Your feet can help you score, ride and face better. We talk so much about what to do with our left hand, what bits to ride and how our horses should respond to the bridle, but I’ve found that focusing on what my feet are doing throughout a run can really help improve how my horses work. Using my feet better in the box, in the corner and through the face can speed up my run and make my horse more comfortable with his job.
In the box, it’s easy to get to pulling on a horse to get him in the corner. Some horses get so numb and dull in the box because they’ve always had someone yanking on their face to get them in the corner. On my horses, I want to be intentional about using my feet in concert with my hand to get them in the corner, but that doesn’t mean poking them in the ribs right away. I think of booting one with my spur like punching him in the ribs—it’s more of a scold than an ask, especially without forward motion in the corner. Poking one with a spur right away will stiffen him rather than soften him. I prefer to put my leg on him and push with my whole leg as I’m rolling my spur up his side.
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After I nod, my horse feels release from my hand and from my feet, too. He feels my weight shift from the seat of my saddle to my feet, and he should feel me pushing him forward and toward the steer with my legs.
When I rope, I’ll pick my horse up with the bridle, and the first cue that we’re going to set to turn the steer is using my right leg going into him. When I get weight on the saddle horn, that will pull my horse down where he’s got to lift his shoulders up and take the weight on his back end. I’ll put my right leg on him to lift his ribs to shape him where I like my head horses with their nose tipped in to the steer just a little bit.
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To me, my right leg is more the throttle. If I need to get out of there, my right leg can help move my horse back over himself and out. I’m not talking about a sidepass because that will give a false read to my heeler, but I want my horse’s shoulders and ribs lifted out just a little bit. That will set me up more for the rodeo face, where the horse’s hips swing around the rider in the face. That starts right in the turn because, at a rodeo, I won’t pull a steer more than two or three jumps anyway.
If I can keep my head horse’s nose tipped by putting my right leg on him, I can get the steer to finish the turn with a good pull out of there, and my partner will throw right there. When my partner throws, a lot of the face is all right leg anyway. I can get my right leg behind the back cinch to lift his hips around so I can face him. The lighter horses, I can use right leg to lift their ribs. Some, I can lift their hips and try to swing their butt around for the face. I’ll use my legs a lot in the face as much as anywhere. If you just try to neck rein a horse around, you’re trying to lift his front end. If his butt is the pivot spot—like at a horse show—he’ll get hung up facing because he’s got to swing his hips. If he’s got the weight of the steer pulling him and you’re neck reining, he can’t swing his hips out. The way to tell him to swing his hips is with your right leg into him. The saddle horn should be the pivot point, and you want to lift his hips around the saddle horn.