Speed Williams: Roping a Mechanical Dummy Versus a Donkey


March 2015

Last month I talked about improving your roping and the benefits of using a mechanical dummy. In this article I will elaborate on the difference in using a mechanical dummy and other methods commonly used.


When I was growing up the only mechanical dummy available was a steer on an arm, that went round and round in a circle. My dad trained and sold rope horses and I grew up riding a lot of colts. Back then I roped a lot of donkeys and lead steers. My dad would buy up to 20 donkeys at a time for us to train and sell as practice donkeys.


If you have a good donkey, they can be pretty handy. However, finding a good one can be a real challenge. There are some downfalls, even with a good donkey.


After a donkey has been roped a while, he will learn to stop to keep from getting pulled on when you pull your slack. Consequently, instead of placing a trap and roping him while he’s moving forward, you end up roping him while his feet are in the air, causing you to snap your rope rather than place it. This snap causes your horse to stop hard on either his front end or on all fours. When you “place” your rope smoothly, your horse has time to use his butt for an easy stop.


Also, if your horse steps on a donkey, the donkey will kick. While it may teach your horse to pay attention, one hard kick to the knee can cripple your horse and be very costly.


I’ve ridden many colts while roping donkeys and there are some benefits. Ultimately the question is can you accomplish everything you need to? Your time and effort need to be well spent.


When I first moved to Texas and stayed with Popeye Boultinghouse, I didn’t have a mechanical dummy. I would go to the arena and ride my horse with no steer and no tie down. I would simulate a full contact run at a walk, trot, and lope. I would go through all the steps to assure I had control of my horse. Tee Woolman used to tease me about doing this without a cow. But, my theory is I want to control my horse’s feet with my bridle reins and my feet.


In teaching so many private schools, one of the first and biggest improvements we make is by teaching people to ride and control their horse better. Using a mechanical dummy here is crucial to our progress. By using the Hot Heels standing still, then at a walk and trot, I am able to isolate mistakes much faster. It’s easier to fix fundamentals while you’re going slowly and enables us to get to the root of the problem.


What’s new with me: Usually, each year I try not to heel any until after the George Strait roping. Fast Back called and asked my daughter, Hali, to rope and represent them in the Sponsor roping at Wildfire Arena. It probably would have been okay had I stayed on the heel horses. But, I got on a young ex-reiner that’s very catty and scared of cows. I think he will make a neat heel horse eventually, but for a while it looked like the monkey riding the Border Collie and my back locked up. So I roped at Ft. Worth and Wildfire while being extremely crippled. Finally, I had to take five days off, cancel a school and miss a rodeo, but I can now put my own socks on again.


I was extremely excited to win my first check with Hali during the Sponsor roping. We won the fast time with a 6.4. Jennifer roped well in the Business Man roping and had a chance to win a lot. Hali and Coleman came back high team in the sponsor roping. You can check these runs out and more at speedroping.com

March 6, 2015 |

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