Picking up the Pace

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How do I get to where I can rope faster? It's a common question at roping schools. Ropers start to advance, and get to a certain spot where they're no longer content with just catching. Team roping's a timed event, so if you want to win you have to shorten your time down. Even in the lower-numbered ropings, there are times you need to be under 10 pretty consistently to win. Sooner or later, you need to learn to get under that mark in order to be successful.

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You need to be balanced coming out of the box, so you can ride your horse and swing your rope at the same time. Most people have to hold onto their saddle horn to ride through that initial burst out of the box. Then, once their horse levels out and they start getting to the steer, that's when they pick their rope up and start to swing.

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The draw dictates so much at every level. Most low-numbered ropers prefer a medium- to hard-running steer. More advanced ropers can capitalize on slow steers and get it on them quick, because they're ready to rope when they get there. Some novice ropers can find it a disadvantage to draw a slow steer, because they get there so quick and panic. Either that or they overrun the steer and are too close, or even run by and make the steer stop.

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If you want to start roping faster in the arena, I suggest you rope the dummy. Take half a swing or one swing and throw it. Take a limited number of swings and still throw the perfect loop. Get out of your old comfort zone and into that comfort zone of throwing fast.

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The key to roping faster is being ready faster. That takes some preparation. You need to be able to rope faster on the dummy first. The whole key is taking the steps. Start out on the dummy, then, at the arena, work on getting that balance coming out of the box. You've got to see your start, and as soon as your horse takes that first step you've got to get some swings going.

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If you're ready, when your shot presents itself you'll be ready to take it. A lot of little things can factor into being balanced and ready. Look at the saddle you're riding. Is the seat too big, which is keeping you from being balanced? Are your stirrups too long or too short? The length of your reins also affects your balance. You can't possibly be ready to rope quick if you get thrown back when your horse leaves the corner.

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This is all pretty simple, but it can be tough to do. The bottom line is if you're off balance you won't be successful. You can't throw your rope with any power or speed if your body posture's not there. You won't be successful with your rope without balance. Ride your horse a lot, and get comfortable on him. Rope the dummy, and practice taking a different amount of swings before you throw. This is all hard work. But if you put out the effort, you'll see a big difference.