angle-left Learning the Ropes: Teaching a Horse to Heel with Brad Lund

Learning the Ropes: Teaching a Horse to Heel with Brad Lund

AQHA Professional Horseman Brad Lund gives instructions on how to start training a heel horse.

text size

By AQHA Professional Horseman Brad Lund for The American Quarter Horse Journal

When introducing a horse to heeling, I start him out just like I would a colt. Teaching the horse to follow the dummy grows his confidence so he’s not scared of it. I push him out and push him in repeatedly to teach him how to find it and follow it.

He’s got to have confidence about where his spot is. I might rein the horse to the left, come back to the right, turn him loose and let him find that spot on his own. For me, that is to the inside of the cow where you can see both feet and both horns.

  1. I have someone pull the dummy, and I ask the horse to follow at a trot. I just want my horse to accept this little contraption in front of him. If my horse gets scared, I don’t punish him. I just let him learn to get up to the dummy, check it out and know it’s not going to hurt him. I’m going to be on a loose rein and let him learn how to follow wherever it goes.
  2. As the horse is more comfortable with the dummy, then I move him out to the right and get his nose even with the steer. I want him to start reading that cow. I want to control his shoulders so he doesn’t drop his shoulders coming around the corner. Try to keep everything straight, all the way through.
  3. When I think he is comfortable and ready, I pick up my rope, catch and stop.

When I am training a horse, I concentrate more on my horse than on my roping. When I get close to that cow, I don’t want to focus on catching it right away. I want my horse to learn where to go and be very comfortable and not get uptight or in a hurry.

Horses that learn to head and heel on the ground-driven roping dummy usually are pretty good by the time you introduce them to the cow.

But when you do introduce them to the cow, try to avoid one that is real fresh. When you take hold of the steer, it will go wild, and that kind of spooks the horse. It’s best to first rope on steers that are broken in.

Remember, you want to make this a fun thing for the horse and not something that is stressful mentally.