Kaylee Billingsley Shares Tips for Building Strength During Practice

Improving core strength and in-the-saddle balance are essential to each breakaway run, and Kaylee Billingsley has two drills for riders to use at home.

Kaylee Billingsley Shares Tips For Building Strength During Practice
Using two exercises that improve balance and core strength, Kaylee Billingsley increases control in her runs. Photo courtesy of Billingsley by Red Dirt Photography.

When it comes to practicing, Arizona roper and teacher Kaylee Billingsley prefers quality over quantity and makes the most of her dummy time by introducing elements that work on balance and strength as well as swing and delivery mechanics in order to create an efficient practice session.

“I don’t like to make my kids rope the dummy a hundred times,” Billingsley laughed. “I don’t like to make myself do that either.”

The main reason is actually quite practical—tired muscles make mistakes and repeated mistakes are bad for your roping.

“When your arm gets tired, or any part of your body, you start developing bad habits in your swing and throw.”

Billingsley has a couple of drills on which she focuses her students’ practice, all designed to get more bang for your buck time-wise.

Build the core with a bouncy ball

Video courtesy of Kaylee Billingsley

First first involves the use of a simple dollar store “bouncy ball.”

“I put it between my legs and squeeze it with my knees when I rope the dummy,” she said, adding the ball doesn’t have to be but maybe a foot or two in diameter. “I’ll also have the kids do this and stand on their tip toes.”

“Then I have them swing their rope and rope the dummy.”

Finding that many of her students were lacking in good balance, Billingsley adopted this drill to work balance and core strength while handling a rope. The muscles being worked with the ball mimic those needed to be able to stand in your saddle and deliver your loop on live cattle with speed.

Billingsley recommends maybe 20 reps on this drill with breaks in between if needed.

“You can definitely feel your legs burning,” she warned.

Read how clinician Jennifer Casey practices using balancing tools

Master in-saddle positioning

A second trick that Billingsley uses for dummy practice is using a sawhorse or barrel designed like a horse but without a saddle.

“I have the kids sit on it and work on keeping their chests up, squeezing with the knees with the toes slightly down and then rope the dummy,” she explained. With no saddle—and thus no stirrups—the roper has to engage the core muscles of the belly and back as well as the muscles in the hips and legs.

Again, the motion mimics skills needed in the competition, particularly those core muscles that keep the shoulders up and square to the target. For this particular practice, Billingsley generally only asks about ten or so reps for her students.

“We take a lot of breaks at my place,” she joked but noted that while working with students who are building muscle, it’s important to make sure that fatigue doesn’t lead to mistakes. Not only can those mistakes lead to bad habits, but they can be hard on egos and confidence.

Read about how clinician Jennifer Casey brings a new twist to breakaway sled drills

About Kaylee Billingsley

Born into a championship rodeo family several generations deep that includes her mother, 2006 WPRA World Champion Breakaway Roper Leigh Ann, Billingsley has been building her own resume with championships including a recent win at the legendary Oakdale Rodeo as well as numerous regional rodeo titles.

A talented all around hand, she also earned a reserve title in the team roping at the Women’s Rodeo World Championships in 2022. When not competing, Billingsley enjoys teaching, offering private lessons at her home in Cave Creek, Arizona along with occasional clinics.

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