Shane and Lonnie Brown, of Virden, believe in sharing ranch traditions with anyone who is interested.
Putting that in action has become an annual event at their team roping clinic where they share their passion for roping and horsemanship skills with youth.
April 13 and 14 saw 24 eager participants, ranging from age five to 70 travel to Kings Crossing arena, near Virden, from various spots throughout Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Over the course of the weekend they were tutored on the fundamentals of team roping, eventually culminating in throwing a loop on a live steer under the guidance of the brothers.
“I don’t claim to be the best roper around,” said Shane, the younger brother of the two. “But I really like instructing and I like to see the sport grow.”
The first day started with the basics and advanced from there, with team roping runs broken down into step-by-step components. Participants began by learning each skill required, separately, before putting it all together.
“We work on skills like handling your rope, proper and improper position, lots of horsemanship, dallying safely, and proper tack,” Lonnie said.
Clinic participants are able to practise on the ground with roping a dummy to solidify their skills before progressing to horseback.
“Being that every individual has a different way of learning new things, this is where the teaching part really comes into play,” Lonnie said. “Some people learn better from watching me rope three or four in a row and then try to copy how I did it. The next person might need it explained in a way that relates to a different sport they have played.”
One of the things that makes the Brown brothers’ clinic unique is the fact that they are mounted up riding right alongside of their students which helps control the speed and environment for them when they are first starting out. They are right there to talk their pupils through a run, step by step, and offer lots of positive reinforcement.
The Brown brothers are carrying on a family tradition which started with their dad, Lyle and their uncle, Les, who taught the team roping clinic years ago. It was discontinued for several years before being resurrected about 14 years ago. The clinic has continued every year since.
They are also both quick to point out that they wouldn’t be where they are today if it weren’t for the opportunities that they were given to hone their craft while growing up. They credit their families, especially their dad, in sharing his information and knowledge.
“We grew up in a roping family,” Shane said. “We followed them around to ropings and rodeos and watched them instruct our whole lives.”
In addition to the spring team roping clinic, they have each participated in numerous other roping demonstrations, rodeos and clinics, and for the past six years, have also put on a roping clinic specifically for kids.
“Kids are quick learners and easy to teach,” Shane said.
Both big kids at heart, Shane and Lonnie love to spend time with kids while sharing their passion and knowledge. They both find it very rewarding.
“I hope to expose kids to how much fun roping can be, but that it doesn’t come without hard work and determination,” Shane said.
Not only are they teaching roping skills, but valuable life lessons that the kids will take with them and put to good use long after a clinic is over.
“If I can share my roping knowledge with a kid, not only am I hoping to teach him or her how to get better at roping, but hopefully instil a thought process in their mind that will help them work through other challenges that come their way,” Lonnie said.
“Even if a kid is never that successful at roping, if they can gain even a little bit of cowboy mentality and integrate that into the way they live their life, hopefully it will help them be more successful.”
The cowboy mentality that they both refer to is people who are honest, kind, humble and hard working with resilience, determination, and good values.
“They all have a never-quit, don’t-feel-sorry-for-me, no-BS attitude!” Lonnie said with a laugh.
To live the cowboy way to them means they are committed to helping the next generation by teaching kids and being good role models, and enjoying the camaraderie and uniqueness of fellow cowboys. They strive to live a pure and simple life, uphold values, and treat their livestock well, and are adamant to continue the cowboy traditions of previous generations.
It is evident that family is very important to the brothers. They pay special homage to their oldest brother Casey, who was killed in a motor vehicle accident in 2011, by hosting the Casey Brown Memorial roping and the Barrels, Horns and Hocks in Virden the third weekend in June each year.
It consists of two team ropings, a barrel racing, as well as lots of events for the kids including dummy roping, machine roping, live cattle kids roping and peewee barrel racing. They credit Casey as being one of the best horsemen, instructors, and cowboys they have ever known.
It was in fact Casey’s idea to bring back the Brown brothers roping clinics some 14 years ago.
Not only is it natural for Lonnie and Shane to teach clinics together, but to partner in the roping arena as well. They have been roping partners for as long as they’ve known, and without a doubt, prefer to settle in the box knowing the other has their back.
“I was seven when my dad let me enter my first jackpot,” Lonnie said. “Shane was my heeler so he would have been almost five years old.”
“Lonnie and I originally roped out of convenience and necessity because we were brothers,” Shane said. “Then we realized how unique it was to be able to live and practise together and our relationship grew closer, and then it just became second nature to rope with one another.”
Lonnie added, “In all the years that we have roped together, I can never remember us getting into a heated discussion about either one of us not performing well. We have roped together for so long we basically know what the other guy is thinking, lots of times we barely even talk before we go to make a run.
“We enjoy spending time together with our families practising and travelling to rodeos and jackpots,” said Lonnie.
“We like the lifestyle and the values it teaches our family,” Shane said. “It’s not always a glamorous life or makes us the most money, but we get to spend a lot of time together and we sure enjoy it.”