Staying out of your horse’s way to the steer is critical to maintaining the flow of the run. Over the years teaching roping lessons, I see people use their left hand as balance far too much when running to the cow. Letting your horse run freely to the cow is critical in allowing him to catch the steer, to keep him working in the long run and to help you maintain position to rope the steer.
1) Nobody is pulling on that steer to stop him as he leaves the chute. If you’re pulling on your horse for balance, you’re already at a disadvantage. If you’re getting rocked back in the corner of the box in your horse’s first stride, you need to first address why that’s happening. Are you not strong enough in your core? Should you be holding the horn with your rein-hand to keep yourself balanced? Maybe you don’t have the right weight in the back of the saddle to begin with. Address how and why. you aren’t balanced right off the bat.
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2) You cannot break the horse’s stride once you leave the box. Your left hand needs to go down to chase to the cow. Leaving the box, your left hand should aim toward the steer’s left horn. If I go toward the left horn, I can see the left horn the whole time. If I point to the steer and I get too close, I won’t be able to see the left horn. If you’re focusing on the left horn, the right horn will rope itself.
3) Running to the steer, I’ve got my hips shifted, and my left hand is pointed to the cow and my right shoulder is back. If my left hand was back and pulling on my horse, that would put my swing and delivery out of whack. When I deliver, I need to throw my rope with my hips squared up. My hips are shifted, but then my hips square up as I deliver for power.
4) I am sure there will be people reading this who are riding chargy horses that need to rate before being allowed to run to the cow. So I want to address that, too. You need to be doing drills on the sled before you go back to roping live cattle so you don’t create more problems in the long run. Be aware of this and intentional about your practice. If you cannot let your horse run freely to the steer, you are going to limit your success. Setting up your practices—even if that means giving up roping live cattle until you address this—is critical to your success in the long run.
5) This dummy drill is something you can do alone in your arena to add rate: Put a heading dummy 100 feet in front of the chute. You can start at a walk or trot, and come out of the box on a loose rein and start to swing your rope. If the horse doesn’t read the cow, pull him into the ground and back up. I’ve done that the whole way from a trot to a dead run because the horse has got to start to match the speed of the cow when he’s 10 feet away. That allows you to let the horse run to the cow without throwing your shoulder and your swing off balance running to the steer when your money is up. TRJ