With all of todays teaching aids, from instructional DVDs and DVDs of the major events to this magazine, there is a lot of information out there that teaches the mechanics of heeling a steer. But when you get to a level where you are pretty talented with your roping skills, what makes or breaks you as a heeler is how youre able to ride the corner and set up your shot position-wise. The guys who figure that out the best are the guys who are fast and consistent and have the ability to win the most.
The way a steer is turned varies from header to header. Based on that, you need to have a game plan on how to get your position around the corner and your spacing as the steer is making the turn, to where you can not only see him clearly to read how he’s taking the corner and how he’s jumping and traveling, but also set up the opportunity for a fast, consistent shot.
What comes into play is how well your horse responds to you, how well he’s broke and your consistency with him in trying to set up a pattern that he understands, so you can get him to complete that pattern over and over again.
If your horse is too chargy in the corner, it’s hard to space yourself right on the distance between you and the steer. On the other hand, if your horse is way too short, he’s trying to take your throw away before you’re really reaching a position where you can rope consistently.
To really be able to set up your corners with precision takes a lot of time, practice and making sure your horse has the ability and is broke well enough to allow you to do just exactly what you want, which is hold yourself in your spacing to where you’re not on top of the steer in the corner but where you’re still able to keep your horse moving through the corner to go a jump or two if you need to.
In my opinion, there are several guys who stand out for having a good understanding of how to come around the corner and provide themselves the opportunity to be fast and consistent. There are too many to name, but Al Bach, Kory Koontz, Patrick Smith and Jade Corkill are a few of the guys I’m pretty high on. It comes down to horsemanship and lots of time spent working at it. That’s what allows you to be consistent and also gives you the opportunity to be fast.
Another thing that comes into play is that not all horses are the same. Sometimes it takes different strategies on different horses. Some horses have a lot of cow instinct, which provides a lot more rate. Other horses have less cow in them, and are a lot more free-wheeling. The one takes picking up and pushing. The other takes a little more throttling and checking to get the control needed to ride your corner.