When you read the word, “team roper” several words probably pop into your head: cowboy, header, heeler, speed, maybe even athlete. But once you’re introduced to Josh Little, Mebane, N.C., another series of words is likely to come to your mind: trainer, passion and artist. Yes, artist. Little is a team roper and rope horse trainer who also enjoys competing in team roping shows.
Unlike the traditional team roping that is scored on the fastest time at a rodeo, the team roping shows, sanctioned by the AQHA, are not a timed event. Rather, they are judged on maneuvers the horse and rider make, with proper patterns. Scoring takes place prior to the horse even getting into the box, and according to Little, if the horse balks or doesn’t load into the box properly, major penalty points are deducted from the score.
Classes are broken by header and heeler, but since it is a team event, the heeler must make its catch in the header class, and the header has to catch in the heeler class or a “no score” is awarded to the contestant competing. However, the partner isn’t evaluated in the class.
“There is an art to it because you are showing the horse. The horse has to run you up in the right position, and follow the maneuvers,” Little said.
Little has grown up in the equine industry. His dad was a horse trainer, placing focus on pleasure horses. As a teenager, Little decided he needed more speed, and started roping. He’s been training rope horses for 13 years now, and still enjoys competing in an occasional jackpot, but really likes to show the rope horses, with his ultimate goal to win the AQHA World Championship in his sport.
And even though he’s the trainer, he learns from the horses he trains each day.
“The most important lesson a horse has taught me? Patience. To be patient and not lose your cool when you’re trying to teach your horse something,” he said. “Another big lesson, when teaching a horse something, find a good place to quit that day. Reward them when they do something right.”
Another lesson Little has learned is the importance of a high-quality supplement. He started using Vitalize® Equine High Performance Pellets at the recommendation of BioZyme® ASM Justin O’Flaherty, who offered him a sample. He noted a difference in just 30 days.
“My horse’s weight picked up and he seems to look a little healthier. He gained weight with the same amount of feed I was feeding. His hair coat slicked up and he seemed shinier. I was tickled with the results,” Little said.
Little feeds Vitalize to his two horses daily to keep his horses’ digestive system in check. His goal is to get all his clients feeding it to their horses too.
Vitalize contains Amaferm®, a precision prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility by amplifying the nutrient supply within for maxium performance. It is research-proven to increase nutrient absorption resulting in maximized digestive health for improved performance. With the Amaferm advantage, equine enthusiasts can expect increased stamina without the horse getting hot, hard keepers eating and gaining weight; digestive wellness; consistent appetite and strong solid hooves.
Just as digestive health of his own horses is important to Little, the joint and bone health of his customers’ horses is important too. He said he doesn’t like to start working with a horse until it is at least 4-years-old, when the horses’ joints have had the chance to close and their knees are mature enough to handle the pressure of roping. He said under the proper conditions, he can usually have a rope horse ready to go, in about a year.