The 24-time World Champion Cowboy’s take on horsemanship, team roping and the mental game each month, exclusively in The Team Roping Journal.
Q: My sister has a 13-year-old head horse that’s been headed on in the #15 on down. I’m sure he is a way better head horse than I am header, but how do I keep him from whipping his hip into the steer and keep his ribs and shoulders up when I take a hold of the steer? I’ve been bumping him forward with my legs, and it seems like if I take my legs off him, he will drop out his rib care or shoulders or both. What would be a good exercise to keep him working? — Rojelio Torres
A: If your horse is getting his hip into the rope, that means you need to get him a touch more on his hind end. That would explain why he’s whipping his hip into the steer. The goal for you needs to be getting him a little more on his butt while you’re pinching the reins with your left hand and pushing with your right leg against those ribs to get him standing up.
A problem like this doesn’t always have an overnight fix. It’s something you can first get in control of without a dummy, then move to the dummy at a trot or a lope. To practice this on the dummy one day and then go straight to cattle is setting your horse up for failure. It takes a minute to break a habit. Touching a spur to your horse while riding around versus in a run is a lot different.
One thing I’ve learned the most is getting these things really clear and creating a good habit before I ever give a horse a chance to show me what he’s learned. Teach it. Don’t just reveal it one day and expect it to happen the next. You have to implement this daily without a dummy, with a dummy and, then, on live cattle—and, by live cattle, I mean slower ones that don’t try to drag. Heavy cattle will make that horse want to put his hip into the rope naturally because that’s the only way he’s ever known to pull.
People are so used to asking how to fix something, and then they try it, and think they didn’t do it right or it didn’t work. You’ve got to do it until it’s fixed. You can’t just do it and think it will be fixed overnight. The habit wasn’t created in one day, so you can’t expect it to be gone in one day either.
When I think about this, I think about Boogie. He was a nice, good looking horse, who would have fit a lot of people. But I didn’t think he would ever score good enough or face good enough because he wanted to get his butt under the rope, too. He always did something when the gates rattled. As a big pretty horse, I thought he’d do great at the World Series but just might not have such a perfect move. That’s one of those things that after a month of just consistent riding and consistent cues, pushing him up under himself and into the bridle, he became one of my top five horses of all time.
[READ MORE: Adding Intensity with Trevor Brazile]