One of the things I work at the most when teaching heading and breakway roping is getting a good start. It’s probably one of the most complex things because there are so many factors and variables that can affect you. A lot of people train horses on a loose rein and kick start so they can stay very calm in the box. You don’t ever get them hot, mad or breathing fire. You can get away with that in the lower number ropings and when you’re not trying to go fast and be 4 or 5 in team roping, or a 1 or 2 in the breakaway.
Most every horse is different and the amount of pressure you can put on the reins will vary with each horse. Once, years ago, Roy Cooper rode my horse, Viper, at San Antonio in the team roping, and I rode his good horse, Topper, in the calf roping. With Topper you pulled hard on the reins, but the instant you moved your hand, he was blowing out and firing hard. When I backed in the box, Roy, said, “Pull harder, pull harder!” Topper stood there but left the instant I released the reins. I told Roy he didn’t have to pull that hard on my horse. We have to turn, pull, and face and I don’t want my horse that heavy in the bridle. When Roy backed in the box, he pulled on Viper hard. Viper wadded up and folded up in the box. Roy’s nickname was Sup, short for Super Looper. I called him, “Sup you can’t pull that hard on mine.”
Both ways work, depending on the horse. Those two horses were phenomenal athletes that did their jobs outstanding. But with two extremely different ways of scoring and they both worked well.
There’s a common problem that arises when you don’t have tension on your reins and your horse is standing in neutral. When you kick to go, he takes off and the next move you have is squeezing with your legs to hold on. Then the saddle hits you in the butt. I teach a lot of headers and breakaway ropers who want to be able to throw on their second swing. The ability to do this comes from how well they score their horse and how well they ride across the line. If they don’t get a good start and are getting hit with the saddle, it’s very difficult to be accurate and they end up taking another swing or two.
I run into this with a lot of private lessons where students want to learn to rope faster. This is where the Speed Trainer comes in handy and shortens the learning curve. We start with the student sitting in the saddle with the green light on. Then I say, “Ready, set, go.” They have to put weight in the stirrups, be out of the saddle, swing their rope as fast as they can twice, sit down, take their legs out of their horse and dally. They should be able to do this in under 2-1/2 seconds without any lights blinking or alarms sounding off.
It really has been amazing how much faster my clients can improve on their horse once they’re able to use their left hand and their feet more correctly. If we spend our time practicing roping the dummy on the ground, we’re never accountable for what our left hand or our legs are doing. And we’re not creating the accurate mathematical angles we use when we’re on a horse. My philosophy is when taking the time to practice, you need to create muscle memory that is as close to real life on a horse as possible.
Last week I got a text from Kaleb Driggers, one of the top ropers in the world. He had talked to some guys who had been on the Speed Trainer and wanted to try it. I’m currently working on a video for speedroping.com, that shows what we talked about. The Speed Trainer enables me to expose the holes and weaknesses, whether you’re a beginner or one of the top ropers. It was definitely a highlight for me for one of the best ropers in the world to try it out and see what I could pick apart.
What’s new with me: We are getting ready to go to the USTRC Finals in Ft. Worth. I’m currently in Florida teaching some private lessons for Steve and Justin at the 5M Ranch. Gabe has been doing a little unintentional bronc riding lately. His right arm is a little sore and hopefully he’ll get heeled up soon. Hali has bought a new, young breakaway horse. She turns 18 this December and I think she wants to gather up some horses and try rodeoing. We’ve been staying very busy with private lessons and are currently booked 45 days out. It’s a fairy tale for me to be able to make a living teaching people to do what I love and have my kids with me. Check speedroping.com to see Hali’s new horse and check out Gabe’s trick riding.