By Speed Williams
Most of my time is spent teaching private lessons for a variety of ropers of many different levels. The most common obstacle for higher numbered ropers is learning to use their horse correctly so they don’t have to rely on their ability with a rope.
Heading, at the open level, has gotten tough. There are always a few that separate themselves from the rest of the pack. To be consistent throughout the year, your horse must help you. It’s not going to be enough to just get by your horse on every run. In higher numbers scoring and getting a good start simplifies heading so much. If your horse scores and leaves off your hand and runs toward the cow, it’s much easier to have a consistent shot. The start is one important factor that applies from the Open all the way down to #3 and #4 headers. Getting a good start with a World Series set up is crucial to executing good runs. The box is long, the steer has a short head start and only has to move a little distance, but you have to run a long way to catch up.
One of the things I do to help students get a better start is run the remote on the Priefert chute. I tell them I won’t always open the gate on the first nod. I want them to nod without telling their horse they’re going. So many people have a big nod. When they nod, they pull on the reins and pull themselves forward. Rather than holding their horse, and then sending their horse, they anticipate what’s fixing to happen. You can’t believe how much difference that one little thing can make in your practice. If you’re the wife, husband or other family member holding the remote be careful because the one in the box may get very upset when they nod for their steer, and you just shake the back gate and then they and their horse take off. The simple answer to this is they cannot go before the cow goes. They must watch the cow.
Just tell them you’re trying to help them get better so when they get to Vegas, they won’t break the barrier. It’s one thing that can help make a big difference between winning and losing. You can’t believe how many people know it might happen and it still gets them. Especially if they know they’ve drawn a runner and they try to cheat the start. Getting a good start is crucial to winning. It doesn’t matter if it’s heading, breakaway, or bulldogging. When you’re heeling at the NFR it’s so important to get a good start and for your horse to leave off your hand. There are many things to work on, but if you don’t score well, you really must be able to handle your rope extremely well to overcome the disadvantage it gives you.
The next thing we work on is being ready to rope when you get to your steer. That’s where the Speed Trainer comes in so handy. I have students sit on it and engage it. There’s a green light that comes on to simulate when you have enough pressure to have your horse in your hand. You can score on many different levels of pressure, but I have the Speed Trainer set as a horse with a very light mouth. Then I say, “Ready, Set, Go.” When I say “Go” they have to drop the pressure off the reins, put weight in their stirrups, get their butt out of the saddle, swing their rope twice as fast as they can, pull their slack and dally. And there should be no lights lit up on the Speed Trainer. All the way from a #3 to a #9 header, it’s surprising how many times people engage their bridle reins for no reason. I really work on the left hand riding your horse and the right hand for roping. Your left hand should not be over reactive trying to help your right hand. It’s amazing how much better horses work when we’re not riding the reins for balance and pulling on them when we need to go forward.
What’s new with me: Both kids have been doing well at their competitions. We’re excited to go to Wickenburg, AZ this month. Wickenburg is a roper’s dream with so many ropings to go to. Afterwards we’re headed to Vegas where I’m sure Gabe will be entered everywhere he can be.