Start ’em young, start ’em right, as the saying goes. But sometimes, kids and parents can get ahead of themselves, creating bad habits along the way. We caught up with five of the best to find out what young ropers should avoid doing in the arena to keep roping safe and successful.
Never let your kids throw a fit. They’ve got to be able to control their emotions. My dad told me he would do whatever he could to help me until I threw a fit, then he said he would be done helping. Whatever makes you lose your cool controls you. If you start controlling your emotions in and out of the arena as a kid, it’s a lot easier than trying to learn it as you get older.
That goes hand-in-hand with another one of my pet peeves. Giving up on a run. I hate seeing people give up on a run. It’s habit-forming when you do it, and it’s weak-hearted. I hate it. Never quit.
It’s the little stuff like that that gets under my skin watching kids. People want to work on swing, tip angle and all that stuff. I’m the opposite. I think they need to learn to take care of their horses and have a good attitude first. Taking care of animals, giving them longevity, there’s so much more to learn and know to keep them sound. That’s stuff I want my kids to know. It’s like any other sport, we’re forming young men and women. Where your tip is at is secondary to me.
You can’t let kids treat it too seriously, too soon. Kids get better when they’re having fun with it, and they want to do it more. When you really enjoy something, that’s when you get better at it. Some parents can be so hard on kids sometimes, but for me, when it comes to kids, unless it’s unsafe, I try not to worry. Kids start stressing when parents start stressing, and that makes it all harder. Get into the habit of enjoying it more, and everything else will come together.
I’ve done some clinics lately with kids who were so concerned about roping the steer and turning off. I want them to avoid running before they can walk. I want to make sure they can get it on their horns and get their horses under control. Most importantly, they can’t look down to dally. They turn their horses off without realizing it when they do that. Again, never look down to dally. Parents probably shouldn’t let them dally for a long time until they’re comfortable on a machine.
The one thing that’s the hardest for me or for most kids is learning how to hold your slack long enough. Especially heeling, making sure that you hold your slack up tight and you’re comfortable letting your rope run through your hands is key. I make sure kids work on the dummy and that they’re comfortable letting the rope slide through their hands and not trying to dally too fast.
Pulling your slack with your left hand going out to the left can cause so many problems down the road. Your left hand is going to your left and that is where your horse is going. It makes it hard to get to the horn and hard to control your horse. A lot of bad things can happen from that one little bad habit right there.