Loosen Up (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

Currently, I’m traveling with my two nephews, Tuff and Stetson, and the other day we started talking about relaxing and how important it is to your performance.  In golf, they say the perfect grip is supposed to be like putting a bird in your hand and holding him tight enough that he can’t get away, but not so tight that you kill him.

I was roping the dummy before the National Finals, with that thought in mind, and started concentrating on using a light grip on my rope. Mentally, you can try to relax and even convince yourself that you are – but, you can never fake your horse out. If you can learn to be relaxed and loose with your rope and then fine-tune it with your fingers, that has a way of transferring it through your body to your legs, which is exactly what your horse reads. Being nervous and tight, even subconsciously, causes your horse to be nervous, anticipate and makes it hard for him to stand still.

Being in control and focused is the key to performing at your peak. When you get nervous your heart beats faster, you don’t breathe as well and you won’t perform as well. I don’t know anyone who gets nervous when they practice. Controlling your nerves is essential to peak performance. Most people don’t realize that it starts with your rope and your grip is your connection to your rope. Which, in turn, makes your contact with your rope, or your hand, the most important part of your roping.

I look back on my best NFR, to the 5th round, when the barrier caught my rope. Because I had a fairly loose grip on it, the barrier only succeeded in pulling the spoke from my hand – enabling me to grab it back and in one swing be back in position to rope. If I’d had a tight grip on my rope, it’s likely that I would have lost my rope entirely and possibly pulled my shoulder out of socket.

When you grip down on the rope in your hand, you’re squeezing the rope rather than loosening up. Try to relax your hand and feel the rope with your fingertips. Instead of choking your rope, you should lightly manipulate it. How tight you hold your rope is how tight your horse perceives you to be and he will react accordingly.

Till next time, God Bless and I’ll see you down the line.