Photos by Lone Wolf Photography
The most common question I get from ropers is: How can I rope faster? As your number goes up, your catch percentage goes up. And, as you get better, you need to not only be able to catch two feet on the fourth jump, but two feet on the first jump as well. No matter how elite of a roper you become, you always still find yourself in situations where all you have to do is catch. You need to catch in various situations. There’s a misconception people have that catching faster means getting closer to the cattle and the corner and then throwing. If you watch the best guys rope fast, you’ll see you can’t be too close. What they do, in order to rope on that first jump is not change their position any differently than if they were taking three extra swings. You set the steer up much the same no matter how soon you want to throw and it’s not a low-percentage shot.
We were making an aggressive run here. The position I’m in—because of the angle of the shot looks like I’m farther down the arena than I really am—but I’m looking back at the feet to set my position up to make my entry into the corner very smooth and very open. I never block what I want to see. I’m always moving forward, and I’m never getting close enough to rope the steer going away.
The header’s got ahold of the steer and I’m pretty even. You can see my swing is right over the steer’s back and I’ve got a good position where, when he switches, I’ll keep pushing my horse forward as the corner develops and she’ll give me a real easy delivery. I want to push my horse through the corner to my delivery and then that gives her time to stop and get in the ground, giving me nice separation as I deliver my rope. The point is to not be too far back and not be too close.
This is the spot where the steer is turned and I’m already squared up. I want to be in this spot whether it’s the fourth jump or the first jump. But this is the first legal jump and you can see that I’ve maintained my distance from the steer and that allows me to put my loop on the ground nicely and deliver with good separation. I’m not too close: you can’t ride the cattle and rope them at the same time. If I’m going to rope them, I need to be where I can see them. If I can see them, I can catch them.
When it comes to crunch time and you just have to catch one to win, that’s the most important thing you can do. During the regular season, as pros we might make half our income at the jackpots, so it’s important to catch. In this photo, I’m a little bit wider and maybe a little further back than when I’m planning to make a faster shot in the earlier photos. My horse can see the steer, I can see the steer and I can see the spot I want to ride to. I’ll run toward the steer’s feet, but again, I won’t cover him up so I can’t see his feet. I can read not only the steer, but the situation, a little longer. What I’m doing differently is setting the steer up to rope him on the third or fourth jump. If I get there, and it’s available on the first jump, I’ll take it. But I want to maintain a distance and when he takes his first jump, I’ll take my first swing over him. Then I want to make my delivery on the second or third jump. That’s different from the more aggressive run where as—he’s starting to turn—I’m taking my first swing over him. The two aren’t that different as far as position goes, the difference comes in when I push my horse up: either just before the corner or as the corner is happening.
This is no different than the aggressive run pictures. It’s the same delivery and same swing. This one is just further down the arena. I’ve pushed around there and I’m throwing from the same position. I can see the feet well and I’m able to deliver because the target is in front of me. When heelers are in the right position, their catch percentage goes up. Heelers know where they want to be, the hard part is getting there. As the roping goes on and as your run goes on, don’t always commit to a certain plan as you ride in the box. If you can keep your position consistent, you can adjust to give yourself a little more room or push in there earlier, depending on how the run develops.