Manny Egusquiza is known in team roping as one of the living legends. His biggest win in the past few years was the Bob Feist Invitational, where he and his partner, Kory Koontz, bested more than 130 teams to take the title.
Introduced to the sport by his father, Manny Sr., Egusquiza qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo in 1998 before starting his career as a heeler. He switched to heading several years ago.
Today, Egusquiza is still competing, along with teaching and training horses. We sat down with him to talk about his past, his present, and of course, his future.
Tell us about your early years.
I was born in Miami. My dad and grandfather were ranchers in Cuba. When they moved to Florida from Cuba during the Castro regime, they didn’t know anything else. Dad was in high school. Grandfather was a rancher. They worked the Big B Ranch in Florida and always had horses and roped. My dad roped calves. I had a small horse as a little boy. Tried to rope calves. All my friends started team roping. Dad’s second sport was team roping. He hurt his knee, and I was the heeler
We had a house in town and rented a piece of property on the outskirts of Miami. I would feed horses in the morning and spend time after school roping. When I got a little older, 16-17-18, we made a move to Dayton, Florida.
I went to Missouri Valley College for five years. When I was in college, I moved from south Florida to Marianna. Then I lived in Georgia, the center of all rodeos. If you make IPRA (International Pro Rodeo Association) finals in summer, rodeos are big in the northeast. I feel like I moved at a good time.
What are you doing these days?
Roping, teaching, training horses, whatever it takes. I do training most of all, and I teach a little bit. What people don’t understand is that rodeo in the state of Texas is just as good pro rodeo.
I’ve won $50,000 in the state of texas. It’s really good. I think I got $28,000 in one, and $17,000 in a circuit rodeo. It’s still good living, rodeo-wise.
How often do you rope?
In the summer, 5-6 rodeos a week. Come April and May, you can go 3-4 or 5-6 a week.
Tell us what happened after the BFI win in 2021.
Kory and I, as a team, didn’t want to travel as much. We wanted to stay in Texas. We had a good summer. We've made a good living just around home.
What’s it take to make it to the NFR?
Everything has to fall into place.
Obviously, there’s the financial piece.
Having a great partner that you get along with, that you can make a run day in and day out with.
What was rodeo life like in the beginning?
When I graduated from high school in 1995, there was a guy named Walt Walden, great team roper and a great all around guy. We were at a jackpot in Big Cypress, I was 18 years old. Walt says, “Hey do you want to rope with me next year?” I didn’t know what to tell my dad. My dad had seen Mr. Walden, but I didn’t have a truck and trailer. I just went with my dad everywhere.
My dad asked, “What did Walt want?” He lived in Stockbridge, Georgia, approximately 8 hours apart.
I told my dad, “He asked if I was available to go to circuit rodeos in the Southeast.”
My dad said, “You go tell him you’re going to rope with him.”
Walt would ask me, ‘What are you going to do with your life? You wanna rope?”
The best advice he gave me get out of that part of the world. I thought, man, I’m good with roping around here. It’s hard to tell that to a kid who grew up in South Florida he needs to move. I had a high school friend who had gone to Missouri Valley. My Dad told them it had to be a full ride. They invited him to dinner to discuss scholarship - and i got one to rope calves and heel.
I’d never left the southeast and now am going to Missouri. My truck broke down a couple of times on the way out there. I started school. It was a culture shock.
You moved back to Florida at some point.
My kids were born in 2000 and 2003. We moved back to Florida, then we moved to Georgia. But I always wanted to live in Stephenville, Texas. started heading with Tom Born as a heeler. He was the driving force to get me to start heading in 2001. It was crazy. I couldn’t lose.
Many of your days in Stephenville are spent teaching.
I love teaching. I basically teach every day. I like that I can show them how to ride their horse better. I’ve got a friend of mine who can come and throw ropes and has a new horse. I’m just trying to teach him a little patience, make sure the horse is standing straight. I love helping these guys. Another thing I love about it is teaching the perspective of the game. Most of these guys that come to me they just rope to rope. They don’t know the whole perspective of how to practice to win. What’s worked for me transfers to them and I’m breaking it down for them. If it works for them, it’s a tool that works. My dad taught me how to rope.
You work with horses, too.
I get it from my dad. He was a pretty dang good horseman. He taught me I could learn through trial and error and to never give up on a horse. If he spent $2,000 on a horse, he had to make it work. Figuring out what made the horse better is kind of a bullheaded mentality. I’m still like that. I’ve got horses here that I beat my head against the wall but then I have a breakthrough.
Every horse I rodeo is someone else’s reject. I bought them for an affordable price and fixed the horse and started winning on them. There are some young ones I’ve got and I’m the only one who’s competed on them.
You’ve got to be a decent trainer. A lot of the guys I teach. To me, team roping is as easy as walking up and roping the dummy. The only difference is when I’m walking to the dummy, I can control my feet. When you add a horse to it, how can you make the horse get to your spot with the same distance and balance, and control the horse to do that. 80% of roping comes from horsemanship.