We all go to ropings and see people sitting around visiting instead of paying attention to what’s going on. If you’re there to visit and roping is a hobby you do for fun, that’s fine. But if you’re there to try to win something, there are things you can do before you rope to increase your odds of winning.
The first thing I do when I get to a roping is saddle my horse. I like to try to get there at least an hour before the roping starts so I don’t have to rush around. And that’s if I’m pre-entered. If I need to enter when I get there I go a little earlier, because a lot of ropings are done on a last to enter, first to rope basis.
After he’s saddled, I like to just cruise my horse around awhile. If you’re there early enough you can ride around the arena a little, and in and out of the box. Young horses need to look around. I jog my horses first, then lope them around, to keep them as relaxed as possible.
When the roping starts I get serious. I go find a spot by the header’s box. I like to sit right in the middle of the box, where I can see the head horse and the steer. Judging the score with electric eyes is tricky, because you can’t see how close they’re getting to the string. So it usually comes down to more of a mathematical equation, factoring in the length of the score and the length of the box. You also need to factor in how hard the steers run. Don’t be afraid to move around and get more than one vantage point. The more information, the better.
[Read: Building a Better Barrier System]
If the box is 16 feet and the score is 14 feet, which is pretty typical, the start is in the neighborhood of flank to the pin. With electric eyes it can be just a touch more than that. You need to factor in all the conditions, which is why you got there early. You also need to consider how hard your horse starts compared to the other horses you’re watching when you judge the score.
[Read: Science of Score]
Watch the steers. If they’re branded, take notes on what each number did. If not, use what you’ve got, whether it’s color or whatever. The new generation of headers all take notes on what the steers do. Anything to get that edge.
If you know the steer you’ve drawn, you can share it with your partner. Tell him if he runs, drags or goes to the right, so he’ll know if he needs to do anything special to help you out. It is a team sport, so you need to work together. Once you’ve done all that, the key is not beating yourself.