We took these photos two days before the 2020 Bob Feist Invitational, and this is my young horse I rode at the American Rope Horse Futurity Association’s World Finals (and won the heeling title aboard). At the BFI—with its long start, strong cattle and wide open arena—almost anything can happen, so my focus was on preparing myself to heel in any situation and preparing my horses to react accordingly.
1) There’s no heel barrier at the BFI, but I don’t want to haze the steer left because that arena is so big and open, and it puts the header at a bad angle to the steer if he goes left. I wanted to leave at a decent time, but not cause the steer to go left, all while not pulling on the bridle reins or getting behind the run from the start. That was the first objective.
2) My goal is to not pick up my rope until I get in a position where my header is close to roping the steer so I can ride my horse in his own lane down the arena. That gives me a pocket to where I can build momentum through the turn. At the BFI, everything is rolling pretty good, and I want to have a pocket for my horse through the turn to keep everything smooth as I pick up my rope. I want to wait until I’m comfortable and wait until I’m in a position where I’m ready before I bring my rope up.
3) I’m using the momentum I created with the pocket to build momentum through the turn. My goal for the BFI is to hold my spot once I get to the steer, for just a jump or two. I want to hold my spot in practice, to where my horse relaxes when he gets to the steer.
4) When my horse has gotten to the steer and he relaxes, I let him relax for a full jump, but just because I get there doesn’t mean I need to throw. To give myself the best chance for whatever could happen (and probably will happen)—like a steer taking a bad jump or throwing us a curve ball—I want my horse to be patient there. My horse isn’t thinking he has to do something right away. I can get my rhythm and heel when the steer is ready to be heeled.
5) Then, I engage the bridle reins and put my rope down. At that time, I’m going to throw, and he’s in the right position. I’m looking at the right hock, and I engage the bridle reins at the same time he comes off the steer. That gives me time for my bottom strand to hit the ground. That gives me that much more room to grab my slack and have a full dally.