FLOAT IT! The Heel Shot You Don’t Want to Take But Just Might Have To.
Dakota Kirchenschlager was forced to master the floating heel shot early in his career. He explains how and why.
Dakota Kirchenschlager
Dakota Kirchenschlager floats a heel shot. | TRJ File Photo by Lone Wolf Photography

When you grow up riding horrible horses, they usually learn that you’re about to throw—that’s something I learned and relearned as a kid.

Slowing your rope down, or “floating it” is something I’ve done my entire life. I grew up on bad horses. My dad bought and sold a lot of them, and as soon as they got a little better, they went down the road. Even the horses I rodeoed on, I had to sell as soon as they got good to afford to keep going (with the exception of when I got to ride Diesel and Rooster from Randon Adams).

So, what is floating a heel shot?

Floating it is a way to deliver your rope to get in time in your delivery because you were not in time in your swing throughout the run. It’s slowing your rope down just enough to get back in time with the steer to hit the feet when you need to even if you’re out of time because your horse is not listening or not fully in the right position or speed.

Dakota Kirchenschlager
Kirchenschlager making a heel shot work with a floating delivery a a 2014 Spin To Win Rodeo photo shoot. | TRJ File Photo by Gabe Wolf

How do you float a heel shot?

The main thing is that you have to have enough speed on it going down the pen and through the corner so that when you let off, your loop still makes it to where you want it to go through the feet. If you’re not swinging hard enough, it will land right in front of you and won’t do anybody any good. You have to have enough power on it and you’ve got to have your loop the size you want. You can’t feed through your delivery when you float it, because it won’t make it where you need it to go.

Slowing It Down vs. Floating It

Technically, I think the greatest heelers in the world slow it down when they throw a bit. Jade Corkill, Travis Graves, Junior Nogueira—I think they slow it down when they deliver, but it’s usually not because they’re out of time or their horses are out of time. They slow it down because if you’re swinging as hard as you can through your delivery, your loop will wad up at the feet. That’s just my opinion, but I wouldn’t say they float it because they are doing slowing their rope down just a bit to intentionally deliver the rope through the feet.

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