We shot these photos in the Spring of 2020, when I had a load of green horses I was working on because COVID-19 had us stuck at home instead of rodeoing. I was sorting through these horses, and I was at the point with some of them where I was ready to ask for more and see how they handled the pressure. In these next five images, I’m going to lay out the process I use to ask a green head horse to step up, and how I troubleshoot what can go wrong.
1) I want him paying attention before we go to the box. I want to lope him around long enough that, if I’m going to pick on him, I can do it before I practice on him—otherwise, I’m teaching him to dread roping. I want to separate the training from the roping, so he’s not getting poked and prodded in the ribs in the box or during the run.
2) In the training process, I go really slow and try to put every step together without the pressure of fast cattle. When I feel like he’s doing the steps without me having to show him every time, I put him in a real situation and maybe run a stronger steer to see if he can keep his mind together. Then I go slow again, and work up to being able to put three or four runs together at speed.
3) When I’m asking for more speed, I want him scoring confidently. That means he’s happy to stand in the box without having to hold him hard. I don’t want to kick one into the corner. If my horse isn’t relaxed, I ride around and work in any direction. The corner is where he stands, but I figure-eight, do circles, let him go out of the box, then I let him stand in the corner. If he’s still not happy, I work him and lope circles until he’s calm and ready.
4) I want to teach my horse to run—and I will send him—but I reward him by not kicking. When you kick every single stride, he’ll start shutting down when you take your feet out.
If I’m asking him to run to the steer, I want him to be able to catch up to the steer. I might see a medium-plus steer out a good ways, let him catch up, stay there for a stride or two, and then let him relax so he knows he can catch up. If he gets nervous here, then it’s time to go back to slower steers and give him confidence in knowing he can catch up and stay relaxed in position.
5) When he feels good everywhere else, I will start facing him. But at first, I let turning the steer and pulling across the pen be the end of the run. I’ll face him two or three times in the practice pen, but facing is hard, so you’re taking a chance of hurting him. Undallying and loping back up the arena keeps him relaxed and confident, so typically, I just undally. If he’s not facing, I’ll undally, go another stride and then face and keep his feet moving.