By Speed Williams

I just got home from teaching a clinic at Josh Allen’s in Quincy, Washington. The first two days were for beginners and the second two days were open to anyone. Teaching new people always drives home the importance of fundamentals, effective practice, and the importance of understanding your weaknesses.

You can practice three times a week and run 15-20 steers each session and, unless you have a specific purpose for your practice, your number will be the same 10 years from now.  I know guys who have roped for 20 years and have never improved or had their number raised. 

 The way you practice and prepare dictates whether you’ll have success at the ropings. One of the most common mistakes I see trying to have a set of 10 to 12 practice steers that are even. In the practice pen you need to prepare for anything you might encounter at the roping. You should have a steer that goes left, a steer that goes right, a fast steer, a slow steer, etc. You don’t need to score the steer you’re weak on, and if this applies to you, you know it because you do it all the time in the practice pen.

To win you have to work on the steer that will take you out of the roping. If you are always complaining about a heeler that doesn’t haze, and you don’t like steers that go right because your horse won’t go right… then fix your horse. If not, when you get to the roping and have a steer that goes right you’re in a bind. Everyone has a weakness and that’s what needs to be worked on in the practice pen. Fix your weakness so there will be fewer steers that can take you out of the roping. 

One of the things I did at the school in Quincy was set up drills where ropers had to control their horses. These drills made them go both right and left while swinging their rope. It’s not easy, but it really makes a difference when you can ride your horse, control your horse, swing your rope, and be ready to rope. Most of the time you know the type of cow that will eliminate you, so you need to have at least one in the practice pen so you can learn what you need to do to catch that cow. 

The same goes for heelers. You can’t always rope perfect little hoppers and expect to get better. You need one that runs up the rope, one that checks off and it never hurts to have one that cuts in to you when the header ropes, because you need to figure out those angles. I don’t like to rope draggers but at ropings you will have a lot of steers that get heavy so you need to learn to get your rope on the ground.

I was high team once at Monroe, Louisiana, and needed to be 12 to win the roping. I nodded and the steer took two steps, fell to his knees and I broke the barrier. When I got home I rigged my chute with welded bars the steers had to jump over so I could prepare myself to react when a steer stumbled and not just nod my head and go.

At home we rope a variety of steers. Steers that run left, right, fast, and slow. Whatever your horse won’t do can be isolated and fixed on the Hot Heels. There’s always a way to prepare to limit the steers that will take you out of the roping.

Figuring out your weaknesses is the name of the game. You probably don’t need anyone to tell you what those are. You know, because those are the steers you don’t want, and maybe score, in the practice pen. 

What’s new with me: I’ve been teaching quite a few schools and we’re working on Hali’s breakaway roping since she qualified for Junior High School National finals in the breakaway. There are some fundamental differences between heading and breakaway that are totally opposite and we’re working at that before heading out to Huron, SD at the end of June.

Several years ago I published a series of header drills that are beneficial for swinging your rope properly, roping faster, getting your horse to lock onto the steer, and more. This series is now on the home page of 

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