Scoring is obviously a big, big deal to me. You need to keep even pressure without sending mixed signals to your horse. Your horse can only score as good as you do, so you have to have the patience to sit there and not move your hand or send messages with body language. A lot of people don’t move their hand but they start leaning forward, which tells the horse they’re ready to go. However you start, you want your horse to stay there until you drop your hand.
Once you start, you need to stay in your lane, keeping from getting too close behind or too wide, just staying exactly the same distance, width-wise from the steer the whole run. Team roping is a game of percentages, and that gives you a high-percentage shot and teaches your horse to run to a consistent spot. If you’re running to a different spot every time you rope, your percentages go down. So if I’m dropping a half a coil or a full coil, I want it to be from the same basic position every time—as much as i can control—with the set up and the steer.
The next thing people need to think about is having their swing level to the steer’s horns. Especially when you reach, you can’t have a lot of funky angles to your rope. I see a lot of people with too much dip to the left—and if you’re reaching you’ll miss that right horn. You have to have a level swing and a level delivery when you’re at the rodeos. The guys I see dipping it to the right are the ones roping right horn to left horn, and they aren’t used to reaching. There is a place for both loops, but you can’t reach with a loop going right horn to left horn. When you’re in good jackpot position you can rope right horn to left horn.
My next big thing is keeping your horse’s body position parallel with the steer’s through the corner. It’s important everywhere, but especially at these smaller, NFR-type set ups. If your horse has already made his move left before you have control of the steer’s head, the steer’s legs, instead of turning right in front of your heeler, will shoot down the arena too far instead of having a smooth corner.
A lot of guys run up in there and wait to dally to see if their horse is free. I like to rope and get it on the horn before I really know if I’m in control or not. It’s easier to control a horse when you don’t have weight on the horn. So, if they want to get strong, you have to do your correcting—standing the shoulder up, pushing them back to the steer and getting them back in your hand—once the weight has hit the horn.
The last thing that I feel I concentrate on more than most is the face. I feel like if my horses are facing as good or better than everybody else’s horses, I can take a higher percentage shot because I’ll make that time back in the finish. By the same token, I feel real strongly about never giving that steer his head back once you’ve got it. A lot of steers get their head back when guys go to face, and not necessarily even when they face too early. Sometimes, with an incorrect face, you’ll give that steer’s head back and cause the heeler to slip a leg. Even at the NFR, I’ve seen the steer get his head back before the heeler’s rope has even got the feet. it makes it twice as hard on a heeler.
When I’m working on a correct face—which means my horse continues to pull as he faces—my main goal is to never give that steer his head back until I’m looking at him. To do that, you can never get your horse’s butt under the rope because it takes a rare athlete of a horse to face and keep the rope tight through his entire turn-around if the rope is straight behind him when he starts.
It’s a little bit of a sidepass, but most people put it in too early. They put it in right at the corner. The corner is about just staying framed, position for position, with the steer. If you start too early, your horse can get weak. They’re good in the corner, but lose everything after that. I think, to keep my horses facing better, I don’t put the sidepass in until I really start towing the steer. That way, the horse doesn’t have to hold them as long and it’s not as hard on their bodies.