KNOWING THE SCORE ON HORSES
I talked last issue about my list of deal breakers when it comes to horses. On a more positive note, I thought it’d be fun to talk about some of the things I actually look for in horses, whether they’re for my own personal use or to sell to someone else.
I’ve roped all my life, and yet would say I’ve only had a few really good horses that defined my career. Looking back, I’d put Bullwinkle, Big John, Barney and Peppy Doc in the category of great. I’ve had a lot of decent horses that were pretty good, but they weren’t superstars.
The point here is just how hard the great ones are to find. Don’t get too frustrated if you feel like you haven’t just had one superstar after another. None of us has. Of the hundreds of horses I’ve ridden and tried over the years, a lot of them end of having a hole in them of one kind or another, whether it’s their scoring, facing or soundness.
We’re all looking for that next superstar, and so many people trying to sell a horse claim to have the next big thing. Just know that more times than not, that’s not the case. Some of them are finished, and just aren’t quite as good as advertised. Other horses might be promising prospects, but when you push them to rise to that next level you need, they can’t take the pressure and crack.
Be aware that a lot of people are in on the perfect sales-pitch lingo that sounds enticing enough to get you to try one, and don’t be too disappointed if he doesn’t turn out to be the next Scooter or Butter Bean.
There’s nothing better than a great horse with no holes in him. They make it so easy. I get asked all the time to describe my idea of the perfect horse. For starters, he doesn’t hump up or buck, and he’s not afraid of banners, a crowd or loud noise.
My ideal horse is 15 to 15.1 hands tall and weighs about 1,200 pounds. I like a big-boned horse that’s going to hold up under the runs and the hauling. The cattle we rope aren’t as big as they used to be, when most head horses were bigger, too. That’s why.
Scoring is probably the No. 1 factor for me. I like a horse that sits there, and goes when I want to go. I’ve learned over the years that how a horse scores is the hardest thing to change. It’s a lot easier to improve how a horse rates and faces. A lot of horses with big motors don’t want to score or rate very well, and might want to pull too strong. A horse that’s calm in the box and has a lot of rate still needs to have the speed you need. I like an athletic horse with a calm demeanor; a shorter-type horse that’s quick-footed with a good burst of speed.
Everyone’s feel is a little different, and part of how a horse feels to you depends on how good a horseman you are. It’s also important that a horse’s personality fits yours. A lot of head horses are just so tightly twisted that you have to spend a lot of time trying to control their motor by keeping them ridden down. That’s one of the reasons I tend to like older horses. They stay more focused without having to have the wheels ridden off of them all the time.
No matter what level roper you are, look for a horse that knows his job. A horse that knows more than you do is a huge asset. There’s less pressure when you aren’t having to worry about whether or not your horse is going to score or rate.
We all have our personal preferences when it comes to horses. More than anything, I want a horse I can win on. I’ve always said I would ride a one-eyed Appaloosa mare with a short tail if I could win on her.
NO MATTER WHAT LEVEL ROPER YOU ARE, LOOK FOR A HORSE THAT KNOWS HIS JOB. A HORSE THAT KNOWS MORE THAN YOU DO IS A HUGE ASSETT.