Slick Robison demonstrates savvy ways to introduce a horse to a roping machine.

When his horses are learning to track a roping machine, Slick Robison wants them to be relaxed and attentive to the rider.

“I want him to be consistent and smooth,” says the Weatherford, Texas, rope horse trainer.

Once the horse becomes accustomed to a rope swinging above its head, Robison introduces it to the roping machine. He doesn’t rush the process and immediately begins taking shots at the horns or heels. Instead, he asks the horse to calmly track the dummy. Robison swings his loop at times, and other times just carries it. His goal is to teach the horse that regardless of what the rope is doing; its job is to consistently follow the steer.

Slick Robinson tracks a roping machine
Slick Robinson uses a roping machine to train his horses to track a steer and get into position for a head or heel shot.
Photo by Ross Hecox

“I don’t have to catch the dummy on the second or third hop,” he says. “I can track it three times around the arena and never touch my rope or horse if he stays good.”

Robison also asks his assistant to drive in a winding pattern so the horse learns to stay in position, whether the steer turns left or right. If it changes speed, the horse should adjust accordingly. Overall, he wants the horse to be comfortable and responsive. When he finally throws a loop, the horse should be attentive enough to feel Robison’s cue to stop.

“I want him to stay hooked to the ‘cow,’ but also listening to what I’m trying to tell him to do,” Robison says. “I don’t want his head up in the air, with him darting here and darting there. I want him to be trusting me, listening to me, and just relaxed and under control.”

Slick Robison shares advice for buying a horse in the October 2020 issue of Western Horseman magazine.


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