Fix It - Ducking Left and Taking Away Your Throw
Most horses move left as we are placing our slack and stepping off because they’re trying to create a comfortable distance between themselves and the action of the dismount. It’s crucial that I as the roper am being correct. Otherwise by having a straight leg and sticking my toe into them as I dismount, I could be telling them to go left. Another way I could cause problems is by jerking on the reins as I'm getting off. This creates anxiety as they anticipate the jerk, so they duck to get away from it. Before you go to training on your horse, make sure that you're being correct.
There are a couple of ways to correct the problem of ducking left. First, I try running the rope down the left side of the neck. I run it from the saddle horn, through the neck rope and across the front of their nose. When I rope the Tuf Kaf with the rope down the left side of the neck, I always throw my slack up and step off nice and easy. I don’t ever pull them to the right. I simply let the rope come tight on it’s own and that will naturally square them up.
I only do this until I feel my horse try to be square on it’s own. When they do it correctly, I stop for the day. I un-saddle them and put them away because I want to reward them for doing it correctly.
I see a few common mistakes when people try to stop their horses from ducking left. I see them running into the calf and picking up their left hand and pulling them to the right, trying to hold the horse straight. That only creates more anticipation and anxiety for them, and they feel trapped. As a result, most horses duck left harder. The goal is to ride the horse correctly with smooth, slow, and honest hands throughout the entire run. I'm working to gain trust and consistency with my horse in every single run.
My second strategy for a horse that ducks left is to get out the breakaway rope. I run in aggressively, rope the neck, and snap my slack, but then I kick my horse out of the stop and off to the right. I slow them down to a lope, then a trot, then a walk. As I'm slowing my horse down, I keep the rope up so I don’t get in a wreck. I keep the Tuf Kaf going and let the rope breakaway on it’s own.
After a week or so of this, I start snapping my slack, loping along and picking them up off to the right. Then I pitch my slack up and say “whoa.” I lightly ask them to drop their butt without pulling on their face. I never jerk or pull on their face because I'm trying to keep this quiet and consistent for my horse. I want them to think and get comfortable while being square in the stop. I've found that doing this process repetitively takes away the anxiety and anticipation that causes them to duck left.
Taking Away Your Throw
A horse can become short due to inconsistent swing speed. This happens when a roper is swinging at a certain speed as they're going to the calf. Then, at the last second, they speed up their swing in anticipation of the delivery. This tells your horse that the throw is coming and cues them to stop before you deliver and pull your slack.
This is an easy fix because the answer is practice. Rope the Tuf Kaf off your horse and on foot. As you practice, focus on the speed of your swing and paying attention to the noise it makes. It should sound the same on every swing.
The other common reason for a horse to short you is that you may be jerking on the reins when you get off. This bites you in the rear all the way back to your delivery because at that point, they're already anticipating your throw. I believe a lot of horses naturally anticipate the stop because there is so much action and intensity involved in it.
For breakaway and tie-down ropers alike, here's a great drill that creates good timing with you and your horse in the stop. Get out the breakaway rope, run in like normal to the Kaf, deliver and let the figure eight come up and over the calf’s back. Don’t pull your slack. Instead, continue to ride your horse through the stop and in behind the calf as if you were chasing and swinging, for about three to seven strides. Once your horse feels leveled out and smooth behind the Kaf, pull your slack and very lightly ask your horse to drop their butt and slide. If your horse is shorting you, it’s obvious that your horse likes to stop, so never pull or jerk them to a stop. Instead, have light, consistent and smooth hands.
I hope these strategies help you smooth out some bumps between you and your horse. If you have questions about this blog, please message me at www.facebook.com/dane.kissack. I'm happy to help.