Start Your Run Right

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Dear Clay,

I've got two horses, and I'm having trouble with my young horse leaving the box. First of all, my horse gets nervous, won't stand and sometimes will even rear up. He never leaves the box flat. I know this is a major problem, but I'm out of ideas and am having trouble making any progress. I do try to score a lot of steers on him.

Every once in a while, I do get out OK on him and he runs pretty good, so he's got potential but I know I must be doing something to cause him to get antsy.

On my other older horse, he's pretty automatic out of the box. He doesn't have as much run, though. Can you also give me some pointers about how to get the very most out of my horse so I can catch up to these steers as quickly as possible? Are there any tips for reaching?

Thanks for everything,
Ray, Sheridan, Wyo.

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To improve your heading and to become faster, you have to learn how to ride your horse from the corner of the box. If you want to catch up with the steer faster a lot of it has to do with leaving the box flat and make sure your horse is leaving at full speed from the corner of the box.

Notice how I'm up over my horse a little bit and not pulling on the reins at all-letting him run as fast as he can. I've got good balance with my legs and they're a little bit behind my shoulders, so I'm leaned forward and not getting pushed back into the saddle-which would cause me to pull the reins and slow my horse down. I'm helping him to run and catch the steer, which will make us faster.

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In all these pictures, I'm trying to be real aggressive on these steers. Notice how I'm fixing to be in my delivery and I'm still up over my horse and not pulling much on the reins. My leg might be a little too far back in the saddle, but a lot of professional headers do that. To get a little more power on your rope, you've got to use your legs a little bit. I'm trying to stay with my horse and push him to the steer even though I'm trying to throw fast. I'm still up over my horse. You can see the determination on my face. You've got to want to get there. As headers, the faster we can get there the more we're able to win.

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In this picture, I'm still up over my horse. Notice I'm throwing, but I'm still not pulling on my horse. I still want to gain to that steer. Now I'm up over my horse wanting to get my loop to the steer. You don't want to be sitting down trying to ride your horse in your delivery. If you're up over your horse, you can push your loop toward the horns. In order for that power to come, you have to be ahead in your saddle. I stand pretty straight up and I'm not running very close. I was reaching a little bit.

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In my delivery, I've got both hands pushed toward the steer. Notice I still haven't pulled on my horse to slow him down. I've got my legs in my horse, squeezing him to still move forward through my delivery. Doing all that helps me keep the power in my loop, helping me catch the steer.

In all these photos, I was being really aggressive. When you do that, you've got to do things sooner in the saddle and get ready faster. You notice in that second picture, I've already got a swing off and you can still see the corner of the chute. So I've already swung in the box one time and I'm being real aggressive. Your horse has got to be running full speed to be that aggressive. It's hard to be aggressive if your horse isn't running-even if you're trying to be fast, you need your horse running to help with your delivery and follow-through. If your horse isn't running it's hard to reach on steers.

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