Head horses can get heavy in the bridle and start running blind down the arena. They lose their target, that comfort spot. Often, this is caused by a horse being asked to go at steers full contact over and over again. Think of it like a receiver in football: If a receiver is asked to go as hard as he can down the field to catch a ball and, as soon as he catches the ball, he gets hit by a cornerback or safety, eventually he’s going to flinch and miss the ball for fear of the hit.
For The Horse
I don’t go full contact much. I’m nearly always roping for my horses. Football players don’t go full contact in practice—they work on small, specific elements, then put it all together in competition.
I like slow steers in the practice pen. I want my horse in my hand, under control. If he’s not, I’ll stop him with a constant pressure and ask him to relax and try again. I’m not jerking him into the ground or yanking on his face, because that will cause him to stick his head up in the air or even worse, rear up. Then, you’ll have two problems. I want him to know that he can relax when I pull.
Sometimes, I’ll only need to stop a horse once. Sometimes, five times. Sometimes, I’ll spend a month or more on this. I’ll let them go as long as I feel like I have control, letting them catch up to the steer at their own speed. Any time I feel like I don’t have control, we’ll stop and try again. When they can catch up and know where they’re supposed to get to, that’s the reward.
When In Doubt
If I’m really worried about one being too strong, I’ll drop the rope until I can lope behind the steer 20 foot. Then I’ll swing a rope 20 foot behind him like I’m trailing him across the pasture. Then I’ll lope behind him and breakaway them. We’ll do it for months if we have to.