5 Flat

Making Smooth Shots on Green Horses
What does it take to win at the Riata Buckle on a green horse? Colby Lovell breaks down his #14.5 winning run on 5-year-old stallion Pepinstep.
Colby Lovell heeling
Andersen/CBarC Photography

Colby Lovell rode 5-year-old stallion Pepinstep by One Time Pepto out of Better Sue by Bet On Me 498 to a $51,750 payday with Jace Davis in the Riata Buckle’s #14.5.

Pepinstep had only been in training with Lovell for five months before working both ends at the 2023 Riata Buckle, capping off his time in Guthrie with a win on the heel side in the #14.5. Here’s how Lovell trusted a green 5-year-old in a high-pressure run.

1. Ride Where You Want to Be

My position riding down the arena depends a lot on how much skill and talent a young horse has and how much trust I have in him. That horse really hooks up to the cow and, since day one, he’s made a good corner. I’m riding him where I want to be to haze and heel that steer—not really protecting him or worrying about setting him up. I’m up around this steer.

2. Finding the Spot

Jace (Davis) had got a neck on that steer, and it took a second for things to come together. The corner was longer, so I didn’t want to cheat the corner and be at the cow’s ribs and be at a dead spot and have my horse slow up and lose momentum. I’m just making a good sweep to give my horse forward motion and confidence to trail the cow.

3. Shape to the Cow

I want my horse to take shape to the cow, and I want him to hold shape. I almost want him to have confidence and read the situation on his own, where I’m not having to pilot him and tell him what to do. I’m in my position where I’d be if I were on an old horse or young horse. The way he’s naturally shaped up to the cow since day one, that makes it easy so I don’t need to teach him shape. If I put him up and around, he’ll make a good entry to the corner. He won’t pull on me or turn his nose to the right. He won’t be too cow fresh or shape up in the wrong direction.

4. Following Through

That steer took big, long hops. When Jace turned him, he was deep around the neck—as in, he roped him deep in front of the point of the shoulders. When it’s tight there as you’re turning, the rope will move up the neck 5 or 6 inches going toward the horn wrap, and that will get under the steer’s head and jaw line and make him throw his head up and sit on the end of the rope and make him hop real long. I saw that through the corner, so I knew to ride my spacing and time so I didn’t get into a dead spot.

I don’t want my horse to quit me—I need a lot of forward momentum when I go to deliver my rope, and I need to stay with my loop the whole time. I’m trying to keep my horse following through: I want his butt to go down the bottom my rope goes down. That’s always been a rule for me. If that happens, it means he isn’t cheating me.

5. Staying True

I’m at the end of my delivery. You can tell he had forward momentum, and everything is coming back to me. If my horse was true to the corner, true to the stop, true following the cow and true to the bottom of my loop and not trying to outsmart my shot, the picture will look like this. His butt is in the ground the same time as my strand is going around the feet. His head is going up and my loop is coming back to me. TRJ

Colby Lovell will be one of 25 contestants competing at the 2024 Cinch Timed Event Championship, streaming live on Roping.com, Feb. 29–March 2.

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