As a heeler, entry into the corner really dictates how the rest of your run comes together. The roping part comes easier if you keep steady momentum through the corner. Too fast of an entry will cover the steer up and cause you to adjust by pulling on your horse or getting your body out of position, and you will need to overcome that with your rope. If you’re too late on the corner, you’re out of the picture and hustling to get there. Keeping your horse locked in, at a medium distance, will keep the momentum of the run so the roping part is a lot easier.
1. My horse is in my hand, and I’m focusing on keeping my weight in my stirrups. My header has him roped, and I brought my swing up. I want to bring my first swing up, have power on it, and have it serve a purpose. Heelers don’t need to start swinging for no reason. It’s important to ride first and then bring that first swing up to the target. So going down the arena, it’s important that I have my horse in my hand, listening to the bridle reins to set up a good corner before I ever worry about my swing.
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2. So much of heeling is keeping space but maintaining momentum through the corner. In this photo, the steer is turned and already starting to continue across the arena. But I’ve got enough distance that I can read where he’s going without ever needing to pick up the bridle reins in the corner. I’m letting the header get control of the steer and make his move. That carries my horse’s momentum through the corner.
You want to be able to see your shot coming, but you don’t want to be too close. A lot of times, you don’t know what the steer’s first move is going to be. You want to get to going the same speed as the steer as soon as you can, but you need to let the steer make the first move.
3. The steer just got legal in this photo. I’ve given myself enough space to set up a solid shot. I want to maintain good balance, and I’m in jackpot mode. I want to keep weight in my stirrups and maintain good body posture. I want to take a high-percentage shot here, so I’m maintaining my body position and swing to keep everything solid across the arena. Here, I want my tip over the steer’s back, high enough to carry plenty of momentum and lots of power.
4. I’m able to deliver my rope on the second hop in this photo because I’ve got the right amount of distance from that steer. That means just enough so you feel like you’re not too close and not reaching. You want to be able to rope the steer to where it’s ready to be heeled. If you’re covering the steer up where you can’t see the feet, you’re too close; and if you’re a coil or two away, you’re too far.
5. I’m squeezing my horse through his stop here. I want to keep his front feet moving and put enough pressure on my legs to keep my saddle horn coming up higher so I can get a good, clean dally and finish. My feet might have come back a little too much here in this photo, but I do want to keep them in him to keep him moving to get a smooth, fast finish.