’s a job.

Something must have worked. You and Clay roped nine out of 10. What was that like and how about winning the sixth go-round?

Winning that go-round buckle was something special. I don’t think I’ll ever wear it, but it’s something I’ll get to keep forever. I’ll always look at that and know I made the NFR.

I thought it was always cool when I’d see all the professionals wearing their go-round buckles. I’m thinking, I hope I get to put one of those on one day.

At the world-class level, it’s all about horsepower. Tell me about your bay horse Smudge?

He’s a one-of-a-kind, man. He does it all whether it’s a long score (multi-runs), short score... He does good at Salinas and Cheyenne. As you can see, he does good at the NFR. He is perfect in every situation. It’s just me and Smudge out there.

You developed your skills at Indian rodeos. How did you make the transition to the PRCA circuit?

When I finally said ‘this is my job – from 8 to 5’, that’s when everything turned around for me. We used to practice just to practice. We didn’t practice to perfect ourselves, and I finally realized that’s why the top ropers win so much.

You do more drivin’ than ropin’ in this business, and it took a lot of growing up to finally get to this point. I don’t know if I enjoy it anymore, but I come from nothin’ and it made my life is a lot easier. Of course, winnin’ is what makes it fun.

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