The 4 Most Common Rope Horse-Buying Mistakes
The rope-horse buying mistakes World Champion Matt Sherwood has seen in his three decades in the team roping business.
Matt Sherwood at the Black Hills Roundup in 2020.

World Champion Matt Sherwood has bought a horse or two (or 200) in his roping career, and he’s seen it all when it comes to good and bad deals. Here are the most common horse-buying mistakes he’s seen in the rope horse business.

Mistake #1: Buying an old, sour horse and thinking you’re going to be able to do something with him the previous owner could not.

I’ve ridden horses at the practice pen that I thought could be the best horse in the world. But he ducks, gets short, or won’t run for the guy who owns him at the jackpots. Practicing on him, he feels amazing. So, I’ve thought, ‘I think he’ll work good for me,’ and then he does the same thing for me as he does for the previous owner. I go home again and tune him up, think I got him and I get behind the barrier again and the same thing happens. If the horse ducks for the previous guy, he’ll duck for you.

Mistake #2: Buying a horse below your level.

If you’re a 2 header, you can’t buy a 2 horse and think you’ll fix him or train him. The lower the number you are, the more skills you need your horse to have. That doesn’t mean you need an NFR horse that stops and moves his feet as quick as Joseph Harrison’s—that means you need a horse that knows his job the same way a 9 header knows his job. If you want to win, you have to have a horse that you don’t have to try to help. He scores, he runs into position, he lets you takes two or three swings over the steer. He lets you size the steer up like you do the dummy. He gets on his butt, lets you come back up the arena. If you’re heeling, he lets you place your bottom strand on the ground, and then lets you get your dally. It takes a lower-number roper longer to get from delivery point to contact point. You’re swinging slower, so you can’t have a horse that stops as hard as a higher-number guy’s horse. Buy a horse that is better than what your level is as a roper. 

Mistake #3: Not seeing the full picture of what you’re buying.

If you’re buying a horse on the internet, make sure you get an honest look at what you’re buying. It’s so easy for a seller to score four or five steers and then turn the camera on. You need a full, start-to-finish video to see how strong the horse is. You want to watch to see if the rider is cheating. If they’re pulling and trying to rope too fast before the horse ducks, or staying really wide on the corner heeling or trying to throw as soon as they get there, you need to know that and a good, full video will let you see it. Truly, that’s one of the things about Gold Buckle Horse Sales that we’re trying to eliminate in our program. We ride the horse, see his strengths and weaknesses, and we talk about it. There are really good horses out there that aren’t good for every level. Some horses have too much ability and too many buttons, and they won’t be good for a 3 or 4. I think there’s a lot of great horses out there not great for every level of roper. And we address that in our program.

Mistake #4: Not asking for help.

A lot of older guys feel uncomfortable getting on a horse they’ve never ridden. I understand that, now. It’s always a good idea to bring someone along who is comfortable getting on something and really trying him out—someone you trust, who knows how you rope and ride to get a sense of if the horse is a good fit for you or not. What Gold Buckle Sales does is it connects you with a local pro who can test-ride the horse for you and give his honest opinion so you have a better sense of what you’re getting into before you put much cost into it. TRJ

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