Young tie-down roper says the right mental approach his is key to success
Kincade Henry is the youngest of three children born to Chad and Melody Henry of Mount Pleasant, Texas. He and his siblings are close and always have been. Just a year and a half apart, it’s just the natural progression of their relationship.
Jace is the oldest, having just turned 23. Kincade is 20, and their sister, Keely, is 21. Following in the footsteps of their parents, the Henrys were horseback as toddlers and itching to compete shortly thereafter.
When a heart condition forced Keely to stop competing, her brothers joined her on the sidelines.
“Me and my older brother said we’d quit rodeo because she couldn’t go,” said Kincade Henry, a third-year PRCA tie-down roper. “We wouldn’t go without her being able to compete, so I started playing baseball and really got into it.”
He was just 8 at the time, and he made the conscious decision to move on with life. He transitioned his passion from swinging a rope to swinging a bat. He and his teams found success, but there was always something deep in the crevices of his own mind that just needed a bit of a spark. When doctors cleared Keely to return to rodeo a few years later, the fire was lit.
“Before she got cleared again, we’d always go to the clinics at the Josey Ranch,” he said. “My dad learned to rope there, and he’s an instructor there now. We would just rope that one time a year when we went there.
“When my sister got cleared, we just went back to rodeoing again.”
Kincade Henry hasn’t stopped. When he became eligible to compete in PRCA rodeo, he did at age 18, but it wasn’t all biscuits and gravy; just weeks after he became a ProRodeo rookie, COVID shut down the world and rodeo along with it. The virus-shortened season – one he’d hoped would end with a National Finals Rodeo qualification – forced his hand and led him back home 31st on the money list.
“I think I was so young and stupid, I didn’t care at all,” Henry said of his rookie campaign. “I thought I was still going to make it to the NFR. I was optimistically ignorant. When I got out there on the road, it hit me pretty hard that I wasn’t prepared for it and that I didn’t have the horsepower for this. That was rough. I took that harder than anything.”
Each missed opportunity was a lesson learned. From the rodeo trail, he returned to east Texas and transitioned to college life as a student at Panola College in Carthage, Texas. He is still taking classes and is part of the men’s rodeo team, which finished second at the 2021 College National Finals Rodeo.
In fact, it’s there that he’s gaining a new edge to his competitive nature. Panola, which won the men’s team title in 2019, is coached by Jeffrey Collins, the 2000 bareback riding world champion. While riding bucking horses and roping calves are part of rodeo, they are vastly different concepts and competitions.
“I was planning on going to McNeese State, but a friend told me to come check out Panola,” Henry said. “I fell in love with the coach, Jeff Collins. It’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made. He’s really helped me with my mental game most of all.
“Jeff doesn’t know a lick about calf roping, but he’s had his back against the wall and had to ride out of it. He’s been in pressure situations. He’s already faced every factor I see myself in with my future when it comes to competition.”
Henry has already seen some adversity. After realizing that the horse he rode in 2020 wasn’t going to work, he invested into horsepower to kick start the 2021 campaign, but that, too, didn’t go as well as he expected.
“I rode that horse all winter, but by the time February came, I realized it wasn’t going to work out, so I was back on my little bay that I rode in 2020,” he said. “I went into the Fourth of July sitting eighth in the world. I figure that I’m set up; I just have to finish.
“But I didn’t do it. I still didn’t have the horsepower. Guys let me mount out. I had opportunity after opportunity to make a move, but it was the little things that happened. I roped a back leg to win a couple thousand here, or I broke a barrier to win a couple thousand there. Looking back, there were so many ‘couple thousands’ that I missed out on from the middle of July to the end of September that kept me out of (the National Finals Rodeo).”
The NFR features only the top 15 contestants on the money list at the end of the regular season; Henry was 18th. He had crisscrossed the country, ridden other people’s horses and came within a few thousand dollars of earning his first bid to ProRodeo’s grand championship.
“I took it hard, but I didn’t take it as hard as I did the first year,” Henry said. “You get that mindset that you can compete with the best guys in the world. When you realize it’s all over, you step out of that mindset a little bit. I called Jeff and Tuf (Cooper), and they helped me realize that I was 19 years old, and I finished 18th in the world; I’m OK.”
Yes, he is, and early in the 2022 season, Henry is proving it. As of Feb. 7, he was eighth in the world standings. He has a long way to go, but he’s in the game at this point and has adjusted his approach as necessary. He leans on the words of motivational coach Tim Grover: “No emotion; just energy.”
“I feel like if I have any emotion in my head when it’s time to compete, I don’t do any good,” he said. “I think emotion comes out at 7 a.m. when I get up and start my day. Emotion comes when I’m working out and trying to achieve my goals. Whenever I back into the box, I don’t want to have any emotion.”
He also acquired Mario, a 15-year-old blue roan gelding that has also taken his game to a new level.
“I’d like to take credit for my fast start this year, but it’s my horse,” Henry said. “I feel like I’ve matured in my roping from September to January, and I feel like my flanking ins better. I have a different mindset because I’m maturing, but if I hit the barrier and draw a good calf, I feel like it’s over because of my horse.
“There’s nothing more important to a calf roper than a good horse. It’s 80 percent of the equation. You can take one of the best calf ropers in the world and put him on a below-average horse, and he’s going to struggle every time.”
With Mario on board and a list of supporters and advisers that stretch a mile long, Henry is on the right track as he heads into the rest of 2022. Returning to the college finals is a priority, but so is earning his first bid to the NFR. It’s going to take some work, some luck and some good fortune to come his way, but he has the tools necessary to make it all happen.
“I’m more prepared than I have ever been,” he said. “I have a solid horse, and I’m working to maintain a strong mental game. I have to execute, and I feel like I still have three to four months to improve before I leave for the summer. This time of year is when you can work on things because of the schedule.
“When we get to the summer, it’s a freakin’ mental game, and I expect to be ready for it.”