First and foremost, I like to try to ride smart and prevent my horse from getting short in the middle of a roping to begin with. That means not going too fast at the beginning of the roping if I don’t have to. I like to ride to the steer and keep my corner smooth from the start. Being cautious and riding to prevent the horse from ducking can really save you in the end. It’s easier to have to duck on the last steer to make up ground than to duck on the first one and put yourself in a bad spot for the rest of the roping.
If your horse does get tight, you’re not completely out of luck. Concentrate on using your feet, driving your horse the whole way to the steer with your body riding to the cow. Hold him in there with both legs and keep your hand centered.
If your horse ducks, it’s not a bad idea to take him to the warm-up pen and do some exercises to keep him softer on the left side of his body. If he’s dropping his shoulder and his rib cage, I like to flex him around on the left side, making sure he can feel my left spur. I want to know he’s responding to my outside leg, and I may ask him to over-exaggerate his reaction to it by applying more pressure than normal so he’s really feeling my leg and responding to my cues. Over-emphasizing it outside the arena will hopefully make him more sensitive to your leg and your spur inside the arena.