Already a champion

Ryan Schroeder and his horse Can’t Skippa Blaze — or Uno, as he calls him — take time for a break recently at the Schroeder Ranch near Oak Ridge.

The term “well-heeled” applies to Ryan Schroeder.

In 2005, the then-fourteen-year-old Whitesboro resident led the nation in points in heeling.

Heeling is a team-roping competition in which the contestant catches the two back feet of a calf and ties them together.

Schroeder has good looks and the confident demeanor of a professional football quarterback. Although he is very young, he knows he’s good at what he does. And when you meet him, you don’t doubt for a minute he can win any rodeo competition he enters. Some people are just like that.

He looks out the window of his parent’s office— tastefully decorated with custom-made western furnishings and accessories— “I had a rope in my hand when I was born,” Schroeder said. A person can almost believe it.

He said his whole family raises, trains and sells quarter horses. He said there are at least 200 horses (and probably closer to 300) on the Schroeder Ranch west of Whitesboro.

Schroeder has lived in Texas all his life. His father, Robbie is a native of Beaumont. His mother Joan is from Michigan. Schroeder has no siblings.

Earlier this summer, Schroeder said his friend Tavis Walters came down for a visit from Michigan. The two young men spent their days practicing roping. Schroeder then returned to Michigan with Walters where he said he and his friend spent more time practicing their art.

“My dad coached us every day to tune up the horses,” Schroeder explained.

Schroeder and Walters both competed this summer in the AQHA World Youth Finals at Will Rogers Arena in Fort Worth.

Schroeder won the finals Aug. 8 in tie-down roping. His buddy Walters took first in the heading competition. He won by half a point with Schroeder earning reserve.

Joan Schroeder’s assistant, Sonya Schaner said she thinks of Ryan as a little brother and Schaner is quick to brag about his accomplishments.

“In 2005 he led the nation in points earned in the heeling and he won the world last year in team roping,” she said.

Schroeder said he does not get nervous the night before a competition. He said he and the other competitors sit together while waiting for their turns in the arena and after each rider finishes his run, everyone else asks, “How’d you do?”

There is a lot of camaraderie between the young men, many of whom plan to make rodeoing their life’s work.

“A lot of guys who show against Ryan are his friends,” Joan Schroeder said. She added that she believes her son doesn’t let the pressure get to him because he is “prepared and confident.”

“He’s had not great runs before, but it just makes him work harder next time,” she commented. “He knows he’s got to stay focused.”

She said the young men who compete in rodeo events are “a great group of kids who learn responsibility and hard work. And it keeps them out of trouble,” she added with a smile.

Schroeder’s parents are well-known in the quarter horse world. Both are accomplished riders, breeders and trainers who have, over the years, won many competitions in their own right.

Schroeder said his parents have been living on their ranch east of Gainesville, near Oak Ridge for “about 19 or 20 years.”

He said his mother’s parents moved here from Michigan about 25 years ago. They have a comfortable home on the property.

Schroeder said he doesn’t see himself leaving the ranch, and that he can’t wait to start competing on the high school rodeo circuit.

He said although school work is not his favorite thing, he does well, earning As and Bs.

Schroeder is also a businessman. He said he works every day for his father in a 365-day-a-year job.

He owns calves, which he buys himself to use in his training. He said, like anyone else, he occasionally worries about his financial situation when his bank account begins to run low.

“A few weeks ago, my dad went out of town. He called me and asked me if I wanted him to buy a couple of calves,” he recounted.

Schroeder said when his father returned he brought home 20 calves. Schroeder shook his head, “When he said a couple I was thinking, maybe 10, but that’s good that he bought 20. We always try to have cattle around to train rope horses on,” he explained.

After all, calves do grow up.

The calves Schroeder ropes in competition weigh between 180 and 220 pounds. The more the calf weighs, obviously, the harder it is to bring it down.

But Schroeder doesn’t take much credit.

“The horse does all the work. All you gotta do is rope ’em and throw ’em down,” he said.

He said summer mornings on the ranch begin early, usually around 5:30 a.m. when it’s still cool.

“I have to water the arena and drag it and make it nice and soft. Then I can start the day,” he said.

Schroeder’s days involve lots and lots of practice. While his friend Tavis was in town, he said they spent most of their time practicing.

Like any other competitive athlete, practice time is key to success.

Schroeder likes to give visitors a golf cart tour of the ranch where he said he’s lived his whole life.

The men who work on the ranch have become friends of his.

He said, sometimes, on summer nights when it starts to cool off, he and some of the guys set up a goal and play soccer.

Many of the ranch workers are young men, one or two are married and live with their families in neat little homes or duplexes on the property.

Schroeder stops inside a horse barn to check on the horses.

Each has each own stall. The barn is so clean, it’s hard to believe it is a barn. The horses have fans to keep them cool and fresh wood shavings which are changed every other day. These beautiful, valuable animals get time outside, baths and vacuuming, just about anything a cherished pet could ever want.

Although they may be well-loved, the horses are also extremely skilled at what they do and Schroeder is quick to give the horses their due.

Schroeder’s horse Can’t Skippa Blaze or “Uno” — the horse he currently uses in competition was a Christmas gift from his parents two years ago.

He said the relationship between he and Uno was not perfect at first.

“I used to couldn’t rope off him,” he admitted.

He said he and the horse didn’t even get along that well initially. Then things changed beautifully.

“I spent time with him. I learned what he wanted and he learned what I wanted and he’s my buddy now,” he reached out to pet the horse.

Schroeder said he and the horse work so well together, he’d like to rope on him “another five years.”

But that all depends on the health of the horse. “As long as he doesn’t get sore or get knee problems,” Schroeder said.

After that, he said, Uno will get turned out to pasture.

Schroeder points out his family’s cattle, clustered in small groups around the ranch, including some bulls he said are bucking stock used by the Professional Bull Rider’s Association.

He pointed to a bull out in a pasture. “See that one? He’s a pet bull. That’s Frosty,” he said.

Frosty is not bull riding stock. He said his parents acquired the bull as a calf during an icy spell a couple of years ago.

“They brought him here when he was just a baby and I bottle fed him. When he got here, his ears had frostbite and that’s why I named him Frosty,” he said.

Although the Schroeders own many horses, they also train and board horses for other people. Some of the horses are only on the ranch for care or training.

Schroeder stops the golf cart in a barn. “A lot of these horses don’t belong to us. Those three horses belong to George Strait,” he remarked casually. “You know, the country singer?”

Inside the office, Joan Schroeder stops to pet her three dogs. The dogs are soft and clean and friendly.

“Sonya spoils them,” Ryan Schroeder remarks when the dogs rush toward him.

It is early evening on the Schroeder Ranch. The horses are inside for the night. The calves are lying in the shade. The workers have gone home and the tractors and trucks are parked. Outside the office, cars and trucks on the highway seem distant and the only sounds are the gentle splash of water from a fountain in a koi pond.

Reporter Delania Trigg may be

contacted at dtrigg[at]ntin.net

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