Control of your first swing is something that’s too important to overlook. A lot of ropers start with their tip too far down or too far in the air, when in reality the first swing needs to be flat with the top pointing downward toward the steer.

RIDE YOUR HORSE.

Ropers can lose control of their tip by being rocked back on their horse coming out of the box. Even the best ropers in the world will hold the saddle horn coming out of the box, and that keeps them up at the front of their saddle and able to get that first swing off in the right direction. If you ride your horse out of the box better, you’re in a better spot to throw your rope.

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MIND YOUR FEET.

To stay balanced in your saddle, keep your feet even with your body the whole run. If you start leaning forward or back, your horse will feel that and move with you. Having your feet too far forward or back will throw off your first swing and cause your horse to duck.

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PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.

Practice having your swing flat with your tip pointed at the steer’s horns on the dummy. Don’t let that first swing be lazy even when you’re just roping the dummy for fun. On live steers, you have to practice leaving with your horse—and that means perfecting your scoring in addition to your riding. If you aren’t pulling on your horse, you’ll get a lot smoother start. If you nod, go, second guess yourself, pull, and go again, you’ll be late and off balance, and your swing will be out of whack. When you go, you go all the way. It’s easier said than done though. 

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