What is ‘draw’?
I use the phrase “draw to cattle” a lot, and I have to be careful because, in the cutting, “draw” means pulling away from the cow. But in the heading, when I say I want draw to the cow, I mean I want my horse to be physically drawn toward the steer without having to be coaxed or guided. I want my horses hunting the cow.
A lot of people, especially in the heading and tie-down, talk about a horse really needing to run to cattle. The heading is so competitive now, you’ll see a lot of horses reached on a lot, or they learn to run a route or pattern but they don’t have the magnetic draw to the cow that keeps them good over the test of time.
If you have a rodeo horse whose first instinct is to naturally get to the cow, they won’t get as smart to reaching and you’ll be more versatile in more situations. They’re the horses that always stay honest longer. Their instinct is to hunt the cow. They don’t want to lean on your left rein, and they react by going right if the cow goes right or moving left if the cow goes left. When you drop your hand, the main thing they know is to get to the cow. Horses that don’t have that, they’re always looking for a way out. When you expose them to going fast, going to the cow is second on their list of things to do. I’d prefer a slower, honest horse that wants to get to the cow over a faster horse that has other things on his mind.
How do we create draw in training?
We want to put that draw into horses from an early age and, while some have it in them naturally, there’s a lot we can do to build it, too. We do it with a breakaway hondo at first, teaching them position without the hit or pressure of turning the steer.
Most of our 4-year-olds rate really well, so a lot of times, I’m teaching them to go to a closer target than I would if we were turning the steer. Without a heel horse going with us, they already know to get a little close. I hate to back them off too much, because that back-off will come naturally in competition. I ask them to run up under my swing so I can dictate the tempo of the run. I want them running all the way to the horns to make it look like I’m in control. I want to be able to push them up under my swing without taking all the rate out of them.
How does this factor into competition?
We don’t mind our horses running until their nose is even with the steer’s flank, to where it’s a tick closer than you’ll go for money. There’s a certain position there where you go to roping on them—our horses have more rate away from home—you’re trying to win, and you’re out in front of them, and they’re reading you more at that point than you are at home. We’ll almost push them too close sometimes so they’re hunting that spot when we’re away from home so they don’t start hanging on us.
If he’s running to the spot right next to the steer’s hip, he’ll feel the timing of my rope. He’ll feel my intensity, but he’ll be running under my swing, and I can set up the run from there. If he’s free but reading the cow, when I pull my slack, he’s more apt to hit his butt than if I instilled too much rate in them. If they’re already rating when I throw, they’re bowing me out and I don’t get a chance to do too much expression with my horse because they’ve already done it and I’ve almost pushed them through it, so that corner doesn’t look or feel half as good. TRJ