I only switched to heading six or seven years ago, after roping calves and heeling my whole life. There were some adjustments in feel that I didn’t realize I’d need to make, and those adjustments have made a huge difference this year.
It took me a long time to get the feel of setting steers up. I knew what I wanted, but it was just a matter of doing it—especially in high-pressure situations when I had to be fast.
This problem and my lack of feel affected the way I was handling steers at the Finals when I went in 2018. I felt like I roped good enough, but I wasn’t making that run where I could do it 10 times in a row. My partner was having to pull off too many shots. The guys who were winning consistently have a consistent run they can do a lot, in almost any scenario, and I didn’t.
What I mean is: When you’re actually at a rodeo and your mind is going fast, being able to slow your mind down and see it all happen instead of just reacting and reverting back to old habits is critical. You have to slow your mind down to do the little things before you go left.
When I was adjusting to heading, and even after I’d made the Finals, I was hooking onto the steer too far down the arena, not back enough behind the steer. There was no room for error in that position. I was either going too fast or not setting the steer up to be handled how I wanted it to.
I’d roped enough calves that riding to the steer came natural, but I still had to change to where I was hooking onto the steer in the correct spot. I ride my horse pretty aggressive, and I swing tighter. If I’m hooking on too far out in front of the cow, it’s easy for my horses to want to get strong. I had to work on getting my horses to shorten up their strides. I’ve always had to work on keeping my horses coming back to me. When I get my adrenaline going, I kick and swing hard. If my horse’s natural reaction is to drop his front end and get tight, I felt like before, my horses would step to the left and go up the arena and widen. I needed my horse to stay in his lane a little more, and not lean on my left leg and wait on me when I pull my slack instead of me catching up to him.
I feel like it’s in my horse enough now that he’s wanting to be obedient when I pull my slack, instead of naturally wanting to draw. You see guys out here who ride the same horse for six, seven, eight years. Those are good horses, but if you don’t ride them correctly, they won’t stay working, no matter how good they are.