Building a Loop: Part 2

Nine ways to improve your roping.

This is the last of a two-part series. Need to review Part 1?

Loop 5: Don’t Just Go Rope

If every day you take your horse into that arena to rope, it would be like me having to sit in an office every day at 8 in the morning – that’s not what I enjoy. I think that a lot of the guys that you see winning are just riding a lot.

Saddle up for 30 minutes and just go lope around without worrying about roping. Take a rope and carry it with you and swing it and play with it. The more you are on your horse and the rope is in your hand, the more natural it becomes.

Have you ever watched young kids out riding? They don’t have to be roping to be happy. They’ll get on and lope anybody’s horse because they like to ride. Then they wind up being good ropers because they were good riders first.

Loop 6: Avoid Bad Habits

One of our first responsibilities as trainers is to keep the horses and amateurs safe. So one of the bad habits we try to keep our amateurs from developing in the heading or tie-down is realizing that they’re leaving the box too early and then pulling on the horse.

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For a horse that we’re also showing in the open, when you pull, it means “stop.” And if you pull too hard, it could cause the horse to come off its front end.

We teach the horses to run free, put you in position to rope and dally and then get in the ground. Some amateurs want to move their rein hand to the left to get their dally, which can make the horse turn too early. Then the amateur might not get his dally or could lose a thumb.

In the heeling, amateurs have a tendency to cut the corner and come in right beside the steer. If that steer falls or decides to drag, the horse could hit him and fall down. At worst, someone could get hurt. At best, your horse is going to be boogered for several runs before he stops being scared.

One of the first things you should learn and practice is keeping the right position and staying safe.

Roll It!

Meet "Woody," the 2009 AQHA-Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association 2009 Steer Roping Horse of the Year.

Loop 7: Ask for Help

I’ve never been ashamed to ask for help. My dad taught me everything he knew and more. I had a lot of great friends who let me stay at their places, ride their horses and helped me with my riding. If I have a problem with a horse, I go to some of those people I respect and ask for their help. The minute you quit learning in this industry, there is going to be someone ready to beat you every time.

I want everyone to feel like they are welcome to come and ask me for help. Of course, I might not be the one who can answer the question, but I can find someone who can.

Loop 8: Develop Your Own Style

I don’t have a scientific way to teach roping. When I have someone who is just getting started, I start by watching them rope. Then I am going to see what we can improve with the style that they already have to make them winners.

When you put on clinics or ride with someone else, one misconception is that the people who attend the clinic will come out roping like you. That is never going to happen. It’s true for me, too. As much as I would like to ride like some of the trainers who compete in other events, in that field, I am never going to be able to ride as good as they do. Develop your own style and then work to improve.

At a horse show, I can pretty much tell who won throughout the day, because I am constantly watching all of those guys to see if someone has picked up on something new or something I can put on one of my horses to make it better. When you get tunnel vision and think you’ve got everything figured out, there is going to be somebody who is going to beat you. You aren’t keeping that competitive spirit if you’re not learning.

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Loop 9: Keep It Fun

I’m lucky in that I have a lot of amateurs who do really well. The guys who rope with us have a lot of fun and try to help each other. They work together and have fun together. From a trainer’s perspective, when it stops being fun, it takes money out of my pocket and points out of our shows because those owners and amateurs will go find some other hobby.