How to Keep Your Head Horse Working

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With the price of horses these days, and as hard as it is to find a good one, care and preparation are more important than ever. Without proper care and preparation you aren't going to get that longevity you're looking for from a nice horse, so you'll be in constant search for the next one. Whether you buy a horse or make him yourself, once you get one working the way you want him to it's important to keep him working that way. That means maintenance.

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Rope horses need to be ridden outside the arena a lot. They need plenty of exercise, and to be ridden down, because they work better that way. When their minds get to going too fast all the time it takes its toll. I was raised on a ranch, and I had my best horses when I lived on the ranch.

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I also think a horse works better when he's not kept in a stall all the time. That's like keeping a kid in the house all day on a rainy day. When you go get him out he's feeling his oats and is ready to go burn some energy. Until you get him ridden down again he isn't going to work like you want him to. It's not fair to go jump on a horse Friday, ride him on the weekend, and then let him go all week again. Keep your horse ridden down so he's thinking about what he needs to do instead of being full of nervous energy.

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I like to score my horse quite a bit, and use as light a hand as possible to keep my horse in the back of the box. Keep your hand low. Keep weight off your feet and pressure out of your stirrups, and it'll keep your horse calmer in the box. Sit on your butt, straight up, and relax. Don't squeeze with your legs. If you get in there with a lot of pressure on your feet your horse knows he's about to have to do his job at a high rate of speed.

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When you leave the box, you need to stay down low on your horse and hustle him out of there and across the scoreline. Don't maintain your balance with your reins. Keep your balance with your knees and your feet.

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I like to steer stop on my head horses. It keeps them dragging their back legs. Keep that left shoulder up with your left foot. You want your left foot up in the shoulder, and your right foot in the cinch area. If you've got your horse dragging his hind end in the corner, with his nose tucked to the inside (right), it's a lot easier for him to face, because you don't get that rope straight over his back.

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Steer stopping also gets your horse to rating. If you've got a horse that wants to come up in the front end and get chargy, steer stopping is good for that also.