When I want to start a horse in the heading, I start by steer stopping.
In the Box
If they’ve never been in the box before, I usually slide my butt bar forward so I’m standing alongside the cow. Some people start from the back and walk to the steer and nod as they’re walking. That works, but I’ve found if I do that, when the gate pops open, the horse veers to the left and I have to find the cow all over again. I’ve found it easier to start next to the cow. My horse might vibrate, but he then easily refocuses to the cow right in front of him. It’s less confusing.
The First Steer
The focus is not overdoing it or trying to get to the steer too fast. I don’t want to make it a panic situation. If I don’t catch the steer, that’s no big deal. I want my horse to find the target, stay in his lane, not get in too tight or too far around the steer. I’m focusing on just making sure he sees the steer in front of him, he goes to the target, and I can pick my rope up and swing smooth. I want to match the speed of the steer down the arena, take a couple swings over his back, stick it on the horns and set it up. I’ll close my knees and squeeze him forward to keep him from getting quick in his stop so he’s not tight.
The End of the Run
I’m not going to throw the rope and drag him into the dirt. I will take one more stride, keep him uphill with his front end up, and then let him stop. If he gets to the bottom of the stop and the pull of the steer comes, I’m more likely to let my rope go at the bottom of the stop even if the steer isn’t looking at me. I want [my horse] thinking it’s no big deal. If he gets to the bottom of the stop and he’s starting to come up as the jerk comes, he’ll feel that pull and it will feel like a much bigger deal.