NRCHA director of judges Bill Enk offers his advice on scoring high in steer stopping.
As the National Reined Cow Horse Association’s director of judges, Bill Enk has intimate knowledge of judging rules for the event. Enk judged the first American Quarter Horse Association Versatility Ranch Horse World Championship Show and has judged three additional VRH world shows since.
Judges are tasked with scoring horse-and-rider pairs based on a point scale. Every maneuver starts at “0,” and the judge credits or penalizes the pair depending on how they perform each maneuver. Each maneuver can receive anywhere from a plus 1½ to minus 1½.
Enk offers this advice on scoring high in steer stopping, which also is part of the NRCHA’s World’s Greatest Horseman competition.
TRACK: “I like to see the rider keep close to the steer after completing a fence run,” Enk says. “Keep tracking the steer while you build your loop so when you move in to rope the steer, you are not moving twice as fast as it is [from trying to catch up]. Instead, you’ve kept a consistent pace and the horse stays hooked up to the cow. The tracking, to me, goes along with keeping your horse hooked up. You had control going down the fence, so when you start building your loop and stay in contact with that steer, you position yourself to rate and then rope better.”
RATE: “The horse should put the rider in the best position to rope the steer,” he says. “As you approach the steer, show me that the horse can rate on its own. That is a huge plus. You started to get my attention tracking the steer; now if your horse rates a couple of strides before you throw your rope, you are impressing me. If you run your horse up there, pick up and the horse listens to you and rates, that is great. If the horse rates on its own, that is really a big maneuver for me.”
STOP: “I want everything to be straight. The horse should stop like a parked truck; it should use its hocks for the stop, to stay balanced and also to help from being jerked out of the ground when the rope comes tight,” Enk says. “The less the rider has to pull on a horse, the better. If the rider has to pull on the horse to stop and the horse responds, that is fine. But, I don’t like to see the rider pull the horse and [then] the horse throws its head and resists. There is no real reason to stop and pull the steer back unless you are taking slack out of the rope.”
Enk advises riders to not rush getting into position to rope, because it is not necessary to catch to receive a score in the roping portion, according to AQHA rules. The 2016 rulebook states: “In the roping portion of the class, two throws are permitted and the horse will be judged on three maneuvers: tracking, rating and stopping the cow. If the exhibitor does not catch, the horse will be given credit for rating and tracking the steer and will be assessed a 5-point penalty.”
Enk says judges “look for the willingness of the horse to do its job at that time, which is to track the steer, rate and stop square.
“The easier and smoother it looks, the better. To get on the plus side of the judge’s card, training has to show through. A horse has to know its job to get on the credit side of the maneuver.”
In the September 2016 issue, Florida cow horse trainer Jay Holmes offered four keys to adding steer stopping to a horse’s routine to prepare it for versatility ranch horse competition.