When you practice do you have specific goals in mind with a clear-cut game plan, or do you and your partner go make some nice runs? Making nice runs in the practice pen may be fun, but it really doesn’t do much to help your roping.
I’ve always believed it’s important to eliminate the foremost habit or problem that takes you out of the competition. Practicing is about preparing yourself to have the best chance at winning.
If you have a problem with steers that run right, then in the practice pen your heeler should not be hazing all your steers. You need to work on your weak-nesses and in this case, that means learning how to win on steers that go right. Ideally, your practice steers should include a wide variety of steers that go left, right, fast, and slow.
If you get up at 4 a.m. and do everything necessary to compete in the roping three hours from home, do you really want to be panicked when you ride in the box and see that you’ve drawn a big horned, slow steer? Everyone, myself included, has weaknesses. What is the one thing that causes you the most problems during competition? That’s what you need to be working on. The practice pen is the place to practice the things you cannot do rather than the things you can.
My biggest weakness has always been scoring. Once I was at a USTRC roping in Monroe, Louisiana, and when the gate opened my steer leapt from the chute and I didn’t react. At home, in order to replicate this scenario, I dug a trench in front of the gate that would make the steers leap over it. Unfortunately, one of the steers jumped the trench, turned left and stopped broadside right in front of me. My horse ran over top of him and we rolled. By the time I had cleaned the dirt from my eyes and ears, I realized this was not a great idea. I have tried many things to simulate situations that have cost me on the road. Some are good ideas and some happen just once.
Working on my scoring has gotten much better with the Priefert Score chute. This chute has a head gate so that when the front gates open, the steer can’t leave. This is a great tool for teaching a horse to score.
Your practice sessions should be well planned with a specific goal in mind. Just making run after run may be fun, but does little to help you improve.
What’s new with me: My daughter, Hali, has been roping well in the practice pen. I asked her to heel a couple of weeks ago while working on some drills. The other day we were at an open rodeo in Bulverde, Texas, where it was enter four times, $40 per man. Hali was one of my four partners. We had to work a little on her being tied-off prior to the rodeo. We didn’t draw the very best steer; he ran a little and went right. I roped him around the neck and he ran up the rope. Hali did a great job of riding in there, threw a great loop and roped two feet. I quit her a little and she slipped a leg, but I think she enjoyed the standing ovation she received. When I told her we were going to an open rodeo in Pleasanton, she immediately asked if she was entered. She wasn’t very happy when I explained that it was only enter twice. I did heel at Pleasanton and rode Hali’s horse because he’s working so well.
If you have kids that rope, you might enjoy watching Hali’s progress at speedroping.com.