with Allen Bach
Whether you’re a No. 3 or a 5 header, you might be ready to start stepping up and making faster runs. The good news is that there are ways to start roping a little faster that have nothing to do with reaching.
One thing that’s not covered often enough for headers is how much rope they’re actually delivering in their throw.
As an instructor, I’d encourage you to run your head horse all the way up even with the steer’s hip. During that time, you’re hanging onto all three coils in your left hand. As you deliver and rope the horns, a certain amount of slack is measured off.
There’s a perfect amount of rope to throw – and it will change if you’re roping on the approach or if a steer moves off to the right. In those cases, you might not be taking into consideration that you need to loosen your grip on that first coil.
When you’re building your practice program, be conscious of how many steers you can comfortably rope and continue roping. Especially if you’re really focusing on roping a bunch, whether at home or at someone else’s arena – take care of your body.
Sure, you can rope 75 head the first day, but you’ll be so sore and fatigued the next day that your rope will feel terrible. It would be like if Michael Jordan had worked out with weights so hard that his arm felt like a noodle on the day of the big game. Not smart.
People who work hard at roping need to figure out how many cattle or how many throws at the sawhorse their arm can take. You want to create good muscle memory, and that’s hard to do once your body is fatigued.
The concept of teaching a horse the correct positioning is simple – we use consistency and repetition on green horses until they automatically run to the correct spot.
But even when you’re not training a rope horse, you need to maintain a sense of arena awareness. Consciously know your position not just when approaching the steer, but throughout your run.
If you don’t think the mental game is important even as a beginner, consider Bobby Mote.
He’s a world champion bareback rider who is basically a #6 or #7 header. He has no reason to be heading as good as he is right now. But he’s turning cattle alongside the best headers in the world because of his attitude.
There might be some guys out there ashamed they’re letting a bareback rider beat them. But Bobby is so disciplined in his self-control and work ethic that he can come right into the team roping event and also win.
One reason he’s roping with Mike Beers, one of the most consistent winners of the past 30 years, is that he has great horses. But Mike also sees in him what I see – Bobby can execute everything Mike tells him to execute.