Roping Tips: Basics of Scoring

Roping Tips: Basics of Scoring

World-renowned roping clinician and horse trainer Lari Dee Guy takes us through her steps to ensure her horses have a rock-solid start out of the roping box.

Lari Dee Guy scores a roping steer from the heading box (Credit: Tara Matsler)

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The American Quarter Horse Journal logo

By Lindsay Keller with Camille Melugin

Scoring is how a horse waits or stands in the box until the rider cues the horse to move forward. Whether you are roping in jackpots, professional rodeos or AQHA shows, you know how important a horse’s ability to score is on the final outcome of your run. 

No matter where you are in competing, team roping and breakaway roping has escalated to a level where the difference between first and right out of the money is in the details. 

Lari Dee Guy, a multiple Women’s Professional Rodeo Association world champion roper, says the details start before you even nod your head. For Lari Dee, getting a horse to score well is the most important component of a roping run. 

Two Things to Remember

To keep her horses scoring well – regardless of whether they are young and green or finished – Lari Dee says she focuses on two things: 

  1. Make sure she maintains complete control of the horse’s body in the box.

  2. Make sure she does not confuse the horse with mixed signals between her hands, seat and feet.

Relaxed = Controlled

“When I ride my horse in the box, I want to be able to move his body wherever I want it, whenever I ask. I don’t want any part of his body to feel stiff or locked up. I want his body loose and relaxed and have him willing to let me guide him where I need to,” Lari Dee says. 

  • “When I score, I score from different places. I score some from the corner. I score some while I am letting my horse walk to the front of the box. I rope a lot while I am walking up – kind of roping the cattle over the chute. I think asking the horse to move in the box, not letting him move on his own, but asking him to move, keeps his body from tensing up,” she says

  • Various horsemanship drills out in the arena keep Lari Dee’s horses collected and willing to rate. Then, she takes them to the box and works on her scoring. 

  • “A horse that stays loose and relaxed in the box will always score. Horses that are patient are naturally talented scorers from the beginning and you can just maintain that composure. Those that aren’t take some work to get them to that point,” she says. 

Keep the Signals Clear

Mixed signals – loose bridle contact and incorrect rein and leg use – are the quickest way a roper can make even natural scorers uneasy in the box. Lots of ropers like to keep a horse on a loose rein, but Lari Dee take a different approach based on natural horse behavior.

  • “ ... I like to keep constant, but very light pressure, on my horse's bridle to keep him feeling like things are in control. When you put a horse on a loose rein, you are asking him to make decisions on his own and stepping down as their leader,” Lari Dee says. 

  • Reins are only to move the horse’s front end and to guide the horse in the direction you want him to go. 

  • Your feet control the rib cage and hips, and a combination of your feet and seat is what tells the horse to leave the box.

  • Your legs should only be in use if you need to move the horse’s ribs or butt in the box. So, if the horse is in alignment, your legs should be hanging loosely at his sides. 

  • When nodding for a steer, keep your hand in contact with the bridle and sink down in your seat to cue the horse to go with your feet. This avoids the common mixed signal of nodding with a loose rein and immediately pulling back when your horse takes off. 

Same Concept in the Field

If Lari Dee ever starts having an issue with a horse – in or outside of the box – she always assumes rider error first and goes back to her two basic concepts.

The sport of roping is getting more and more competitive every day. Whether you are team roping, breakaway roping or tie-down roping, prioritizing your horsemanship and giving your horse clear and concise communication can shave precious time off your run,” Lari Dee says.