A few weeks ago, a friend and I went to Austin, Texas for the weekend so we could go to the Austin City Limits (ACL) music festival. We were excited about both the music and the cowboys.
Another friend of mine, noticing my social media posts about being in Austin, suggested we go to this old school honky-tonk in the city, and nothing says Texas like honky-tonk. We were all over it.
The Broken Spoke is a legendary dancehall that has remained in the same family since 1964. Unassuming as this place may be, with its rustic, though some may say rundown, appearance, the Broken Spoke is a place where some of the greatest country music stars have strummed their guitars, rosined up their bows and played iconic lamentations about lost love and dusty roads that we somehow all relate to.
This bar is proper country. The music, the dancing and the décor is exactly what you would expect from a Texas honky-tonk. And even though I walked in, somewhat sheepishly, wearing Vans rather than cowboy boots I still fit in. That’s the wonderful thing about Austin, everyone fits in. It’s a beautiful city.
Throughout the bar, stapled to beams, pillars and walls were autographed pictures of famous music artists such as Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson and the likes of Clint Eastwood and Harry Connick Jr.
Needless to say, those people weren’t there the night we went, but it was no less country or iconic for their absence. However, not that this is a close second to the real thing, in the woman’s single-stall washroom there are dozens upon dozens of pictures of George Strait tacked to the walls. Some were signed and some were taken from magazines, it was a fascinating way to spend a few minutes in a bathroom.
I’ve always loved George Strait, how could you not? He has an amazing voice, is ever-so handsome and has all the cowboy swagger a person can handle. I’ve known for some time that Mr. Strait ropes, which means he can ride a horse, which only adds to that swagger.
What I want to know is, how into horses is our man, George Strait?
I’m never satisfied with a simple answer.
During the research phase of my posts, I listen to music. As of late, I have Nathaniel Rateliff belting out songs, he is why I went to ACL after all, but since I saw so much of George Strait in the woman’s washroom it is he who sings to me now. I’m swimming in nostalgia from my former “buckle bunny” days. Oh, to be twenty again.
Turns out, George Strait is as much a horse person as you and me, only with a few more dollars to spend. When he isn’t making music or singing to hundreds of thousands of fans, he spends time in the saddle roping and checking on his cattle.
Strait is a team roper rather than a calf roper, which I feel is an important distinction. Team ropers are a roping duo. One is the header who accurately lassos the head of the steer and the other is the heeler who magically ropes the hind legs of the steer. A calf roper ropes a calf.
Interestingly, which is always the way with research, heading horses are bigger and stronger than heeling horses, as they control the steer’s movements once roped.
Heeling horses are smaller and more agile as they follow the fishtailing hind end of the steer. Though I spent my 20’s hanging out at rodeos, this piece of information escaped me, though I suppose at the time the horses weren’t my main focus.
George Strait is so passionate about roping that he owns a team roping ranch in the deep south of Texas, where he raises both cattle and roping horses.
This is where he comes to unwind from his regular job as the “King of Country.” Sitting on a horse and practicing the art of roping and improving his skills is how he escapes the madness that comes with wearing such a heavy crown.
I often wonder if horses have any idea how much they do for us.
I read an article in the Team Roping Journal where Strait spoke about the importance of having a good instructor and how crucial fundamentals are to build upon. As a student for the entirety of my riding career that thought is music to my ears. But as an instructor, I struggle to envision giving someone that famous a lesson?
“Oh, for heaven’s sake George. Pull yourself together. Maybe if you spent a little less time playing with your guitar and a little more time riding, we wouldn’t be going over this again!”
Strait didn’t pick up the idea of roping to add to his country persona, because he is pure country, if you will pardon the pun. He grew up working on his family’s 2,000-acre ranch in Pearsall, Texas which has been in the Strait family for over 100-years.
You might be thinking, okay so he ropes a little for fun, big deal. Which is a fair thought, but roping is his passion. So much so that for 35 years Strait and his family ran the George Strait Team Roping Classic (GSTRC).
It was last run in 2017 where there were 583 team roping pairs competing for part of the $636,500 purse. Let me just say that again, 583 pairs. That is 1,166 people competing which made the GSTRC a pretty big deal.
Because holding an event of that size isn’t enough, and because you are mega famous especially in your home state, George Strait bought the San Antonio Rose Palace in 1998. The 71-acre facility has two covered arenas, stabling for over 500 horses and seating for 4,500 spectators. It holds horse shows, rodeos and even circuses. Though Strait sold the facility in 2014 it’s clear that horses are an important part of his life.
George Strait may have sold over 70 million albums, won more than 60 music awards, been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and has a music career spanning 30 years, but at the heart of it all he is a horse person.
Sources: Cowboylifestylenetwork.com ; Teamropingjournal.com ; Countryfancast.com ; Prorodeo.com