Lately I’ve been thinking about my body position through the turn. I’m realizing that I want to lead with my left shoulder and get it in front of my right shoulder, and I never get my shoulders square to the steer. If I keep my shoulders square, it’s easier to keep my horse’s shoulders up and easier to be ready to throw. Here’s why.
I don’t want my horse anticipating the turn, starting too early and pulling on me. If he starts to shoulder in, it blocks the feet with his head through the turn. There’s no good that really can come of that. That’s why I need to be able to use my left hand, but I’ve got to use it without lifting up my left shoulder, too.
I run into this problem on horses that want to lean into my hand or be too straight through the corner. If I have a horse that never leans on me or never shoulders, it’s easy to be square. If I have to start picking up with my left rein and my left foot, that starts it. I’ve got a horse I’ve been riding that doesn’t want to shoulder or pull, but he’s really straight through the turn. I want him more round with my left rein, so I’m bumping him with that left hand and foot. That puts my left shoulder forward and my right shoulder back. When I go to rope the cow, that gets my swing behind me, and I’m less consistent.
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If I am rotating my shoulders when I pick my left hand up to the right, that means I’m rotating my hips, too. A horse can feel that movement, and he’s reading it all the time. The least amount of movement you can make with your body, the better it is for your horse. If you can stay square in your saddle and keep your feet between your cinches, the better off you’ll be.
If I’m square, my swing is across the steer’s back better than if I have my right shoulder behind me. I can cover more ground with my loop, and I’m ready to throw sooner when I’m squarer. You can still catch when your shoulders aren’t square, but your angle will vary. If I keep my shoulders squarer, then I’m more like Champ (Clay O’Brien Cooper). It’s the same loop and same angle every time. If I start rotating my shoulders, I’m not as consistent. You can still catch but it’s not that repetitive same thing every time.
Ultimately, keeping your shoulders square is about muscle memory. I try to remind myself to stay square when I’m on a horse that I know can get me rotating my shoulders. You can work on that muscle memory on the sled, too, and every time you rope live cattle. In the end, you’ve just got to remember to battle to keep your shoulders even through the corner.