Slow it down
The goal of my warm up is to keep my horse light and following my hand. To achieve that, I want him to warm up slowly: walking, trotting, then loping. If my horse isn’t on the muscle in the warm up, he’s less likely to be on the muscle when I’m roping.
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Focus on collection
It’s important for my horse to be square. I want his hips underneath him because that’s where he gets his power. If he gets to pulling on his front end, that’s when he gets to dropping and wanting to duck. If he’s on his butt, he’s less likely to duck. To make sure of that in the warm up, I like to pick my horse up and drive him up into my hand. I try to push his butt under him and ride him around. I’m not trying to pull him down into it—I want him to find that collection himself. I’m trying to build his confidence that way. I don’t want people to think that means jerking their horse onto his back end. I stay light and drive my horse into the bridle with my legs and my seat.
I want to keep my horse’s feet moving, and not let him get locked up. If he’s locked up or stiff when I’m riding around, he’ll be stiff roping on him. I don’t really like the whole “He’s good to rope on, so I’ll leave him alone” mindset. Some horses are like that, but it makes a horse better when he’s soft and riding around good before the run. If you need to do something during a run, and the steer runs over to the left and back to the right, that shoots you to the left. Your horse needs to let you pick him up and get back over to the steer.
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