Spin to Win Rodeo - - Departments - By Jake Barnes with Ken­dra San­tos

I buy, ride, and sell a lot of rope horses, so nat­u­rally peo­ple ask me all the time what I look for and my opin­ion on a rope horse’s most im­por­tant traits. We’re all try­ing to find that next phe­nom­e­nal horse ev­ery­body talks about—that Scooter, Bar­ney or But­ter­bean.

There are things I look for in horses at every level, whether I’m look­ing for my­self or for a horse that suits a lower-num­bered roper. There are also cer­tain traits I con­sider deal break­ers—things some horses do that I will not put up with.

I will say up front that for my per­sonal horses, there are a few quirks I am will­ing to put up with if they’re great per­form­ers. But for re­sale and gen­eral pur­poses, I do have a “no way” list.

I will not tol­er­ate a horse that bucks. I don’t want to be like Mike Beers that time he got bucked off and broke his pelvis. I’m not Billy Et­bauer, and nei­ther are any of the peo­ple I buy horses for. A horse that’ll hurt you by buck­ing you off is a no-go every time.

Rear­ing is just as bad as buck­ing in my book, and I’ll have no part of it. Most horses will rear in the box if they’re go­ing to do it, and that’ll hurt you, too. No one wants to get hurt, so I don’t want to risk my health or any­one else’s on a horse that rears.

I can’t stand a horse that cribs. I find it re­ally an­noy­ing, and a lot of horses that crib have a hard time main­tain­ing their weight. So if I find out that a horse is a crib­ber, it’s usu­ally a “no thank you.”

I hate a horse that won’t haul. When a horse is bad in the trailer, and fights and kicks back there, it keeps you on pins and nee­dles all the time wor­ry­ing about them get­ting hurt, hurt­ing other horses back there and wreck­ing your trailer. There are times you need to find a ride for your horse, but if he fights the trailer it’s not re­ally fair to ask some­one else to risk their horses and equip­ment to do you a fa­vor. I might put up with some mon­key busi­ness in how a horse hauls if he’s just re­ally out­stand­ing. But most horses that fight the trailer aren’t worth it.

There’s a real range in horses’ per­son­al­i­ties, just like peo­ple. I like hav­ing a horse that I en­joy throw­ing a flake of hay to every morn­ing, and that I don’t mind brush­ing. If you’re al­ways hav­ing to ease around one and stay on alert all the time just to keep him from hurt­ing you or him­self, it’s no fun. I don’t like a horse that’s like handling a rat­tlesnake. I don’t want to be afraid of or hate my horse.

Be­ware of a horse that kicks, be­cause that’s a ter­ri­ble trait, too. If a horse spooks or star­tles, and it’s his in­stinc­tive re­ac­tion to kick you, that’s no good. Cinchy horses are not pre­ferred, but there are cases where a cinchy horse is worth tol­er­at­ing be­cause he’s good enough.

Horses that set back—aka pull back— are also not pre­ferred. Peo­ple cut their fin­gers off when horses pull back all the time, even ex­pe­ri­enced horse­men. Some horses seem like they’re al­most lay­ing for you. They are to be avoided, as are horses that want to be in the wrong lead run­ning to steers, horses that don’t rate, and horses that don’t like to go over to the right.

Spin­ning in the box is an­other bad habit some horses ac­quire, and, though you can work through this and help a horse, a lot of horses al­ways seem to go back and re­peat those bad habits and weak­nesses. It’s such a dis­trac­tion, and a horse with a hole in him like that tends to take away from your rop­ing.

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