Lately, I’ve been working on setting up my shot better down the arena. Before, I was setting up for a fast throw every time, but that shot was my only option. I’d have to force the shot and pull it off or it wasn’t happening because I was riding too close and not giving myself another option. The top guys all do a really good job of setting themselves up for being able to take the shot if it’s there or taking an extra swing and letting the steer develop.
1) I’ve been working on my distance down the arena—being far enough away that the corner can develop but close enough that, if the steer is perfect, I can heel him on the first hop. It’s been a hard thing to learn because my whole life I’ve just basically tried to attack the steer.
2) I feel like 10 feet in width, with my horse’s nose where the steer’s tail head is down the arena, is the sweet spot. That 10 feet allows me to see the steer all the way around the corner, but I’m still close enough that if the steer takes the first jump perfect I can heel him right then. If he washes out or goes down, he’s not covered up with my horse and I can still see him to make any necessary adjustments and stay hooked. I’ve got long arms, so I have a lot of range. I can keep more distance and be a little more consistent that way.
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3) Basically, the mindset you have is that you set yourself up for the worst-case scenario, handle-wise. It all came from watching Clay O’Brien Cooper, Jade Corkill and Allen Bach—guys with all the gold buckles to show for what they do. They don’t set themselves up for a one-shot run. They can do whatever they need to do to catch. I’ve had to change my way of thinking to realize I’m not the one determining how fast the run is. The heeler’s job is to stop the run. The header determines how fast we are. If the header turns him to be 6.0, I don’t need to try to heel him to be 4.0. We don’t want to have to force anything or create anything that’s not there.
4) My horses always had to work extra hard how I used to rope because I had to rely on them to be perfect. There was no room for either of us to make an error. With everything out in front of my horses, they’re more relaxed and they can see the steer develop in front of them easier.
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5) I haven’t tried to change the style of my swing, but riding better position has made my swing and my body more fluid. I have a softer touch with my hands. I used to swing really hard, and my hands had to be really fast because I was riding tight and throwing fast. Whatever the steer was doing, I was trying to match his speed. I’m still swinging with power, and aggressively, but it’s more fluid. I haven’t tried to change my angles or anything like that. I’m trying to be relaxed, real flowy, and not uptight and too jerky. Jade is the master at that.