First of all, I want to say that this column came about because a four-time world champion who’s now a successful horse trainer in his own right is opening himself up to critique. That’s a huge win for students of the game, because you can really see the reality of what it takes to get better. If somone like Bobby is still learning and gracious enough to give credit to someone else, that says a lot for what we’re trying to do here.
What Bobby is talking about in his article is what you might have heard Lari Dee Guy call rating with your rope in the breakaway. It’s all the same, but in the heading, it’s even harder. In the breakaway, you’re running behind the cow tight enough that a horse can understand to stay behind it. That direction is not easily confused with the instruction to “go by.” In the head-horse lane, it’s so hard to teach because your position is so much wider. I usually gradually teach rate in a breakaway position or a calf roping position at first, and then I start taking them to a little wider lane, and they can still associate the rate with that.
When you give a horse without a lot of cow in them some aggression with your upper body and your legs, you can teach them rate by getting more aggressive with your rope and your posture before or as you get to the cow. For those of you who have read this series from the start for the last four years, this isn’t an entirely new concept. My horses feel the intensity of my legs before they see the rope go by their heads.
Most people let their horses rate, and they sit there and try to be inconspicuous. When they do that, there’s nothing for a horse to go on. They need to read your energy and know the throw is coming, and they have to do the next step so they’re not just still running.
This ties in to the athletic position your body should be in while heading, and it can be different for everybody. It just needs to be consistent and translatable to the horse. The horse has to speak the language that you’re speaking, and you have to speak it consistently enough that they know the cues. Instead of trying to outsmart the horse, be thinking about how they understand you through their development. If you’re not, you’ll start stealing rides and sneaking by the horse. You go from teaching and showing a consistent, solid pattern to confusing him. It’s no different than people sneaking by one in the box. Each cue, you need to show your horse what you’re looking for. People don’t want to show a horse something too many times or he’ll beat you. But that’s the wrong perspective, I think. You reinforce the cue correctly and then teach the next signal to the next step instead of you losing complete control. TRJ