IN THE PENS
Once I’ve checked my draw and go to check out the steers, if the one I’ve got is black or red and slicked off and doing calisthenics in the pen, I know he’s going to be strong. If I get a white or Hereford steer and he’s all ganted up with a lot of dead hair and manure on him, I can assume he’ll be pretty good. Sometimes they’ll fool you, but guys who’ve roped a lot of steers can usually make a pretty educated guess.
NO MATTER WHAT, SCORE
One way or another, you’ll need to sit and see the start. If you don’t know the cattle, you rely on knowledge of what the steer looks like and what you think they might do. The biggest challenge with an uneven set of steers is the score. If I don’t really know what the steers are going to do, I try to ride a horse that scores good and that I can do different things on with my roping and my riding. When I drop my hand, I want my horse instantly leaving. If a steer is running, I feel comfortable that I can reach. If the steer isn’t as fast, I can throttle a little coming across the line and still get out on a slower one.
Most of the time, you can watch the teams ahead of you go to get an idea of what the cattle will do. But if you happen to be first out, that changes the game plan. At first out, you have to plan that he’s good. You play it as if he’s good, see what you believe the start should be, and hope it goes well. You have to be fast just about everywhere now, so you have to plan that they’re good most of the time.