I was talking to a couple of top headers the other day who told me they’re struggling a little with hazes. They’re hesitant to say anything to their partners, but they don’t know from one run to the next if their steer will step left or fade right.
Why is the haze so important? Because when your header doesn’t have to worry about the steer stepping away from him, he can break his horse down the middle of the box and focus on speed during those first three strides.
It’s a little bit of a faith deal. My header has to have faith in me in order to ride his horse to that invisible “sweet spot” straight out in front or a touch to his left. If my header has to pull his horse over to the right, it’s pretty hard for him to get all the run out of his horse across that line.We’re looking for the shortest distance from the back of the head box to the steer. So think about the dimensions of the arena, the length of the score and the type of steer and then decide with your partner where that sweet spot should be – straight or to the left.
There are a couple of risks when you step a steer slightly to the left. One is that you could end up in the left fence. The other is that if the steer gains ground on you, he could step back to the right.
If Joel and I draw a steer that I know would completely ruin our run if he came to the right, I’d rather take a chance on pushing him left too much. Plus, if I just really give up my position and get high to step a steer over to help him, I know Joel won’t run away and leave me.
The other reason your haze is so important as a heeler is that it helps your spacing from the steer. I always want to be 9 feet away from the steer, which is about the spacing I start with in the box. As I break with the steer, I maintain that 9 feet, keeping the haze and watching the steer’s feet to get my timing down.
If you don’t break with the steer, you’ll feel like you’re playing catch-up. And it’s so hard to heel when you’re behind. You get so caught up in leaning and riding hard that your swing suffers and you can’t really set up your horse for the corner, which is what allows you to rope on the first jump.
But with a good start and a good haze, you can relax and watch the hip of the steer and pick up your timing. You control the run instead of chasing it. There’s much more to hazing than people think. Getting it figured out – that’s just smart roping.
Smart ropers win the most. Check out my new site at smartroping.com