What I really focus on with young horses is roping for the horse and not for me, because I do reach a lot. I’ve been really making myself run up in the middle of the calf, be smart and be real sharp and crisp with my neck catch. The biggest deal is this: I want my horse’s front feet moving through my delivery.
To address reaching, the first step I take is going back to the box. A lot of my box work is scoring a calf and dropping my hand slow. I want my horse to just walk out. Then, I’ll drop my hand a little faster. I want them to blow out, but not actually run, and stay in the bit. Then, I want to actually drop my hand, break and run—keeping my horse in the bridle and driving forward at the same time.
I’ll usually try to see a calf out and get on top of him and stay right there and take at least one swing over his back and rope him real sharp. Then, I’ll show my horse my slack and ask him to stop. In the next run, I might make a run for myself and really reach and rope out in front of me. In the third run, I’ll do the same thing and really reach and rope the calf, but never sit down. I’ll pull my slack and ask my horse to keep moving through it down the pen, then I’ll sit down and pitch my slack and ask him to stop.
Always stay forward to the front of your saddle and keep riding with your feet and your body until you have the calf roped. When you’re throwing all the rope you have, you need them to keep moving so your horse doesn’t take that away from you.
If you only have a good horse to do it on, you just have to make sure that you make it count when you do practice reaching. You have to still ride that horse down the pen and make sure he’s still paying attention to your slack and when you sit down, so he doesn’t just run through your throw. There’s a balance. You have to find the balance.
BONUS TIP: “The best thing you can have is a head horse that doesn’t even know he’s supposed to stop. I breakawayed on all of our head horses to get them to rate. I would go two swings every time. I figured it out because I never had to worry about them shorting me or messing them up.”