How to Keep Your Head Horse Running Straight to the Steer

Tyler Merrill explains how to keep your horse running straight to the steer to give you the best shot possible. 

Tyler Merril shares his thoughts on how to keep your rope horse running straight to the steer, setting you up for success.

Tyler Merrill holds the World’s Greatest Horseman record for the highest steer-stopping score in history with a 231.5, set this February on Bet Hesa Boon. shot an entire series with him before the event, riding through his rope horse futurity mounts and applying the same skills he used in the WGH to his rope horses, keeping them running straight to the steer, never taking away his shot. 


Tyler Merrill explains how to keep your horse running straight to the steer to give you the best shot possible. 
TRJ file photos

I’m really cow oriented. I probably run to the cow harder than most headers. If my horse wants to go to the cow, I know I can get the separation by riding my horse if it’s broke enough. I want my horse to knock the tracks out of the steer. 


I want my horse to be reading that steer in the corner. I put my hand down and see my start, and my hand never picks up until I’m ready to stop or ride my horse to set the corner up for the heeler. I do a lot of work in the box leaving the corner walking with the steer. I’ll swing my rope and throw my rope as soon as the steer leaves the box so my horse knows that going to the steer is the ultimate goal.


I want to be able to touch their lips with minimal movement in my hand. I don’t like a draped rein or a tight rein. If you get to pulling, they’re either not going to run or they’re going to run off. I want to guide them. I don’t want to be pulling on them. If you go to adjust them and pull, you don’t want your hand in your face or your chest because that puts your body back and your tip up. I want them listening to the reins. I get them broke to where I can guide them with a neck rein. If they’re not that broke, I’m not ready to ask them to come out of the box yet. 


I like to be out in front of my horse and riding. And then, I want my horses to read that steer, and I expect them to go to the same spot every time. I don’t want them running through or past that throw. My shoulders are toward those horns, my right shoulder is back just a little, and my right tip being over the right horn. I’m just really trying to stay square with my horse. I like to squeeze to my swells so I’m with my horse and feeling him. I want to be square from my feet all the way to my shoulders. I want him to read me, so I don’t have to pull on him. I want him to want to go to that spot, and I want that to be his release. 


I want anybody to ride this horse. I might ask for a little more at an event or a roping but, in the practice pen, I want to slowly do maneuvers and stay smooth all the time. When I pull my slack, I slowly sit down, and that horse keeps moving forward. I either stop or turn the steer. I try to keep it smooth so the horse always stays true to his job and doesn’t take anything away from you.

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