Using a sled for breakaway practice can be a critical component for ropers of all levels, and physical therapist and champion roper Jennifer Casey offers a literal twist on breakaway roping sled practice to enhance its benefits.
A clinician of more than two decades, Casey teaches her students to use a figure-eight, oval or three-sixty degree pattern when roping the sled.
“This is a good way to practice when you want to work on your position,” Casey said. As a physical therapist, Casey teaches ropers to improve their body position in order to deliver a proper loop. “This drill works on your horse’s position as well.”
New sled patterns
Casey recommends sled drivers begin in larger circles, progressing to smaller ones as skill level improves, since smaller circles make the exercise more difficult. For Casey, a circle about twenty feet across is the ideal size.
“You’ll track the sled the whole time, working to hold your body position,” Casey said. “What happens is that everything collapses to the inside of the circles, so you need to work on engaging the muscles to prevent that from happening.”
Casey notes that it’s important to keep loop speed consistent as ropers track through the patterns—taking care to not cheat those corners.
When releasing a loop, Casey recommends waiting until both the horse and rider are in position and tracking straight behind the sled.
“It’s all about getting that timing and making you’re stable in position to the front of your saddle, controlling the tip of your swing and speed of your loop,” Casey said.
Why change up breakaway sled practice?
The benefits are two-fold as using this modification also helps keep horse’s position strong.
“You’ll have to work to keep your horse’s position as well as your own body position,” Casey said. “You have to make sure he’s not stepping inside or outside of the sled in the corners.”
This practice should be done in both directions.
Tracking through the different direction changes of this practice is a great simulation for live cattle and Casey also uses it to prep for competition in large arenas where cattle are less likely to run a straight, true pattern.
About Jennifer Casey
Jennifer Casey has earned breakaway roping titles at every level including two NIRA Regional titles during her undergraduate work at Washington State, 18 regional rodeo year end titles and a pair of WPRA Columbia River Circuit championships.
Inspired by her lingering health issues following a barrier accident to become a physical therapist, Casey earned a doctorate as well as a post graduate certification in sensory integration, degrees she has used in an education setting and as a breakaway clinician for more than twenty years.
For more information on Casey’s coaching and physical therapy offerings, visit her website at jenniferlcasey.com.