Riata Buckle Run Breakdown with Dakota Kirchenschlager
How Dakota Kirchenschlager let the work he’s putting in at home speak for itself at the Riata Buckle.

This is our (Colby Lovell & Dakota Kirchenschlager) third-round steer from the 2022 Riata Buckle at the Lazy E Arena. We’re using this run because these pictures really show the kind of run I want to make when the money is up on five head—especially on a young horse. In these images, I’m riding DT Misty Cat, a Hickory Holly Time mare owned by Dean Tuftin’s DT Horses. We’ve showed her to some success throughout the year, but this futurity was about throwing her into the fire, and she didn’t disappoint. 


Photos by Andersen / C Bar C

Colby (Lovell) was nodding, and I wanted a good exit out of there. I really had a hold of her. I like her facing the middle of the box. I don’t want my horses breaking too much to the pin or down the wall. That steer went a little left, and if that horse broke right down the right wall, then I’d be behind. If your horse breaks too much to the pin, and the steer goes right, you’re not in a good position. It’s not a judged event, so I can get a hold of her more. In a show environment, I keep my reins shorter so I can get a hold without anyone seeing what I’m doing. But I liked not having to do that here. At a judged show, when I leave the box, the reins slide through my hand so my horse can get its neck down and do what’s needed. In the box here, I don’t have to worry about sliding my reins as I’m leaving. Horses’ necks comes up in the corner, and that makes your reins longer. When you’re in pursuit of the steer, they put their neck down and they need to do that without you pulling on them. 


Robbie Schroeder was one of the greatest horse trainers in the world, and he said the only way to get around the steer to be 3 is for your heel horse to be in the right lead and change leads in the corner. From when the head rope hits the steer, as long as they change leads right then and slow down, then we can do whatever we need to do moving forward. If they’re down running and don’t change leads—for a split second, as soon as the head rope goes on—they have to elevate and change leads to be able to run to the next spot when you throw your rope. Everyone has a different opinion, but as long as I can control the horse and use my feet, I’m perfectly fine with it. When you pick up your hand when the head rope goes on, when you’re roping behind Colby [Lovell] or Kaleb Driggers, you’re not thinking about getting yourself in a good spot—they’re about to handle good so you can rope fast. 

WATCH: Green Head and Heel Horse Runs on Roping.Com


All the time we spend at home, and all the things we do at home that lead up to those five steers, it’s all those hours that lead up to runs like these where I turn the control over to her. I spent a lot of time getting her to that point. I want my horse to get in the position to haze the steer so my partner has the best chance to rope it, but when you get to that level, you can’t be micromanaging. At some point in time, you have to turn them loose and they have to crave it. I see people win who can micromanage, but you’re going to have to trust that they can do it because it will be all you can do to catch the steer in a timely manner. I learned that a lot this year. We haven’t been as successful as I’ve wanted to be this year, and I thought if I could just help them more, we’d do better. In the spring of this year, Brad told me I was trying to manage everything—and once we had that conversation, we did way better. At the end of the day, winners want to win. A lot of it comes from learning and growing. This sport has made it so that, no matter how good you think you are, somebody is out there working harder than you are right now. It doesn’t matter what the weather is—whether they’re in the snow in Colorado or the rain in Texas—someone is out there grinding more than you. And you’re working against that every day. 


I have put my life into this. For me to decide to do something, I’m going to put every ounce of energy I’ve got into it. Now that I’m older, I’ve realized how much it takes. If I ride my horses every day, they will get tired of me. But if I let the people who work for me pull them around, that takes the foot off the gas every day. That keeps horses like this one ready to respond to me when I ask—which is what I’m doing while lifting my hand right here. I feel like I’ve got myself set up for success in this shot. She’s not doing anything wrong, and she’s changed into the left lead. I know where Colby is going with the steer next, and I’m forward and she’s going to read that steer. In the heat of battle, I’ve got my tip pointed at the steer. 

READ MORE: Setting Up Your Arena for Well-Adjusted Horses with Dakota Kirchenschlager


That steer just rolled around there good, and I didn’t want to do anything too crazy. She stopped plenty good, and she stayed even with the steer. Check out her inside left leg—they have to have their inside foot far up under them, and both feet need to stay down depending on what position you put them in. For them to make the turn, they need to put that inside leg down. Some can slide all the way around the corner. Some can pick their outside leg up and then put it down. Here, you can see she’s dropped the anchor and is really ready to finish this run fast.


Dakota Kirchenschlager Pilots Rancho Rio Sale Grad Make Ita Double to ARHFA Redbud Spectacular Heading Championship

The Score: Season 3, Episode 22 with the ARHFA World Champions Dakota Kirchenschlager and Wesley Thorp

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