Keeping it fun while learning
One of the most common conversations I have with parents is how their kids want to switch ends in the practice pen. They may head at the ropings or rodeos, but when they get in the practice pen they want to heel. Many parents won’t let their kids play or practice the other end because they think their kid should be strictly working at the event they compete at.
I don’t agree with that. It needs to be fun and if you take the fun out of the practice pen, they might find something else to do. You may not realize how just scoring your horse and turning steers, over and over, can get very boring. Keep in mind, while they’re playing, roping, and riding, they’re still learning to create angles. Letting your kid rope the other end lets them have fun and there is much they can learn. The objective is to get better and they will learn as they play.
I’ve not had to deal with it with Hali, but my son, Gabe, loves to heel. However at 12 years old, he has a better chance to win if he heads. But he enjoys heeling and it’s a lot more fun to work on heeling in the practice pen. He’s heeling for Hali at the Junior Rodeos, but he heads at the jackpots so we have to work at both.
I’m very adamant that they do their event correctly in the practice pen before they get to play. We set goals and if they can’t achieve those goals, then they need to work at their event. If they achieve the goals, then they can play a little bit.
You want them to be a better hand with their horse and rope, whether they’re heading or heeling. Give them scenarios in the practice pen where they have to be under 10, 9, 8 – or whatever depending on your child’s skill level. It’s not good practice to just run steer after steer. These need to be scenarios they can achieve, and must achieve, before switching ends.
The objective is for your child to have fun and learn things that will benefit them in life. It will teach them discipline, responsibility, preparation, and how to tend to business. If they can’t catch and complete their scenarios, then they need to continue to work at this. You’re not the one telling them they can’t; it’s up to them to achieve the goals.
I highly recommend setting a goal in the practice pen where if they do their event well three days in a row they win something from you as parent. Whether it’s going out to eat, going to the movies, or whatever.
Make the practice pen preparation so when it comes to competition they’re used to dealing with pressure every day. This teaches them to control their nerves and heart rate. Put something on the line they can win or lose. If they do well and achieve the goals you’ve set, they win something. If they don’t, then maybe they have an extra chore.
When setting goals keep in mind what your child can do and keep it attainable, but yet a challenge. Whether it’s catching three in a row, catching five under 8-seconds, etc. Be realistic and don’t set goals that are not achievable.
Remember the goal is for your child to have fun while they’re learning and most kids respond well to attainable challenges where there’s a reward at the end – whether it’s getting to switch ends in the practice pen or going to the restaurant of their choice.