When you use a dummy, you can get your horses ready to go. They’re paying attention. A lot of times, I’ll warm my horses up on the machine—not even lope them—and it gets them paying attention to the steer. It’s easy on the horse and you can accomplish something with your horse rather than just working him to get a sweat on him without accomplishing anything. Used to, I’d rope 15-20 steers on a horse. Now, when I used the machine first, I can rope four or five live steers and my horse is paying attention and picks things up a lot quicker.
A lot of times, I won’t even come out of the box I’ll just lope around to make sure my horse is in the left lead all the way around the corner. I’ll start loping in a circle and not even worry about where the machine is as it’s being pulled in a circle around me.
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Then, when I find the machine, I’ll just ease in there and rope it. What it does is it keeps the horse waiting on me. The horse does what I want, not what he wants. So, when I’m roping, I can put him in there anytime I want to.
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Sometimes I’ll rope them out of the box, too. As I’m going down the arena, if my horse pulls on me, I can stop. If he gets by the steer, I can stop. Anytime I want to stop him, I can. The reason I do this, is if the horse gets going faster than the steer, pulling on me and not rating the steer, I can stop him at that instant. When most people rope, they’re thinking about their roping, not their riding. But when you’re practicing, you need to think about your horse first and your roping second. If my horse wants to step in on the corner or not rate the steer, I try to fix them on the dummy, so when I rope steers I don’t need to rope as many steers.
When I put on a roping school, everybody wants to know about timing. I set my timing up going down the arena. So when the steer turns, my horse rates off, the steer goes away and I rope the steer. For most of the people who come to my schools, their runs are a blur. They get to the end of the arena and they can’t tell you what happened.
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That’s why the Heel-O-Matic is good because it’s got the hop. You can learn to pick the timing up off the corner just like you would on a regular steer. Then if you don’t get your throw there, you can go across the arena, watching the up hop—up and down, up and down—and pick up your timing. It’s so realistic, that’s what I like about it.