Teaching a young horse the correct corner will set him up for a lifetime of success. Here’s how.
I chose this set of photos from this day in the practice pen because I was really working on my horse’s corner, and they show what I was really trying accomplish. He’s a 6-year-old I used to call Baby Jackyl, but now we call him Spirit. I’ve been working on improving my corner on all of my horses by improving my own riding and their responsiveness to my hands, feet and body.
1) Running down the arena, I don't just give him his head entirely. I keep him collected throughout the run. I am not pulling on him or hanging on him down the arena, but I keep a little bit of contact with his mouth so he doesn't get his body strung out or get to leaning to the inside.
2) A lot of horses, when you start going fast and adding speed, they get in the habit of shouldering into the turn. They learn how to cut the corner instead of riding the whole way around it and squaring up. On my young horses, I’m really working on my horsemanship, keeping them up, riding around the corner and not dropping their shoulders. This horse wanted to drop his shoulder, so now I’m getting him broke going around every steer, even going slow. Doing that taught me a lot to get in time and have a safe shot every time, no matter if you’re rodeoing or jackpotting.
3) I am just holding my horse with my legs before the turn, keeping him moving forward. I want his front feet moving forward as he collects himself and shortens his stride. I want him collected with his head up, not going too fast, but keeping his feet moving and staying rounded in his ribcage. I like to lean my body forward a little bit and use my knees a little bit to help the horse and help myself stay with him.
4) I like my horses bowed just a little bit to the inside. If they want to be straight, it’s fine, but I prefer their nose just a little bit inside and their head up. It’s hard for them to shoulder in that position. That helps them shorten their stride, too, and helps me stay in time with the steer.
5) If I keep his body framed through the corner, I’ll be in a good spot when the steer becomes legal. In a good spot, I can throw a good loop. That helps everything—the slack and the finish—be better. He can stay up on his front end and get his butt down more. I can deliver a big loop, on a loose rein, sit down and dally.