October 11, 2011
Working the log with your tie-down horse.
By AQHA Professional Horseman Leonard Berryhill in The American Quarter Horse Journal
A tie-down horse is different from a team-roping horse because he has to know how to work by himself and know what he’s doing.
I tend to spend a little bit more time on my tie-down horses than on the team-roping horses. The horses we’re keeping tuned up in between shows generally have a pretty good working knowledge of what to do.
A lot of the ground work has already been done getting the horses ready to be shown.
In keeping a horse tuned up, instead of speeding a lot of things up, a lot of times I like to slow things down and just make everything as correct as I possibly can. I work a lot on the log, getting my horse to work the log and keeping his attention on the task at hand. I also work a lot on the calf-roping dummy to keep everything straight and keep the horse focused on doing his job and tracking the cow.
Get “roped in” with these tips from Pat Hooks in AQHA Roping Basics FREE report.
Working the Log
If a horse needs a little spark or needs to slow down a little bit, we’ll work on that using the log.
About the largest log I’ll use is the size of a railroad tie, which weighs between 125 and 150 pounds. I also use a half-size railroad tie and something as small as a 4-by-4, which weighs between 30 and 40 pounds. They are much lighter but stay on the ground and give the horse a feel. I mostly use those when I don’t want to stress younger horses.
There are three stages to working the log:
I start my horse in a position where I am sitting and acting as though I’ve just pulled my slack (the log already attached to your rope to your saddle horn). Next, I start to back him up. I hold the rope until it gets tight and physically back the horse up with my cues. Then, when he and the log start backing up straight, that’s when I begin my step off and make him bring the log to me.
I sit on the log and make him stand, keeping the weight on the rope. I try not to let him drag the log but just stay back on the rope. I’ll sit on the log for a good number of seconds. I don’t want to stay so long that he gets bored, but at the same time, I want him to know he has to stay there until I stand up.
When I stand up and come back to him, I want his attention focused on me. I come back right next to my rope. If I need to pull the log to teach him to stay back, I’ll pull the log, and I’ll make him keep the log tight and keep backing up. Any time the rope gets loose, I want him to back up. Then I go back to him just like I would in any tie-down roping class.
“It doesn’t take magic, just knowledge and lots of practice,” AQHA Professional Horseman Pat Hooks says in the Roping Basics FREE report.
Twelve steps to working the log:
- I make my horse stand before getting him into position as if he has roped a calf. I want the horse to be straight to the log.
- I will then wave my rope and hold it up until it gets tight and the horse starts to back.
- I step off and make the horse bring the log to him. I try to never look at the horse.
- Once on top of the log, I want the horse to keep weight against the rope. I don’t want the horse to drag the log.
- If the horse wants to overwork, I just sit on the log until the horse stops working too much and stands quietly and square.
- Once the horse stands quiet and square, still keeping the rope tight, I make him stand for another 10 to 15 seconds.
- Then I’ll get up and go to the horse to reward him and not let him get sore.
- Every once in a while when I return to the horse, I’ll pull the log to the horse and make him stay back on the rope. Pull the log and loosen the rope and then make the horse back up to keep it tight.
- Once I get back to the horse, I’ll gather up the reins. I want the horse to stand quietly.
- Step back on, keeping the heat on the rope until I get both feet in the stirrups.
- Then I’ll pull the horse back a couple of steps to emphasize everything I have done.
- Finally, I’ll ask the horse to move forward as I gather my rope back up to repeat the process.