Young Guns with Rich Skelton
Controlling the variables in teaching your children to team rope

The Rope

I’ve got Rainey a MoneyMaker Junior kids’ rope. It’s a three-strand, but it seems like it holds the saddle horn really, really well. It’s been the safest rope that I’ve run onto.

Horse Size

One thing I commonly see is that parents put kids on horses that are too big. They’ll put them on their horses. The kids are smaller, and they have to look around the horse’s head. It changes the angle of their swing, and then they’ve got to fix that angle to rope successfully. Smaller horses keep them from having to move their body to look around the horse’s head. Moving their body distorts the angle of their swing, adversely affecting their roping.

Cutting Off the Coils

This tip comes from Speed (Williams). With Rainey learning to head and learning to heel, I cut her rope off so she has one coil and a tail. If her horse ducks off, she doesn’t have any coils in her hand and she’ll just lose her rope. It takes some of the danger away basically. Accidents can always happen, but it sure decreases the odds.

Sled to Steers

To me, all roping is like building a house. You start out with the foundation, like groundwork—the sawhorse, roping dummies on the ground. The walls would be roping the sled and being in control. The roof would be the live steers. You need to be very careful how the machine is controlled with speed. We need to make it where the kids are safe. With the Heel-O-Matic sled, you can control the speed so well. Even when they rope steers, I keep three to four steers around that lope and don’t get real heavy. Kids roping steers that get heavy, that’s how they get hurt. Heeling, you want bigger, older steers. You want to keep the steers as close to the way the Heel-O-Matic works. You try to keep it at close as you can from the sled to the steers. If you can rope the slow-hopping, bigger steers, your kids can get in position and see their timing.


Roping is just repetition. When you can see what you’re roping, you want to try to emulate that on the sled and the steers. It’s hard to rope what you can’t see consistently. On your horse position, you want to get in the same position over and over. If you’re on the left side of the steer, then behind the steer, then on the right side of the steer, the angle of your swing has to change over and over again. You want to ride to the same position on both the sled and the steer so your swing angle can stay consistent.

Stay off the freshies

One of the worst things you can actually do is rope steers that are too fresh. It’s not safe. And it’s hard for them to get into position on steers that run real fast and run all over the arena. They can’t get any repetition as far as their position, and it makes it very difficult.

Rich Skelton

Rich is an eight-time world champion, and his daughter, Rainey, turns 11 this month. He teaches private schools and clinics across the country, and is offering a horsemanship and team roping clinic with Chris Cox and Nick Sartain May 18-20 in Mineral Wells, Texas. For more information, visit

Related Articles
Colby Lovell heeling
5 Flat
Making Smooth Shots on Green Horses
Still of Coleman Proctor holding a rope from video "How to Fix the Most Common Misses in Team Roping"
Pro Tip
This One Change Could Help Your Catch Percentage
Trevor Brazile training rope horse fundamentals while roping on a sorrel horse in a covered arena
Relentless Insights
Starting a Rope Horse: Developing Timing
A very young Clay O'Brien Cooper heeling for Danny Costa.
Breaking Bad Habits
Break the Leaning Habit
closeup of Trevor Brazile heading on a palomino horse
The Magnetic Draw to Cattle