Sanders, Morgan earn first in roping
Being a national champion in any sport is quite an accomplishment in and of itself, but being the best at team roping involves a timed competition that relies on the cooperation and skill of cowboys and their horses.
Taylor Morgan of Trumann and Heath Sanders of Monette earned first place in the 2013 Cinch USTRC national finals of team roping on Saturday, Nov. 2, at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds and walked away with $123,000 in prize money, plus Martin championship trophy saddles, Gist championship buckles, Tony Lama ostrich boots, 12 Cinch wardrobes, and Western Horseman championship prints.
Friendships between Taylor and Sanders began during their high school years as they found themselves attending the same rodeos and area events that involved horses.
Morgan is a 1990 graduate of Trumann High School, and Sanders graduated in 1990 from Buffalo Island Central in Monette.
"We have become best friends through the years and as close as brothers," Sanders said. "We both share a passion for working with horses. Our roping horses Cowboy and Bucky Jr. are real brothers. They came from Oklahoma and they work well together, just like Taylor and I do."
"We practice team roping constantly and have learned to read each others moves and thought processes," Morgan said. "We have competed together enough that we knew we had a good opportunity to win in Oklahoma this month. I knew I could depend on Heath as a heeler, and he knew he could depend on me as a roper. All the elements were right, and we were ready. It was just our time."
Taylor Morgan is the son of Dennis and Paula Morgan of Trumann. He and his wife Jenny have three children, Savannah, J. Taylor and Caroline. He is an insurance agent and broker for American General Insurance and Dennis Morgan.
"It was a hard decision to leave home and compete in the finals," Morgan said. "I am missing my kid's ballgames, which I love to attend. My family loves me and supports me, or I couldn't do this. Faith, family and friends define team roping. It is a group effort."
"We have won a lot of team roping competitions, but have also lost plenty too," Morgan said. "Disappointments help us focus today, and learn from our mistakes, so we won't repeat them the next time."
Heath Sanders has been roping for 22 years, and Morgan is his main roping partner. He has tried every rodeo sport, from bull riding to roping calves. Sanders is the son of Larry and Diana Sanders of Monette. He has a son named H.D., who has already had a check 103 performance at the Cody Night Rodeo in Cody, Wyo. Sanders is owner of Sanders Pressure Washing and Sanders Roping Horses.
"In order to win at roping horses, it is simply figuring out how not to lose," Sanders said. "We just get out in the lot and grind it out, practicing day after day, until we have confidence in our ability to do it right. No one is going to give the victories to you, you simply have to earn them the hard way."
Sanders had back-to-back wins during the competition, as he and his partner, Nick Gonzales, won the #11 Preliminary, winning a championship saddle and $13,000 cash prize.
"Heath is one of the best roping coaches I have ever seen," Morgan said. "My son J. Taylor has grown to love the sport and is becoming very skilled at it. It is a personal challenge, and the harder you work at it, the better you become."
The men spend summers working at the Sanders ranch, southeast of Monette, and winters at Morgan's home in Trumann. Both men have spacious horse lots that are well suited for serious team roping practices.
"Roping is all about the horses," Sanders said. "I can teach people to rope if they can ride. If they aren't good riders they will never be good ropers, as the riding inability will stop them every time."
"I have so many people to thank for me being able to work with horses and live out my wildest dreams," he said. "My parents always provided me with horses to ride and my neighbors and friends, Bucky Fires and Gene Simpson, always encouraged me and shared their riding expertise with me. I am gone from home a lot and my employees keep the business going while I am away. No one could keep up this pace and be successful all by themselves, as it takes a big support team to keep it going year after year. Like many have said before me, it has been worth the ride."