Making Adjustments

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Every time you back in the box, something's going to be different because there are so many variables involved. You've got two ropers, two horses and the steer you draw, not to mention the arena conditions to deal with. So many things have to go right to accomplish a successful run. You have a general idea of the type of run you need to make before you rope, because you know about how much time you have to play with and what the conditions are. It'll depend on whether you're at a one-header or an average. After a quarter of a century of roping for a living, I can guess pretty close at what it's going to take to win a roping or rodeo before it starts. But making that happen is easier said than done a lot of times.

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The type of steer you draw is your first consideration. How does he break out of the box? Does he break out of there and run hard, or does he stall in there and leave slow? Your adjustments start with scoring that steer and reacting to how he leaves the chute.

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How your horse scores is also a factor. You have to react, based on how well your horse scores and how he reacts to the gates banging. That's going to affect how much tension you take on the reins. The goal is for a horse to stand there until you release him with your left hand, but that's a lot to ask of a horse that gets the pressure put to him every run.

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How well your heeler and his horse score also plays into your game plan. If he leaves there too early, he can shoot the steer hard left. Or if he misses the start, the steer will basically head to the right fence. The steer's the most vulnerable if he's going straight down the middle of the arena or coming slightly to the left. There's an art to maneuvering the steer to your best advantage.

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If all that happens according to plan, your execution will be a lot easier. But if your heeler misses the haze or gets out too early and shoves the steer hard left or the steer stops, zig-zags or checks off when you run up on him-or some other unexpected thing happens-you have to be able to adjust. You need to fall back on your riding skills and get good position anyway-or even rope out of position to compensate. You may not have the time and the luxury to get in that perfect spot, so you need to adjust the angle of your loop to make up for it and stay in the game.

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A lot of low-numbered heelers come from behind barriers at USTRC ropings, so they don't get out there and haze the steers. The steers all want to run to the right fence. In that case, you're giving the steer the advantage. To look at the bright side, at least you don't have to worry about the steer cutting in front of you to the left. Every once in awhile, a steer will cross over to the left on his own, so you have to be on your toes for that at all times. You have to be riding for position no matter what curveballs are thrown your way.

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A lot of ropers set steers up, because they overshoot their position on the slower-type steers you can win on. You have to keep your eyes open and react accordingly. This is a heads-up game. You can't blow a good opportunity to win like that because you aren't paying attention to what's unfolding in front of you. The higher-numbered ropers have these problems, too, but not as often because we have horses that either know the play on their own or are easier to maneuver to those spots. We've roped so many more steers that we can recognize what that steer's doing and react quicker to what he does. The more steers you've run and the more times you've seen those situations, the easier it is to see it coming and make the necessary adjustments. STW