Learning to Navigate a Variety of Horses

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Ideally, young and novice ropers learn to rope on a patterned horse. They start off on an old campaigner that scores and rates pretty good, and goes through the motions on his own free will. That lets a beginner roper concentrate on his or her roping. Then they get to the next level and they start to wear down that old seasoned horse. They want something thats a little faster and stronger. Theres a transition in trying to replace that good old horse. All of a sudden, its like being thrown in cold water, because every horse works a little differently. Youre going from automatic to having to pull more levers and push more buttons.

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If you have an unlimited bank account, you can replace the old campaigner with another push-button horse that's ready to roll. He might be a little younger and a little faster, but he still knows the drill.

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If you can get another horse that scores, runs, rates, handles cattle smoothly and faces-another Mr. Automatic-that learning curve to the next level isn't too bad. But those push-button horses that instantly make you a winner are hard to find. The majority of horses need more help from you.

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If you get a higher maintenance horse, you need to customize a program that will bring out the best in him. There are drills that can help with that, like steer stopping, pulling a log, working on his facing or whatever. You can't just throw him in the trailer and expect to win. Your practice sessions now need to be more for your horse. You have to take those kinds of horses in stages, and your roping might suffer a little bit because of that.

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On the bright side, learning to ride a variety of horses forces you to improve your horsemanship. Professional ropers need to be able to adapt to lots and lots of different horses in their careers, from rodeo horses to jackpot and practice horses. Sometimes you fly in and have to go try to win a one-header on a horse you've never ridden before. There are times I've flown into Florida or New York, and had to jump on a horse I've never seen. When I do that, I ask a lot of questions, like how to score that horse. You might have to pull on your own horse, but this one might be really light and you could lift him off the ground in the front end if you pull too hard on him. Is this horse going to get quick and try to duck if I throw fast? Is he sluggish facing, and I need to be aggressive with my right foot to help him come around?

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Before you buy a new horse, it's important to ask the previous owner how you need to manage him. When I go look at a horse, I want to see somebody else ride him first. You can answer a lot of your questions by watching that person rope on him. Some of my first questions include, "Does the horse have any quirks? Is he cinchy? Does he pull back? Does he buck? Does he need a lot of scoring?" There's no sense you having to learn all that by trial and error after you buy one.

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Learning to ride a lot of different horses comes from doing it. The more horses you ride, the better you get at getting on a new one. I've ridden all my good horses differently from each other. One needs more warming up, or a harder or softer tie-down, or more scoring, or whatever. They're all different, and every time you can get on a different horse you become that much better. You'll develop a feel for the types of horses you like, and everyone's personal preferences are a little different. Being a versatile horseman is part of being a versatile and successful roper. 

Ready to look for the right horse for you? Go to Equine.com, the premier classifieds site of the Equine Network, to search for the perfect horse!