Roping Tips: Using Your Seat and Legs
Not just a trainer of champion rope horses, David Avery also has a unique way of training his students. Control and use of a roper’s legs and seat are key to team roping success, David says.
The AQHA Professional Horseman and judge from Amarillo, Texas, encourages ropers to become subconsciously aware of their body positions and how they use their legs to communicate to their horses. With a deep level of body position knowledge, ropers are able to act and react to their horses more appropriately for a winning run, regardless of the event.
“It’s like loading your computer,” David says. “It takes a while, but once you have everything in your memory bank, then you’re closer to your subconscious and conscious mind. All you have to do is react to the actions and not have to think about them.”
There are three segments to a roper’s seat:
The “on” position – The pelvic area is against the seat of the saddle.
In front – The pubic bone is against the seat of the saddle.
Behind – The gluteus is against the seat of the saddle.
Practice all three positions to establish the range of motion possible from your seat to the horse’s back.
“When you’re behind, that retards forward impulsion on your horse because you’re sitting heavy on the horse’s back,” David explains. “When you’re in front, you can rise out of the seat or saddle That’s your ideal position when you approach a calf if you’re roping. Always be in front of the motion, never behind.”
There are seven segments to your legs:
Upper-third thigh – Where the gluteus ties into the groin area around the leg – where your hip and femur attach. You can squeeze and release these areas.
Middle-third thigh – The large, fleshy portion of the thigh. Squeeze and release together or independently to direct your horse and retard or encourage impulsion.
Lower-third thigh – Where the knee connects to the lower part of the leg. Squeeze and release to feel yourself rise out of the saddle. Many people will first grip with the lower thigh to stay on and wonder why their horse is going fast. Once they have an understanding of this segment, they realize how to control their horse’s impulsion.
Upper-third calf – Just below the knee. Creates lateral and diagonal control. The amount of pressure you use in the lower part of your leg determines the reaction to an action.
Middle-third calf – The large, fleshy portion of the lower leg. Lateral and diagonal direction as well as forward impulsion come from this area. Squeeze and release together or independently.
Lower-third calf – Where the ankle attaches to the foot. It acts as a pendulum, depending on how far you take your foot away and how much you bring it back. Your horse will tell you how much pressure you need to apply to get a desired reaction. Some horses take less pressure, and some take more.
Spur – An extension of your heel. Keep in mind that spurs are tools that are only as good as the person using them. Use spurs correctly or leave them off.
“A lot of times, it’s difficult to isolate these areas in the beginning,” David says. “It can take a long time – two or three lessons – to teach all the information. But it makes you more aware that you use these different segments of your body, although you might not be conscious of it. The checklist gets your subconscious working so you can trust your mind’s eye. I can prepare anybody to ride and be more aware no matter how skilled or what the discipline.”
Applying the Terminology
David thinks back to a roper who understood the parts of his leg and seat. With that knowledge, David was able to help the roper control a speedy horse.
“If a horse is too fast, I’d say, ‘Middle-third calf, right leg and behind.’ ”
These cues, ingrained into the roper through repetition and exercise, instruct to release pressure from parts of the right leg and sit back on the gluteus to slow the horse.
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