Learning to head from scratch
Recently I’ve started teaching a 14-year-old girl to head, who’s never roped before. She’s competed in barrel and poles and wants to learn to rope. It’s a little easier to teach her to ride and swing her rope since she’s an experienced rider. As a teacher, I don’t stress much about the cosmetics of the swing. For kids and total beginners, it’s important to get them where they can catch, turn steers, and have a chance to win something for it to be fun. If you make it too detail oriented in the beginning and force them to be technically correct, they can become easily frustrated and not enjoy it. Go to a team roping anywhere in the US and watch a #8, #9, or #10 roping and you will see many different types and styles of swings that win money. Basically, you have to get it around your head and on the horns. I’ve seen many styles with a lot of wasted motion but they’ve learned to adapt and make it work for them.
When I was a kid, my dad sold a lot of horses and would have clients from New York or Miami that had never ridden in their life but wanted to get into team roping. He would teach them to catch, stay in the middle of their horse, and turn steers. These are the basic fundamentals and how I taught my own daughter. I taught her to ride across the line, swing her rope and be able to rope when she got to the steer. This is where roping right to left comes into play. Compared to shooting pool, this is basically just making the shot. As you progress, then you learn to put English on your rope.
The hardest part of heading is riding across the line, swinging your rope and being ready to rope when you get to your steer. To simplify catching I start beginners roping right to left. The benefit is they are covering a bigger area rather than throwing at a specific target. Roping right to left has a higher catch percentage and is more forgiving. As they progress there’s a time to learn to rope both horns at the same time. When ropers learn to use their left hand correctly their horses work so much better than when they balance on the reins, causing them to constantly and unnecessarily pull on their horse. This creates so many problems that prevent them from being able to catch.
This is where Priefert’s Speed Trainer comes in handy for me as an instructor. I start my students in the box with a green light on. They have tension on the reins. The reins have a pressure valve that shows how much pressure you have on the reins when you swing your rope, pull your slack, and dally. This makes the transition from the Speed Trainer to a horse much more realistic and smoother. In the past I have spent hours on the ground teaching people to rope and do different drills. But you’re just not accountable for what your left hand or legs are doing. You use both to get in position when you want to throw your rope.
For many years I have taught people to rope that had never ridden or roped and it could take some time before they were able to catch and turn steers. The Speed Trainer speeds the process up by allowing me to work on little things that matter a lot. Like putting weight in the stirrups, balancing on stirrups, and swinging a rope in a simulated position just like on a horse. There’s no question that roping the dummy on the ground is much easier than roping from a stationery horse with a neck and lights and alarms that buzz when your hand is in the wrong position. But, I am able to make the transition of moving to the horse much faster. We can dramatically speed up the process because we’re able to work on feet and hand position which are the two most vital parts in improving.
What’s new with me: I’m happy to say Texas has opened back up. That Monday, by the end of the first day, I was booked for 21 days of lessons. It’s nice to have our indoor up and not have to worry whether it’s windy, raining, or hot. I thoroughly enjoy teaching something that I love to do. It’s exciting that both of my kids are involved in a world I have knowledge of and that I can help them. It’s not always just about roping. There’s a lot I can teach them about preparation, dealing with different personalities, and life lessons in general.
If you’ve never roped on a Speed Trainer. Find one, give it a try and have someone video you. We will be giving one away again this year at Christmas. You don’t even have to catch, just make an attempt. Mom’s and Dad’s can get on there and submit a video at speedroping.com to enter and give their kids a chance to win one.