PUEBLO, Colo. ― Unbeknownst to him at the time, a simple side conversation with Kasey Hayes back in late February during the Built Ford Tough Series event in Kansas City, Mo., may have salvaged Cody Nance’sseason.
Nance was struggling to find any success on the BFTS and was mired in a 6-for-23 slump, and ranked 25th in the world standings, thanks in part to a nagging injury to his left (riding) hand that he suffered at the Sacramento Invitational in January.
The Paris, Tenn., native couldn’t seem to get into a rhythm and even started to question his bull rope. Hayes, who has been using bull ropes made by Dick Carr since he was 9 years old, explained he had no complaints with his own and said Nance could take a try with his.
The 2009 Rookie of the Year gave it a shot, but he still failed to the make the 8-second whistle in Kansas City.
However, something felt right about Hayes’ bull rope and Nance decided to reach out to the Elk City, Okla., bull rope maker for a new rope prior to the Dr Pepper Iron Cowboy V. He then spent the week leading up to the marquee PBR event working on some fundamentals.
The end result?
Nance rode The Rocker for 87.25 points that weekend in Arlington, Texas, and went on to post another seven rides during the month of March. Nance’s personal march madness of eight rides surpassed his total number of qualified rides during the first two months of the season, in which he was riding at a 26.1-percent clip, and also led to two event wins in Tacoma, Wash., and Fresno, Calif.
Leah Garcia talks with Cody Nance about his bull rope, as well as fixing the little things, after the veteran came away with the win at the PBR BFTS Passport Invitational in Tacoma, Wash.
“My hand was really hurting me and the rope I was using wasn’t helping me,” Nance said prior to this past weekend’s DeWALT Guaranteed Tough Invitational. “I bought a Dick Carr rope… he makes some good ropes and they really enable you to be able to get out over your bulls and they break real well. So that was the change.
“I just needed to be able to get off my butt and get over the front and ride like you are supposed to.”
Carr had also made ropes for other PBR riders, including two-time World Champion Justin McBride.
Hayes was first introduced to a Carr bull rope through a family friend, and other than a time when he tried to use a Brazilian rope out of pure curiosity, the 28-year-old has stuck with the Oklahoma man’s rope.
“Man, I just like it because it doesn’t have a super stiff handle and it breaks over and it allows you to get over the front end and that’s about it,” Hayes explained. “Dick Carr has made bull ropes his whole life. He is a godly man. Dick is as a good a man as they come.”
Nance called the rope a “million times” different than his previous one and it helped relieve some of the pain he was feeling in his riding hand. Earlier this season, Nance was struggling with “sitting on his pockets” during his ride attempts, partially because of his hand injury, which he said has recently healed. It had previously been so bad that he even attempted to ride with his opposite hand in Sacramento to no avail.
Nance also added that the new bull rope has freed him up to drive out over bulls more during his rides.
To do so, Nance had to break at the hips and let his riding shoulder point him out over the bull.
“For me to be able to do that, I had to be able to turn my hand over in my rope and put pressure on the back of my hand instead of it pulling flat in a lifting position – pulling my hand flat on the back of the bull where I can put my knuckles on the back, that was the difference,” Nance said. “That was the key that (the new rope) enabled me to turn my hand over.”
During his 89.75-point ride aboard New Holland PowerStar, Nance was able to stand tall to cap off a 3-for-3 weekend for the victory in Tacoma. Two weeks later, he would go 3-for-3 for his second win of the season in Fresno, while also riding Tea Time for 88.5 points during the event’s 15/15 Bucking Battle.
Cody Nance wins with 89.75 points on New Holland Powerstar in the championship round of the PBR Passport Invitational in Tacoma, Wash.
Like always, confidence is key.
“Well, I’m really glad he loved that rope because I have enjoyed it,” Hayes said. “I guarantee if you can find something you believe works, you take it and run with it.”
It is not the first time that Nance has put together a consistent month of bull riding. Just last year, he rode nine bulls in April.
Still, whether it is due to injury or elsewise, he has yet to be able to ride at a consistent pace on the BFTS. Nance has a career 36.9-percent riding average and is coming off an 0-for-2 performance at the BFTS event in Nampa, Idaho.
However, Nance did travel to Gary Leffew’s ranch to study film and work on some additional bull-riding techniques following his victory in Fresno, prior to the Nampa event.
Leffew has previously worked with other PBR riders – including a group of riders ranging from Gage Gay to Douglas Duncan the week leading up to the LiftMaster Chute Out in Anaheim, Calif.
It was the first time Nance got to work with the former bull rider since Leffew complimented him in 2009 when Nance rode Bird Creek for 90.5 points in Reno, Nev.
“He really gave me confidence,” Nance recalled. “Gary said, ‘That was a great ride. You ride just like I teach.”
Nance had wanted to keep working on his fundamentals after dealing with his two hand injuries this year, so when the opportunity arose through the help of Humps N’ Horns, he quickly said yes.
“I have had a couple of deals going around with hands and different things and everybody wants to tell you how to ride bulls and you get to listening and then eventually you don’t even ride like you used to,” Nance said. “For a guy to change his riding style, it affects his ability to stay on one. For me to go out and work with Gary and have Gary teach me what I was doing so right and turn around and get back to the basics of how I learned to ride bulls… gives me a lot of confidence.”
The main things Nance and Leffew focused on were different techniques for when a bull turns into his hand. Leffew worked with Nance via a drop and stationary barrel. He also explained to Nance that he had a solid foundation with his feet and legs and that he did a good job getting over the front.
Nance easily could have gone home following his Fresno victory; instead, he saw an opportunity to improve.
“There are certain aspects of the sport that don’t come down to the weekend,” Nance concluded. “You have to put in the work during the week. If you are not putting in the work during the week then you are thinking about it too much when you get to the bull riding, because you can’t go there and figure it out. You need to go home and figure out what works for you and go to the bull riding and just react.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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