Breaking it Down
The name of this article is actually the topic this month. I’m often asked, “What can I do to get better?” It really comes down to some simple steps and the fundamentals of riding your horse and swinging your rope. Whether you’re heading or heeling, there are simple fundamentals to be accomplished for you to have a chance. It doesn’t matter what level you are, there are fundamental steps that cannot be overlooked. With professional ropers it’s the same thing, but different steps.
Kaleb Driggers and Wesley Thorp will be roping together this year and asked about coming over and videoing their runs and breaking it down. I gave them various scenarios to execute where they had to make a 9 second run, then 7, 5, and 3. Then we watched the video and break down every move that’s made. My style of roping was developed by looking at every motion and seeing if it is beneficial or can be eliminated. Much like analyzing a business and eliminating unnecessary expenses.
With all my students we look everything from how you hold your rope in the box, to how you come across the line, to what you do when you rope the steer. That’s where you need someone to watch your runs. There are a lot of guys who have been very successful team roping. But there’s a difference when you’re watching your runs and someone else is watching. Kaleb made the comment that it’s different when he films at home because he’s not looking at the same thing I’m looking at. My answer was that I do this every day so I’m looking at the small details.
Honestly, that’s how you evaluate your roping and get better. Eliminate the wasted motions and inconsistencies in your run. It’s very hard to see the details while it’s happening. With video you can back it up, go through in slow motion, rewind, and usually find what’s going on. When I was younger I was fascinated with football and how they used video to break down all the little moves an opponent would make. I have used that same philosophy in team roping.
It’s small things that can make your runs better. Eliminating little steps in your swing and changing little things you can do with your horse can make your run happen faster and be more consistent. Videoing yourself is important because the video does not lie. It might feel like one thing is happening, and the video shows something else. Personally, I’ve made a run at a rodeo and felt I knew exactly what happened, and after watching the video realized it was nothing like what I thought.
To get better you need to understand the steps necessary to accomplish your goal. If you’re going to rope, you need to film your practice and then study it. Not just watch what your rope does. You need to look at all the things happening during the run. It’s equally important for both ends.
When heelers are having a bad day, you have to look at what the header, and the head horse, is doing in addition to the heel horse. There are many parts to the equation that could be responsible for the heeler having a hard time.
I’ve spent many hours driving home from events where things didn’t go according to plan. I call that my “windshield time” where I would replay what happened and consider what could be eliminated. I have those conversations with my son all the time. I tell him, “I’ve already been through those things. At home we need to eliminate little things that can take you out of the roping.”
One of the things the Speed Trainer has allowed me to do is expose problems while students are sitting still. I can take headers and make them use their leg, swing their rope and show them where they’re pulling on their horse when they shouldn’t be. Ropers of many levels experience their left hand causing the right hand to have a very bad night. People don’t realize how many times they are cueing their horse. They are doing the wrong things with their feet and hands when all they’re thinking about is their rope. You would be amazed at how many times your left hand is the reason you’re having a bad day.
I feel very blessed I’m able to do something I love and help other people. I spent many hours over many years driving down the road thinking of ways to improve. Now I get to teach my kids and other people something I’m passionate about. Whether it’s a beginner, or a pro who makes a living going down the road, it’s very rewarding to help people with their roping.
What’s new with me: The kids are roping a lot. Both at jackpots and high school rodeos. I’ve been busy with schools at the house. The roof over our arena has come in very handy lately with the rain and snow we’ve had. We got 8 to 10 inches of snow a couple of weeks ago. My Canadian friends would get a kick out of me having a fire barrel going in the arena so we can keep our hands warm. It’s hard to rope in the cold when you can’t feel your fingers.