Question: Do you have any tips on how to keep a horse in position when they are wanting to stay a stride behind or be short all the time? – Evan Meashaw; Johnstown, New York

Answer: First, you’ve got to take a good hard look at yourself and your gear before you get to tuning on your horse.

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Start out with checking your saddle fit. Your horse isn’t going to want to run and try as hard if your saddle is too wide and sitting down on his withers. A wide saddle, if it’s too wide or sits too low, could be pressing on the withers causing an array of different issues. More than likely, it’s too wide of a saddle when that’s happening as opposed to too narrow of a saddle. A wide saddle gets to rolling around the withers or, because the horse doesn’t have enough shoulder, puts direct pressure on it. Your horse won’t really feel like running the whole way to the steer if that’s the case. There’s no correlation between being able to rope good and knowing equipment. It’s something you have to know independently. No matter what level of roper you are, there’s something with fit and tack that can cause these issues. It might not be the wrong tool, but it could be the wrong tool for that horse.

When you’ve made sure your saddle fits, video yourself. Watch to see if, when you get ready to rope, you’re feeding your hands together causing bridle pressure before you throw. Be real with yourself—am I doing something right here? Is it something I need to fix in my roping, or maybe I need to give out more rein when I start? Check your riding. Leaning out over your horse will cause him to learn to check off. When you get over center, a horse that wants to be too ratey will definitely do it then.

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If you’ve gone through all that and your horse is still too cowy, here’s the fix: Quit reaching. If you keep throwing it where he tells you to throw, you’ll keep having these questions. You have to get the horse out of his comfort zone. You may have to even push him by a steer, but you definitely need to push him past where he’s comfortable going. Speed your rope up like you’re going to throw. If he drops back, don’t throw and kick him forward.

This is something you need to work on with live steers. It will come out more when the horse is having to try a little harder on stronger steers, just like a chargy horse will get chargier on slower steers. But steers that are too fast will stress everything, so don’t start on the strongest set. You need to make running the whole way to the steer an attainable goal. 

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