Recently I taught a private school for a pretty handy 12-year-old girl who ropes and rides very well. She runs barrels, ropes breakaway and is starting to team rope. One of the first things I do when teaching kids is to cut their rope off. Safety always comes first, especially with kids.

My daughter, Hali, recently roped competitively for the first time at a USTRC roping in Stephenville, Texas. Her rope is short, consisting of her loop, one coil and the tail that hangs to her knee. If she rides her horse correctly, and ropes from the proper position, she will have no problem getting a dally and handling her steers.

If the steer stops, drags, or if she misses her dally, the short rope eliminates the possibility of her hand getting tangled in the rope. My dad instilled this in me when I was very young. We had a rule that if you lost control of your rope during the dally, immediately both hands went above your head. Not just your right hand, both hands to get them clear of the saddle horn. He was very adamant that you didn’t try to “save” a run when things went wrong. He used to tell me, “Son, there’s always another roping down the road. I need for you to keep all your fingers. Don’t try and save one run.”

Some kids get upset when they have to use a short rope because it embarrasses them. At my house, it’s not an option because safety is our first priority. I have met some young kids who have lost fingers and I will do everything possible to prevent this from happening. 

I want them to be able to control their horse, rope and do everything correctly. Once Hali can reach she will need a longer rope. Until then, she doesn’t need it because right now her job is to ride her horse to position and catch every cow.  

Once kids can reach and handle their rope, if they miss their dally and their horse goes left, then their rope gets cut. It’s amazing how much better they ride their horse with a shorter rope. 

It’s up to the parents to enforce this. I think most will agree there is no saddle or buckle worth their child losing any of their digits. Kids, or adults for that matter, can use a short rope IF they ride their horse correctly.

What’s new with me:  I have learned a lot about teaching heeling since working with my wife for the last few years. It’s been hard on Jennifer since her good heel horse recently died from a heart attack. Losing “J-Lo” put a spark in her to start heading again. We have more than several head horses on our place and it just makes sense that she head. During a conversation at lunch, I lost three head horses to her – just that quick. 

Hali has been roping a lot, both heading and heeling. She’s been helping me do schools for the last few weeks. 

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