Roping Better with Jhett Johnson: The Heeler’s Position

The clock says 0.6, so within a half second Cheese (Steve Purcella) has got it out and is throwing at him. Vernal is a fast rodeo. The steer is just starting to take my haze and I’m starting my horse over there and he is in the left lead-which is good. At a fast rodeo like that-or at any rodeo-I’ll watch Steve nod and when he does I’ll start my horse out of there. I won’t just blast out of there, I start easy and when the steer comes out, I’m right beside him. That way I can either leave him alone, step away from him wide or, like on this one, I stepped at him a little more and got him to step over to the left.

You can see that Cheese’s horse, my horse and everything is broke into the left lead and there’s a real good flow to the run. The steer is heading into him and the heel horse is starting to the steer and there’s a lot of flow to this run.

In the first picture, I’ve got everything started to the left, and now I’m pretty high on the steer. My horse’s head is up to the steer’s shoulders and Cheese has got him roped-it’s not tight and leaving yet-but the head rope is on and I’m starting to pick up on my reins and pull back and get my horse collected and ready for the switch.
The haze is crucial-especially at a fast rodeo. You can see on the clock that at one second flat Steve has him roped. When he’s going that fast, if I let that steer go to the right, not only is it harder for him, that’s how much harder the corner’s going to be. At a fast rodeo, it’s crucial that those steers stay straight or even break to the left a little bit.

These summertime steers, he might have been a little sore-headed or something because he’s trying to pull his head away from Steve. The steer is fighting it. His hondo is right behind the steer’s head even though he’s fighting it.

At this point, I don’t even notice the head catch. I’m looking at the feet and driving my horse up into the corner so I can make a fast throw. Seems like horses, the harder you drive them into something the harder they resist. Like when you try to cross a creek or something and they don’t want to, the more you try and make them, the more they push back against you. He’s a cowy, hard-stopping horse anyway. That horse doesn’t want to go by the steer.

You can see how rough the cow hit and how low his hips are. This loop is ideally what I want to do. That steer hasn’t moved forward at all-he’s just finished switching-and what I want to do is put a trap down there that’s going to catch him whether this steer shuffles or hops or whatever happens. I want a trap laying there waiting for him. You don’t rely on the cow to do it. I want to put a trap down like I did right there and when Steve pulls him forward he has to go in it. You can see that my horse is completely stopped. As soon as I get dallied it’s over.

To me, perfect position is when they come legal, I want them right at the end of my horse’s bridle. Even though he switched farther than they usually do, the position I rode kept my horse right out over his hips. He never had a chance to get away from me.

You can also notice that as that steer is fighting his head around the turn, as he comes legal, the head rope slides up around behind the right horn instead of the left horn. On a steer that doesn’t fight his head, the knot will be behind the left horn.

That’s his first jump up out of the turn. He’s in it and now his back feet are together. I’ve got a lot of climb on my rope and I’ve still got three coils left in my hand so I’m going to get dallied on a short rope. My rope is climbing up the steer’s legs good, plumb above his hocks, and you can see the bottom strand (the one behind the steer) is continuing to climb. As I go down to dally, my rope is still going to be going up to ensure that I don’t slip a leg or something. My horse is completely stopped on his butt and square-ready to take the hit.

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