The #8.5 is now the highest-paying, largest division in the Ariat World Series of Team Roping. And in June, the association announced that the #8.5 and the #7 will be flagged on the heels—as in, the flag will drop when the heeler has his or her dally and the rope is tight to the feet.
In watching some of these ropings, I see a lot of headers either stopping their horse as the heeler dallies or heading straight to the stripping chute after they get the flag. or after their heeler misses. And that’s a major mistake.
If you’re not continuing forward motion across and back up the arena, you’re losing control of the steer’s head. By slowing down and stopping in anticipation of your heeler dallying, you’re going to cause your heeler to slip legs or lose the feet all together. I see the best guys in the world—whether they’re at the NFR, the US Finals, Cheyenne, anywhere—give the steer’s head back too much. So, lower-number ropers do, too. You should never be the reason your heeler slips a leg.
Here’s what you should do instead: If you plan to rope in the #7 or #8.5 the rest of your life, you can just keep your horse loping back up the arena (opposite the catch pen) in the path you’re headed. If you have goals of getting your number raised to rope in higher divisions, your horse is going to need to face. Facing is my pet peeve, so I’m going to explain in some detail what you should do instead of continuing on.
I’ve always said: Either face the whole way, or don’t face at all. Half-facing is the biggest problem with most horses. A jackpot situation is a great time to instill quality facing in your horse, but you can do so in a way that’s not hard on the cattle and takes some pressure off. After your heeler comes tight and you get the flag, pop your rope off the horn and make your horse face.
I never face a horse then follow the steer to the stripping chute, either. When I face one at home, I keep the hind quarters moving until the nose and shoulders are facing back to the heading box and the hind end is facing the other way, essentially over-exaggerating the face. A straight face will be simple after having to do another quarter turn.
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