A lot of people who come to our roping schools want to learn to rope faster. Team roping is a timed event, and as roping progresses you have to get to where you can rope faster in order to keep up with the times. So, how do you get there? You have to go at it from every angle, from your mental preparation to your body posture and setting up your run quicker. To rope faster, you have to get ready faster. You have to ride better and get position quicker. Your distance is usually going to be a little further back, and that range starts on the dummy. You have to be able to rope it from up close, far away, over to each side and everywhere else.
The key to roping faster is learning to ride the barrier better so you can get to the steer quicker. It doesn't mean running through the barrier or getting out late. It means scoring better, getting your rope up early, having the strength and power on your loop so you have the strength to throw and getting that quick shot. It doesn't mean just bombing out and getting rid of your rope faster, it means being able to make that shot.
The days of holding on to your saddle horn and easing out of there are just about over. If you want to step up your game and rope faster, you're going to have to get up and ready to rope fast. That takes balance. You have to learn to balance yourself in that saddle, and get your rope started without holding on to the horn.
By getting ready faster, when you draw a good, slower steer you'll stay aggressive. You won't overrun the steer or cover him up; you'll keep him out there in front of you. Not many horses slow up and rate off fast enough on their own, so a lot of them need a little help. A lot of times you need to rate your horse off with your left hand to keep that steer out in front of you. You don't want to blast up in the middle of one and have to pull him off another three or four jumps to get him backed off.
When you start roping faster, your handles will get faster and your horse will want to get out of there faster. It's really important to keep your horse under control, to where he isn't wanting to duck off when you throw fast. Your horse anticipating when you rope fast is something you'll always have to deal with and work on in the practice pen.
People tend to get in the same groove in the practice pen and chase steers three quarters of the way down the arena every time, so that's their comfort zone when they get to the roping. You have to learn to sometimes get out of your comfort zone.
Roping has evolved to a whole new level. Plain old consistency doesn't cut it anymore in every circumstance. You have to take it up a notch and up your game. It's like a basketball player winning games with layups all his life, and this time the game-winning buzzer beater is a three-point shot. You don't want to practice being fast on your good horses. You need to keep them freed up. But you might need to enlist a practice horse, so you can work on your three-pointer.