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Teaching Your Horse To Handle A Rope

August 19, 2010
Rope prep
Preparation means rubbing my horse all over his body with the "lariat" rope
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Introducing your saddle horse to a lariat rope and getting him comfortable with its use could go a long way in training your horse to become a safe and solid equine citizen. Even if you don’t plan on roping off of your horse, being desensitized and comfortable with the rope around his body could keep you out of trouble. It can also be helpful when attempting to pony another horse or even if your lead rope or mecate falls down around your horse's legs while riding.

Here are some things that you can do to start the process of getting your horse broke to the lariat rope:
1. Be handy yourself – How well do you handle a rope? Are you comfortable with a rope in your hands? Are you able to build a loop? Can you coil up a rope, naturally and smoothly, without having kinks in the rope? I’m not insisting that you have to be a great roper. However, you should get handy and comfortable with the rope in your hands.
2. Start with ground work – You’ll want to begin by desensitizing your horse to the feel and sound of the rope on his body. Begin to use the rope on your horse's body just like you would a brush. It would be as if you are grooming your horse with the rope. Be smooth and use rhythm with your movements. Start at a part of his body where he is comfortable and work toward those areas where he might be more ticklish. If he is touchy about the rope around his legs, rub him on the shoulder with the rope and move down his leg and back up again – before he gets bothered. This method of approach and retreat in these areas helps a horse get braver and more confident. Take your time, these are things that you want to check out and make sure your horse can handle. You can also build a big loop and drape it over your horse's hindquarters and lunge him in a circle. You want to make sure that your horse is not worried and is comfortable with a rope dangling around his hind legs. This is where it becomes very important to be organized: You need to be able to handle your lead rope and lariat rope efficiently to keep your horse out of trouble. If he gets scared with this exercise, jerks away from you and runs off with a lariat rope around his legs, you’ll shatter what little confidence you had established with your horse. Be sure and do all of this ground work equally on both sides. You want your horse to be comfortable dealing with the rope out of his right eye as well as his left.
3. Handling the rope while mounted – For the novice rider, just managing the reins and controlling the horse is a full-time job. You need to be able to control your
horse and handle the lariat rope simultaneously. If your horse is apprehensive, you might find it beneficial to be in a smaller area, such as a round pen, during the initial stages. If your horse feels like he needs to move his feet, rather than pull back on the reins you should direct your horse in small circles while moving the rope
across his body smoothly and with rhythm. Allowing them to move their feet will help them feel less trapped and help them get comfortable.
4. Building a loop – When your horse is comfortable with a coiled rope, while mounted, you can build a small loop in your rope to show him that your rope can potentially grow. Hold the coils in your left hand, along with your reins, and build a small loop in your right hand. Passing the loop from the right to the left and back again is important. Begin to extend your arm out to the side and back again so that your horse can get comfortable with the varied movements of your body and the rope. Now, begin to swing the rope just a time or two. Not over your head, but off to the side and back behind your body. He’ll be less bothered if the loop is not swinging up by his eye. You can also lay the loop right over his rump and allow
him to walk in a few circles. Again, it’s important to stay organized. You need to
make sure that you can remove the rope at any point and you also want to be sure
that you don’t get the rope up under his tail. Throw a few feet of your rope on the
ground while holding the remainder in your hand. Begin to walk a circle around the rope, allowing your horse to look at it with his inside eye and get comfortable with
its movement. Now, you want to be able to coil your rope back up while mounted and build another small loop. Swing the rope once or twice and toss it out on the
ground again. You need to do these things repetitiously until your horse becomes acclimated and comfortable with all kinds of movement with the rope.

Getting your horse comfortable with a rope is similar to everything else we would want to desensitize him to. Be consistent, stay organized, be smooth and use rhythm in your movements. Taking the time to work on these skills will add value to you and your horse's experience... For footage to compliment this article: Google “YouTube – Richard Winters Horsemanship Channel”