This Month’s Expert—Peter Campbell

Ask Our Expert - Peter Campbell

Peter Campbell was raised in Alberta, Canada, where he developed roping and horsemanship skills while cowboying on ranches, packing in the high country, starting colts, training problem horses and driving teams. Using methods derived from practical experience as well as those learned from his mentors, Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt, Campbell has conducted clinics that focus on horsemanship, colt starting, ranch roping and cattle handling.

Campbell participated in the Canadian National Finals Rodeo, a Legacy of Legends, and the Spruce Meadows Masters, an international show jumping event. He also has been selected to compete as a professional roper the past two years at the Buck Brannaman Pro-Am Vaquero Roping. He and his wife, Trina, live in Wyoming. For more information, visit

Q: I have a coming 3-year-old mare that errs toward the lazy side. While she has a nice walk, trot and fast canter, her slow canter is awful, heavy on the forehand and sluggish (as if she’s just barely trying to maintain a canter), instead of steady and smooth. How can I teach her to keep momentum at this slower gait?

A: When I don’t have the horse and rider in front of me, the best I can do is give a suggestion. I do not have any cookie-cutter methods that are a step-by-step process. Each time I work with a horse, I use a method adapted to it. I work from where the horse is at and try to help the horse help the rider, and the rider help the horse, so they can build a willing partnership.

That being said, in your case I would work on a soft feel at the canter and asking the front end to slow down so the hindquarters can catch up. The problem is your mares hind end is not engaged. Slowing the front down while encouraging the back feet to “catch up” will increase momentum. Find a rhythm in the gait to get all four “corners,” or feet, working together.

On the other hand, if your horse becomes very speedy and rushed in the canter, you might work on some smaller circles, making sure you maintain that soft feel. Circles help the horse to drive up underneath herself while regulating speed. It keeps the body balanced while loping, keeping the horse straight up and not leaning.

Q: What is the most common roping mistake/problem you see? What tweak can riders do to fix it?

A: A lot of times a person new to roping makes too small a loop and not enough spoke, the section of rope between your hand and the hondo. The length of the spoke, whether it’s too long or too short, can throw the loop out of balance.

Be sure the spoke of your loop is one-third the size of your loop. To ensure your loop is the right size, a good gauge is to hold your arm straight out in front of your body. The loop should hover a couple of inches above the ground.

Also remember to use your whole arm when you swing, not just your wrist, to keep the loop open. If you just use your wrist, you will keep twisting your loop.

Watch Peter Campbell’s roping tutorial HERE.

View more horsemanship articles HERE.

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If you’d like to submit a question, please send an email to [email protected]. Please include your full name, city and state in your inquiry. Depending on the volume of questions received, some questions may not be answered. Western Horseman retains the right to edit submissions for clarity.


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