I was at the Royal Crown in February, and I made the short round in the Open on my bay horse Junior. I blew up on him fast, and I split the horns to place high up in the roping. That’s something I’ve had happen to me pretty much forever, and I was frustrated. Talking to Miles Baker after the roping, he asked me what I thought caused it. I told him I was closing the gap and needed to open my swing up more. He brought up to me, though, that if I had been getting my horse’s stride measured off more coming to the steer, that wouldn’t happen. Here’s what I’ve learned since that ah-ha moment.
1) I want to let you all see exactly what I was doing wrong so you can understand what was happening. It’s no secret I’m riding fast, running-bred horses. Their strength is in their speed, and I’ve got to learn to use that to the best of my abilities. Since I started riding these race horses, they don’t have so much feeling that you rate them off with your left hand. They don’t take it very well when you do—they can start climbing. I’d just try to rope on the gain and beat them to it, and then they’d rate because they finally figured out they were pulling a cow.
2) What happens is that they read your rope going by them, but that’s the first cue they’re getting. If you’re sitting down and trying to get your horse rated off, you’ll split the horns and then your horse climbs. If you do happen to catch, it will take a while for the corner to happen to where they’re heel-able. In the pictures on my sorrel colt, I was riding him past his spot and his head would come up and he’d have to work to come back to where he doesn’t have the rope over his hips. That snowballs to the box, because if you’re making a horse’s job hard in the arena, they’ll dread it in the box, and then you’ve got a whole new set of problems to address.
3) In the first picture, you can see how I’ve come up on the steer and overrun my position. This is a green horse, and he overshot his spot. I’ve got a hold of the bridle reins trying to get him to rate. His head comes up, and he panics, and it affects the corner, and it affects the face. Big deal how fast you can rope the horns if you can’t shape the steer in a position to finish fast. You’re two seconds longer even if you rope the horns a second faster if you’re having this same problem.
4) About the same time as I had this conversation with Miles, I’d been watching the videos of his practice runs with Trevor Brazile on Roping.com, and I noticed a lot about the little things they do that really make a difference. I’ve always noticed that Trevor and Miles will stand up in their stirrups when they rope at the front of their saddles. As they’re closing the gap, they start to come up to the front of their saddle, push on their stirrups and arch their backs. They can keep their left hand down because they’re up to the front of the saddle. Their left hand is down by the horn, not up and causing elevation in their horse’s stride. As they stay up in their delivery, it keeps their delivery open.
5) Applying this allows me to set my horse up for the corner. As I start to close the gap I get to the front of the saddle and push my feet in the stirrups and my horse starts to get collected. If I show it to him a coil away, he’s collected and I can get it on the horns tight and control the steer. Essentially, I’m timing my horse’s stride as I come to the steer by getting to the front of the saddle. That allows me to open my swing and tighten my delivery up. My horse is starting to create that separation and level out and go the same speed as the steer so I can rope from anywhere. The proof is in the pudding. It’s been a big difference maker for me and my horses.
Miles Baker’s Explanation: What I told Bobby that day is that he needs to think of it as riding a bucking horse. If a horse is trying to get out from under you and you’re on his butt, he’ll go forward. If you’re on his ears, he’ll go backward. They’re always going to feel your weight distribution and back away from whatever that may be. When Bobby would catch up to a steer, he’d rock his shoulders back to get to the back of his saddle to create more distance between him and the cow. But that would cause him to short his delivery. As he’s approaching the cow and creating his shot, if he’ll stand up and move everything to the front of the saddle and be forward to the steer to create distance, his horse will naturally back away from him and understand that his aggression as another cue to back off. Instead of using himself, he needs to be in the front of the saddle, putting it on the horns as he’s getting there to let his horse learn to create the distance for him instead of trying to create the distance with his body.