Ellensburg Rodeo

FILE — Jake Pratt, of Ellensburg, manages an 11.9 second run during the tie-down roping competition at the Ellensburg Rodeo on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016.

What a heckuva year it’s been for former Ellensburg cowboy Jake Pratt. Now living in Texas, the calf roper has admittedly had some up and down moments of his career – what roper doesn’t? – but seems to have turned a corner this year with success in the arena, but more importantly a better mental game.

That improved focus – including the ability to not dwell on bad runs – has led to the best year in Pratt’s 10-year professional career. He won Tucson, Ariz., in February and Livermore, Calif., in June. He also won Great Falls and Missoula, Mont., last month. Pratt is fifth in the tie-down roping world standings with more than $86,000 won. It’s nearly $30,000 better than his previous best in 2014.

“It’s been a great year. Everything’s been working,” he said after Friday morning’s slack. “We put in a lot of work and it’s finally paying off. And now, after the way it went here in Ellensburg I dang sure just want to refocus and finish strong. There’s still a lot more rodeos.”

It didn’t go well for Pratt here this weekend. He was 10.2 in Thursday’s slack and needed to be fast in Friday’s second round to have a shot at today’s short round, but he missed his calf for a no-time. Maybe it had something to do with a small crowd of family and friends at the sparsely attended morning slack, maybe it had something to do with the fact that he grew up just minutes away from the arena.

“I wouldn’t think so, but I dang sure felt like I was pressing too much today,” he said. “Trying a little too hard instead of just going out there and taking care of business. I don’t know where it comes from or why a person would do that, but I guess it’s because it’s my hometown rodeo.”

But this is where the difference in experience and maturity comes in. A few years ago, a no-time would take Pratt off his game, setting himself up for failure on his next week of runs. Now, as Pratt sat next to his wife Rainy, and two toddler sons, Pace (4) and Pierce (3) on Friday morning in the stands, it’s different.

“I was letting things affect me. I would’ve let the run that I had (Friday) morning affect the run tomorrow, instead of knowing that all the talent is there, all the ability,” he said. “Just go do your job. And there’s going to be times that you don’t win and there’s going to be places you really want to win at. But every rodeo pays money and just go take care of business and everything’s going to work out.”

It almost worked out in 2014. Pratt was on the bubble, fighting to get into the top 15 needed to make the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Despite going hard through Sept. 30th, the end of the regular season, he finished 17th in the world.

“I let that year affect the next few years after that,” he said. “But last fall we went home and re-focused and worked on a lot of things. I always roped good enough, but probably didn’t have the mind game to go out to Vegas. This year I feel like mentally I’m right there and I’m ready to compete in Vegas.”

Sitting in fifth with $86,000 won, a guy can certainly count on that becoming a reality.

“I would say I’m into the Finals, but it sure would help to finish it out good,” he said. “I don’t have to be one of those guys at the moment to be flying and chartering jets and everything (for an end-of-season scramble). I’m just going go to them and see how it goes and I plan on finishing strong.”

Pratt is entered up through the end of the season. He’ll hit the last few rodeos in the Northwest Run – including Lewiston, Idaho, this week and Pendleton, Ore., the week following. He’ll rope at a handful of rodeos in Texas and the Southwest before a few more in the Midwest.

Come October 1st, he’ll be looking forward to a little bit of a layoff. Pratt’s been nursing a hip flexor injury from this spring and with consistent traveling and competing, there hasn’t been much time to rehab.

“I still wear a brace for it. It doesn’t really hurt anymore, but for some reason it’s still kind of there.” Pratt said. “I feel like when I get home I’ll take a couple of weeks and let it just rest. Every time you step across a calf you can tweak it or pull it.

At first, neither Pratt or doctors could pinpoint the issue.

“For a while it hurt pretty bad. Docs thought it was my groin, but it wasn’t,” he continued. “I took a couple of weeks off this spring, but we were treating the wrong thing. Now that I know what it is, you just stretch it out, ease it around.

One thing that doesn’t help? Driving long distances.

“Sitting in the truck isn’t good, it tightens up.”

While Pratt might not be 100 percent, his horsepower is looking good.

“A good friend of mine let me borrower a horse of his (Tuffy) to use as a No. 2 horse, I’ve ridden him about 10 times. Then I got my good horse, Six. It’s been a blessing to give Six a break at times.”

Despite being in Pratt’s hometown with his extended family, they haven’t had enough time to enjoy the reunion.

“Man, not really. We’ve been in and out. Last week we were home for two days and then went to San Juan, Coeur d’Alene, Kennewick and Bremerton. As soon as we got home from Coeur d’Alene we spent one day here then went to Walla Walla and Armstrong, BC.

“Next week it’ll be nice. We’ll get to spend a little time with my parents and grandparents because I’m not up until Friday and Saturday in Spokane and Lewiston. And then shoot, the next week we head down to Pendleton on Monday, rope there Tuesday and Wednesday and then head to Albuquerque.

“I would like to have more time, but you’ve got to take care of business.”

Pratt’s not the only one taking care of business. Rainy is a barrel racer who picks and chooses what rodeos to enter when it works with the family’s schedule. She chose very well this week as she placed second in Ellensburg’s first round with a 17.38-second run for $1,999. Her second run during Friday night’s performance was 17.52 which split 10th three ways for $74. Even better, her 34.90-second aggregate on two is fifth in the average. A solid short round run could net the family another few thousand in go-round and average money.

Regardless of the payday, the four Pratt family members will be on the road together as the kids are road warriors.

“They really enjoy going to the rodeos, that makes it a lot easier.”

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