Working in tandem

Alice Mannette
Billie Jack Saebens, left, and teammate Coleman Proctor compete in the team roping competition during slack events Tuesday morning at the Pretty Prairie Rodeo. The team's time was 9.8 seconds.

Team roping legend, Coleman Proctor is a winner. In addition to going to nationals nine times, Coleman has racked up more than $1 million in awards. He’s won championships in California, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah, ranking 8th in the world in 2019.

Team ropers Coleman and Billie Jack Saebens competed during slack at Kansas Largest Night Rodeo in Pretty Prairie on Tuesday morning. Coleman and Saebens previously worked as partners, but because both their new partners live in Texas and Coleman and Saebens resides in Oklahoma, they decided to work together again in Pretty Prairie. Coleman’s partner, Ryan Motes resides in Weatherford. Tyler Wade is Saebens’ partner.

Saebens, who is originally from Missouri, has racked up more than a half-million dollars in career winnings, having won team roping events throughout the Midwest and California. For Coleman and Saebens, roping is a way of life; the rodeo is their full-time job.

“I’ve been riding as soon as I could walk,” Coleman said. “I grew up in a roping family.”

Because rodeos across the country were shut down due to COVID-19 and many have yet to reopen, contestants wanting to compete flooded Pretty Prairie’s professional rodeo, a PRCA event running from July 14-18. Because of the shutdown of several rodeos nationwide, more national winners are throwing their ropes into the mix in Kansas. Nearly 550 contestants, more than double last year’s number, will compete during this 83-year-old rodeo event.

Along with riding the rodeo circuit since 2004, Proctor raises cattle and sells horses. On Tuesday, he rode Admiral, an 11-year-old American Quarter Horse. The two drove in from Pryor, Okla., leaving the state at 3 a.m.

Siebens lives in Nowata, Okla., and has worked the professional circuit for a decade. He drove in with his wife, who competed in barrel racing, and their two horses.

“I love the horses, and I love to rope,” Siebens said. “The whole team atmosphere is fun.”

Some of those mares and geldings cost anywhere from $3,500 to $250,000. With most, according to Proctor, falling in the $50-75,000 range. Proctor compared elite horses to racecars — they are both vitally important to their rider.

“Every rodeo guy is always looking for their next horse,” Proctor said. “It’s nothing like any other sport.”

In addition to being in sync with their horses, the two men must know how to read each other. They must understand each other’s chemistry.

“Everything rides on reaction,” Proctor said. “They need to know what your’re thinking, and you need to know what they are thinking. You’ve got to know the ins and outs of each other. It’s like a marriage.”

During an average year, Proctor and Siebens travel more than 60,000 miles with their partners. They are often away from home for an average of 300 days a year.

For both Proctor and Siebens, riding in the rodeo is all they've ever wanted to do.

Coleman Proctor finishes his team roping run with Billie Jack Saebens during the slack events Tuesday morning at the Pretty Prairie Rodeo.