Generally speaking, when my position coming down the arena and into the corner is good, I make good shots. When it’s bad, it forces mistakes. If you’re too early, you lose momentum on your horse. Your horse stops and the steer gets away and you can rope a leg or miss. If you’re too far away, you have to accelerate to the steer. For most people, you get close enough and just throw, with or without good timing. Then your horse can run through your throw and you’ll miss.
With my dun Remix, I’m working on getting a consistent position all of the time. I’m trying to find out what fits him best to get me to the place from where I rope best. Everyone has to figure out what is the best position to put your horse in that gets you to the right spot so that you can make your shot. Some guys need to be wider, some closer. Depending on your horse’s tendencies, you start with that and try to work toward getting in a consistent position to make your best shot. It’s an every day thing, on live steers or on the Smarty, and I’ve been working on it for the last two years.
1. This is an example of committing to your corner too early. As the steer’s head is starting to come around, I’ve already allowed my horse to lose momentum and start coming in behind the steer. That causes me to cut in and get beside the steer before he actually gets all the way square. If you get in this spot, you’re going to miss. Getting in this position gets you in too early and causes your horse to lose momentum. There’s going to be a big separation when the steer jumps away from you and your horse is already stopping. Normally, you’d miss or rope a leg. Even if you rope the steer, you could end up bobbling your slack or losing your rope.
2. This is the exact opposite of the first image. I’m late to the corner, and there’s too big a gap between me and where the steer is turning. Now I’ve got to ride really hard to go catch up to the steer, and I’ve got a bad angle coming in there with where my partner is fixing to take the steer. With being too far away and really accelerating through there to try to get to him, this causes most people to throw as they get close enough. The steer will already have taken two or three hops before you can get there, and so you think you have to rope him right then, which will cause a mistake, which will result in a miss or a leg.
3. The key to overcoming bad position is to not quit riding. I came in too early on this steer. But I’m square with the steer and my horse is in line with him. I’ve roped him, and my horse is dragging his butt. If you’re in early, don’t just sit down, stop your horse and let the steer shoot away. Try to get moving at the same speed as the steer so you can make the shot. Keep your swing going and keep your horse’s feet going with the steer so you can catch up. If you’re in too late, and you show up at the steer and you’ve closed the gap, don’t just throw right then. Keep swinging, keep riding until you’re moving with the steer so you’ve got your timing and you can make the shot. It takes time to do that, but a two-foot catch will keep you in the game—a miss or one foot will take you out of the game completely. The way I concentrate on riding my horse is by keeping my pockets in the seat of my saddle and staying balanced and keeping my swing going. If I can do those things, it allows me to overcome things that come up along the way. This goes into roping with a lot of different headers—for all of those guys who rope in a lot of different lower-numbered ropings, you’ve got to overcome a lot of things as a heeler with various headers. You’ve got to really know your horse and be a good rider.
4. This is more of where I want to be with the steer’s head turning. I like where I am in conjunction with where the steer is headed. My angles are good, and I’m creating a good place for my horse to enter the corner. Normally, if I’m in this position, as the steer gets square, my horse can move at the same speed, and my swing and my horse are in time with the steer. The result is normally a two-foot catch.
5. This is good position going down the arena. I’m about 10 feet out away from the steer. It looks like I’m way up there beside his head, but I’m really not. I’m coming in evenly through the corner, and I’m in good position to throw a good loop. Good position yields the ability to make a nice shot, and it’s not more difficult than it needs to be.
Photos by James Phifer/RodeoBum.com