The horse I’m riding here is 8 or 9, and he was a heel horse—and he’s now in head horse training.
I’ve had him about 30 days. On this day of practice, I was working on getting him to stay wider going to the steer, getting on his butt across the pen and keeping his shoulders where I want them.
This horse likes to fall to the right behind the steer, so to help keep his shoulder up and to keep him in his lane, I keep my right rein a little shorter.
Moving Into Position
When a steer steps into this horse, he can get too narrow in behind him. In that circumstance, I move him over, and I keep swinging until he’s in the spot I want. Then I let him relax right there before I throw. It’s important for me not to try to pull off a shot, because I’m focusing on this horse and where he needs to be. Especially at the 30- to 45-day mark when first putting a horse on cattle, I like to be swinging over the steers’ backs, making sure that horse is relaxing in that spot.
Using the Left Leg
A lot of horses—as they’re first learning to pull a steer—don’t like to put the weight on their left leg and use that leg to drive across the pen. To address that, after I undally at the end of a run, I back them up in a circle, using my right spur to move their hip to the left while backing. That pushes his weight onto the left leg, and it reinforces that he needs to shift his weight to that leg.
Heel horses don’t have to face obviously, so that’s a transition I teach when they start to understand how to pull the steer across the pen. As I finish a run, I kick this horse’s hips around and ask him to pivot on the forehand. I keep my hand pressure constant and kick his hip around with my inside leg.
Finishing on a High Note
When my horse does everything correctly, I rope one more to see if he can do it all correctly. If he can, I like to quit right there because that’s really close to getting what we want. If he can’t, we go back to addressing the fundamentals again until we can end on a high note.
About Tate Kirchenschalger
NFR header and ARHFA World Champ Tate Kirchenschlager, 30, of Stephenville, Texas, has a new trouble-shooting series rolling out on Roping.com this month. Use code TATE15 to save 15% off your subscription in the new year to start your horsemanship off with a bang with the NFR header who’s won the AQHA/PRCA Head Horse of the Year title and an American Rope Horse Futurity Association World Championship.