Home Horsemanship Basics Stay on the Centerline

Stay on the Centerline


With Scott Grosskopf

This article originally appeared in Eclectic Horseman Issue No.67

I’ve had a lot of folks ask me, “Why does my horse start to sell-out to the left even before I start to dally?” Even very experienced ropers have had this problem, and in watching them it’s easy to see. 

SG_01I think the main cause of this is ropers losing track of what they have roped, and looking at the horn to dally. If I look at my horn, my arm goes out to the left. I can’t look at my saddle horn with my arm over the centerline, it’s in the way.

When you keep your rope over the centerline, that’s going to keep your horse balanced too. He’s looking for a balanced place to put his feet when you dally, so if you start to dally incorrectly, and your horse is going to the left first, then what you are saying to him is that you want his feet to move while I’m coming hard with something, and you have to move to get your balance.

So if he’s going to the left while I’m dallying, we’re asking him to do something that isn’t very good for him because he’s not going to be able to brace against that rope. If I can get him in position to take weight on, then my centerline is there and his shoulders can take the brunt of that weight hitting him. It’s not going to pinch his withers because the saddle tree is in line with his spine, and the saddle can take the pressure, because the weight and the balance point on the saddle are in the correct position. If we are off the centerline and dally, I’m going to pinch my horse’s withers under my saddle because I’m in an incorrect spot with a big animal.

If you look down at your horn to dally, you have to move your coils out of the way to do so. Look at the position this puts your left hand in.

Not only does it affect your horse, but over time it puts a strain on your left shoulder being in that position.

When my arm is correctly over the centerline my arm is in position to be strong, using the biceps. This is the strongest position for my arm

Having your arm outside of this position puts a torque on your shoulder and also causes movement in your horse.

Soif I have my rope in my left hand here, up and over the centerline of my horse, my elbow is almost in a straight up and down position. From here I can go ahead and dally and I’m in a centerline position. The farther distance between my left and right hand, the better off I am.

If I keep my eyes on the animal I have roped, rather than looking down at the saddle horn to dally, it sets me up for good things, the ability to react and be in balance.


This article originally appeared in Eclectic Horseman Issue No.67


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Scott Grosskopf
Both Scott and his wife, Staci, have a deep interest in the buckaroo life and all of its aspects. In 1998 they created Buckaroo Businesses, whose purpose is to provide traditional vaquero-like horseman gear at a cost that the working cowboy can afford. Scott is a member of the Northern Range Ranch Roping association headquartered in Montana and he also conducts roping clinics and horsemanship classes. Learn more: buckaroobusinesses.net.