KNOW­ING THE SCORE ON HORSES

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

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.

SCOR­ING IS THE FIRST THING JAKE BARNES LOOKS FOR IN A HORSE, BE­CAUSE HE’S LEARNED OVER TIME THAT IT’S A LOT TOUGHER TO FIX HOLES IN A HORSE’S SCOR­ING THAN, SAY, HOW HE RATES OR FACES.

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