Learning to reach takes a lifetime’s worth of practice and requires better horsemanship than some people realize.

Dummy work

You’ve got to rope the dummy flat-footed—a lot. Lots of people can reach when they lean forward and step, but you can’t do that horseback.

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Using your horse

Some people assume reaching means forgetting about using your horse. But keeping your horse working is one of the biggest parts of reaching. When I’m practicing, I might reach, but I focus on keeping my horse moving forward. I keep kicking, I keep my body square and I push my horse forward so he keeps running. Shoot, sometimes I even miss on purpose. I want my horse listening to my hands and my feet and not my throw. If I reach, I usually won’t even turn my horse off.

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Open swing

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You need to keep more of an open swing so you have the coverage. You see a lot of people split the horns or miss because they don’t have their swing opened up. They’re swinging tight. I take a big swing like a hula hoop on my last swing. You can’t throw a football or baseball very far right next to your face. I get to swinging fast a little tighter, and on my last swing I make sure I open it up and take one big swing.

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Body position

You can’t lean when you’re reaching. That takes away all of your momentum and all of your horse control. My goal is to be sitting up in my saddle, with my chest pointed toward the steer, but with my feet under me and my body centered.

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Hands, heelers, horse

Keeping your horse running through your reach protects your hands, it helps your heelers and, ultimately, it saves your horse. If your horse is already turning when you’re throwing, you won’t have an easy time getting your dally, handling the steer or keeping your horse sound. If your horse doesn’t stay running forward when you reach and drops his shoulders, you’re going to get some burns and nicks—or worse. Your heeler will have trouble heeling behind you when your horse drops his shoulders, and your horse will have a really hard time staying sound working that way.

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