Three-time NFR qualifier Jake Cooper's tips on slowing down strong cattle to help out your heeler.

Faster, stronger cattle mean we’ve got to help our heelers the best we can. That means slowing down the steers enough to give your heelers a shot, but not too much to make them lose their rhythm.

Drift Control

Jake Cooper's vital stats. 

Jake Cooper's vital stats. 

On strong cattle, everything is happening fast. But in those situations, ropers sometimes don’t get a hold of the steer’s head enough, causing the steer to drift down the arena. That drifting causes a lot of heelers to rope legs. In these setups (like Cheyenne Frontier Days, pictured), the goal should be to run to the steer, throw, then get the steer’s head bent over his body.

Gearing Down

On cattle that strong, a horse can get to really rolling. So it’s critical that you use your left hand to gear him down. You don’t want to button-hook that steer because your horse will sling him down the arena if you do that. You want to pull him and try to bring him straight back to the left fence.

Left Leg

When you pull up on your horse with your left hand, you want to keep your left leg into him to keep him from coming back up the arena too far. Having your left foot in him will help to keep him in there and help keep the run controlled for your heeler.

Eyes Up

Turning off, watch the steer’s hind legs and watch your partner so that you’re heading at an even speed and getting into the right spot for a good finish. The goal is to keep the steer hopping across the pen, slowing him down enough to give your heeler some rhythm. 

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