I try to ride each horse for his style, and I’ve learned you can ride a horse better for his style if you’re good with your left hand. Joseph Harrison, Trevor Brazile, J.D. Yates, Dakota Kirchenschlager—they can ride any horse because they’re so good with their left hands.
[SHOP: Cesar de la Cruz's Roping Gear]
Leaving the box, I’m accelerating and don’t want to balance on my horse’s mouth. I want to leave with my hand down and with my horse in a strong position with good balance and weight running down my legs. I’m not leaning back or pulling my body forward with the reins. My hand is on my horse’s neck, and I’m really with him. If I get to sitting down and pulling, that won’t help my roping at all.
As I’m riding around the corner and the head loop is getting tight, I want my horse checking off by himself. I don’t want to be guiding all over the place. I want my hand down and hopefully he’s starting to get in a good position. If I get there early and I’m lifting him up, I want it to be really light pressure. I want him to instantly start slowing down. I’m not trying to pull my weight forward, and I’m with my horse. I’m starting my delivery so I’m going to give him an idea. I want to start my transition to help him get his hind end down. This horse is naturally using his hind end, so as soon as I lift him up, his hind end goes down. With him, in particular, and with my good buckskin, Lucky, the lighter the pressure I put on them, the better they feel. If you pull too hard, they’ll take off going down the arena. When I lift up, I keep it light, and I get a better response.
I am just throwing my loop down there, and I’m releasing my left hand as I’m delivering. I want my left hand to come down with my right and take pressure off of his mouth so he can maneuver his body to get prepared for the stop and the jerk. I lift him up and let him know it’s coming, and then I put my left hand down and give him back his head so he’s in a strong position to stop when I dally and get prepared for the jerk.
Here, I’m getting my slack and picking up so I can go back down to the saddle horn. That’s picking up his front end so the saddle horn can come back up, and I can get my dally. I want to pick up his front end where the saddle horn comes up and I can get a clean, easy dally.
With my horse’s front end lifted up, his shoulders are coming up and his hind end is getting in a strong position to prepare for the stop. He’s pedaling on his front end.
At the rodeos, I’m pulling back and trying to get my horse to take a step or two back because tenths of a second are everything. But, if you want your horse free and stopping smooth, I’m learning to lift and be soft with my left hand so he can stop and stand and sit in one spot without having to run backward. I’m working on holding my horse really steady. That will allow him to sit still and hold the steer. That’s better for jackpot ropers of all levels: keeping horses from getting too short. That will hold the steer at the end of the rope. Lifting up instead of back produces an easy stop that I’ve been working on now for the last four or five years.