5 Flat with Junior Nogueira on staying hooked when a steer goes down in front of your horse.

Steers aren’t always great—sometimes they run up the rope, sometimes they drag, sometimes they fight their head and go down—and I’ve had to learn to catch the bad ones just as well as the good ones. In the photos on these next few pages, this steer was going down the arena perfectly, and Kaleb Driggers and I were trying to make a rodeo run on him, but then he went down right in front of my horse, just as I was ready to deliver fast. I had to kick over him and stay in time with him and my horse to finish the run, like you’ve sometimes got to do in a jackpot or rodeo situation to stay in the average.

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1. Kaleb roped this steer really fast. I didn’t want to push my horse so high, but I wanted to get prepared for a faster shot. I was getting prepared to throw fast by watching the steer, picking up my rope, and getting ready to throw. I was getting Green Card in range so I could have a little bit of contact and be ready to throw.

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2. Kaleb had him tight, and he’s starting to lower his head. I’m asking Green Card to come back and go inside, and I’m watching the feet already so I’m prepared to throw fast. I’m pushing my horse to position, kicking, and squeezing forward, and everything is perfect for a fast shot. I’m in a really good spot to throw fast. Green Card is locked in. I’m right in the middle of my horse. My plan was to throw on the next hop.

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3. That steer is starting to go down here, right as I was planning to throw. Everybody in that situation gets panicked, and it’s hard not to. But it helps a lot to keep following the steer, no matter what. I started kicking my horse because I knew that steer would go down and then come back up. I wanted to keep swinging and keep following him. I tried to keep my swing very steady and not change anything. If I didn’t change anything, I should stay in time with him and keep it all the same.

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4. He’s come up and, since I didn’t change my swing or my position, he’s ready to be heeled on the next hop. I try to train myself to do everything the steer does. I try not to think about it—just react. I have to think before the run but, during the run, I don’t think—like riding a bull. If I’d have stopped, I’d have needed to regather everything and go back to him and be behind when he gets back up, and the run would have lost all of its timing. So I want to keep swinging and keep riding, no matter what. 

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5. Right here, I’m pulling my slack. It’s important to have a good slack to make it easy to dally. I like to make sure my rope is tight on the feet before I come to the saddle horn. A lot of people can rope two feet, but it’s easy to slip a lot of legs. But the best guys don’t. When I got here, Jake Barnes told me a lot of people can rope really good, but not a lot of guys can keep the feet and not many can rope trotters. So that’s something I’ve really worked on. Here, I’m pulling my slack and I’m sitting square and my feet are square. I’ve got both hands up, and I’m holding my left hand square to help Green Card finish his stop and stand up. I don’t want him low on the front end, which makes it harder to dally, too. 

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