My Rope Horse Doesn’t Fit Me!

Overcoming A Performance Plateau

I’m sure that every roper has had at least one experience of riding a horse that just doesn’t “fit” them. It’s not that it’s a bad horse, and it really didn’t even do anything wrong, but for whatever reason that horse and you just don’t work. That is why it can be such a hard task to find our perfect horse when we are looking. What is the perfect horse for one person can be the perfectly wrong horse for you. That is why we hardly ever buy the first horse we go look at. But what happens if we do buy our perfect horse, only to find out that your styles just aren’t working together?

It can be extremely frustrating when you get home with your new horse only to find out that things aren’t so perfect. What you thought you liked about that horse you suddenly don’t like and you can’t even catch the top of a horn or the tip a toe on this thing. You feel like you’ve made a huge mistake in your purchase, but you don’t know what to do. Do you re-sell him or just keep trying to make it work?

Most high number ropers seem to be able to rope well on a three legged donkey, but for a new or lower number roper, finding a horse that you can successfully rope on can be a struggle. Unless you’ve been roping for a while and have had the opportunity to ride a lot of different horses, you may not know what your “style” of horse is. Taking a very experienced roper with you to find a new horse is a major key to getting the right horse for you, but that still doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing with a new horse.

It’s important to remember that if you are fairly new to roping it’s going to take a much longer time to get accustomed to a new horse than someone experienced. That’s simply because you have less experience roping on different horses and you may not know how to make adjustments yet. My first rope horse was as solid as they come, would run up to the hole and would let me swing over that steer’s back as many times as I wanted and would just stay rated right there. When it was time for me to get a step-up horse I got one with more run that would get me into position a whole lot faster. He wasn’t chargy by any means, but everything was just happening a lot quicker than I was used to. It took me every bit of six to nine months to get accustomed to riding him and to learn how to go back and forth from him to my other gelding. There were times that I wanted to sell him, but the people I roped with begged me not to, and boy I’m so glad that I didn’t. That horse was a rock star for me; it just took me time to get with his program.

So when do you say uncle on a horse that you can’t seem to get along with? It’s impossible to say, “If you aren’t clicking by *this* many months you need to sell it,” because there are so many factors in how long it takes a person to get with a new rope horse. How many days a week they can ride/rope, what level of roper they are, the amount of help they are getting with the horse, etc. A crucial time to say goodbye is if you end up being intimidated by your horse. Maybe he’s just really powerful, maybe he is a little cold backed, maybe he’s got your bluff in the box. Whatever it is, if you feel intimidated by that horse, they’ve got to go. This doesn’t mean that the horse is a lemon of a horse by any means, it just means that he is not what you need right now, and that’s okay. Riding a horse that you don’t feel comfortable on is just going to hurt your confidence on any other horse that you try to rope on.

Another reason to go ahead and move on from your horse is if you end up mad every time you rope or ride. We all rope because we enjoy it on some level, not just because it’s something to do. If your horse is taking all of the enjoyment out of roping, it’s time to find something different to ride. I had a mare that everyone in the world absolutely loved to ride… except me. Every time I stepped off that mare I was mad, she was mad, and I dreaded the next time I had to ride her. There wasn’t a thing wrong with her, but for whatever reason her and I couldn’t work together. She went on to be an awesome kids horse, and I went on to riding a horse I didn’t hate. All’s well that ends well.

If you are struggling to work well with a new horse the best thing you can do is get an outside opinion from a professional. It can be really hard for us to back up and ask for help, but sometimes we all need a different set of eyes and a different opinion. Someone looking in from the outside can sometimes be able to tell us what we need to be doing to make that horse work better for us, or, can be the honest opinion that the particular horse just isn’t going to work for us.

Just like anything in roping, your ability to pick out the best horse for you will get better with time. Until you reach the point that you know for sure what you need in a horse and why style fits you don’t be afraid to ask for help from others that have more experience. The most important thing to remember is that roping is supposed to be a fun and enjoyable experience, and if your horse is holding you back you may want to consider finding a better suited partner for yourself.

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