angle-left 10 Tips for Training Rope Horses

10 Tips for Training Rope Horses

World champion roper, AQHA Professional Horseman and Team Wrangler member C.R. Bradley breaks down his training process for tie-down roping horses.

(Credit: AQHA Journal)

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With multiple world championships to his credit, AQHA Professional Horseman and Team Wrangler member C.R. Bradley of Collinsville, Texas, knows a thing or two about training tie down-roping horses.

Here, C.R. shares some of his top tips for training rope horses.

  1. Tracking. When starting a rope horse, C.R. puts a calf in the arena and works the cow like you would on a cutting horse. Over the next few days, the horse learns to pay attention to the cow as the horse tracks it. C.R. keeps the horse straight and close behind the calf; the goal is to eventually have the horse follow the calf on his own. If the calf goes left, the horse goes left. If the calf goes right, the horse goes right.
  2. Breakaway. As the horse becomes comfortable with tracking and maintaining the correct position, C.R. will rope the calf with a breakaway or knot rope. He allows the horse to stop as he pulls his slack.
  3. Reinforce the stop. To teach the horse to accept more of a pull as the calf hits the end of the rope, C.R. prefers to use a knot rope. The knot rope comes off the calf’s head when it turns around. If the horse comes out of its stop because he anticipates the the jerk from the calf, then right after the calf hits the end of the rope C.R. takes the slack out of the reins and pulls straight back. He pulls toward his belt buckle until the horse yields to the pressure and backs up. Then C.R. releases. After doing this a couple of times, C.R. gives the horse a chance to stop and get back on its own.
  4. Relax in the box. Your horse must be relaxed and pay attention to you in the box. That’s why C.R. uses the box as a resting place. The first couple of times that he ropes out of the box, C.R. uses slow calves so the horse won’t have to leave the box running too hard.
  5. Back into the corner – every time. C.R. asks every horse to slowly back into the corner. There, the horse should stand straight with equal weight on all four legs. C.R. maintains steady contact with the horse’s mouth: If he releases pressure, the horse should move forward.
  6. Redirect tension. If a problem arises, C.R. takes the horse away from the box and makes him work, like spins or galloping circles. Then C.R. comes back to the box, backs to the corner, then lets the horse rest.
  7. Score, score, score. Scoring is the act of letting a calf out of the chute while the roper stays in the corner of the box without chasing the calf. C.R. scores numerous calves, because it helps the horse to relax. It also teaches the horse to pay attention to the rider, not the calf or the chute opening.
  8. Divide and conquer. C.R. focuses on the parts of the run and isolates problems. He finds he has more success when he works on parts of the run separately. He wants his horse to score correctly before he runs a calf, track correctly before he throws his rope and stop well before he gets off to tie the calf. If the horse isn’t doing something correctly, it jeopardizes the next part of the run.
  9. Expect the best. C.R. always gives his horse a chance to work on his own, but if the horse does make a mistake, C.R. corrects the horse immediately.
  10. Set the bar high and reward good effort. C.R. wants his horse to give 100 percent every time. So, if his horse is trying, C.R. will only run two to four calves, once or twice a week.