Training a Roping Horse for Side Saddle

I happened to be training a gelding for a lady who was planning to ride it sidesaddle. Moreover, she had a tendency to ride sidesaddle in parades. I let her know that I’d been roping calves with her horse. Her question was,

“What on earth has roping to do with riding sidesaddle? “

In answer to that question, I have discovered several benefits to teaching a horse to work with a rope. First off, in order to use a rope, the horse has to be ridden with one hand on the reins, in other words,neck reined. That means additional training for the horse,  beyond riding with two hands. It means a more finished horse. The finished horse works more from seat bone signals than from the reins, and a side saddle horse needs to have that seat bone control, since there is no leg to control the right side of the horse

Then, a rope horse has to be more “de-spooked” or ”bomb proofed” so that it doesn’t get upset by being rubbed, and tapped by the rope. In addition, it needs not to react to whatever is on the other end of the rope.  Such a horse will be more accepting of the garments worn when riding aside, with fabric which occasionally flutters in the breeze, and of the noise and movement along a parade route.

A word of caution, however, is that the trainer who is using the rope also needs to be taught the art and science of roping, for there are indeed dangers involved when ropes, legs, fingers,horses and saddles all come together. If that weren’t true, where would cowboys get all those wonderful wreck stories they tell?

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