Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: middle of nowhere
I would want bigger for a head horse. I had a little paint mare (14.2) that really, really wanted to be a head horse. She tracked well, could run down anything, and always put you in the right spot but she was just so small, that she really had to work hard to turn and face, especially on bigger steers in deep ground. She had the heart for it, but I was afraid that she'd get hurt or sore, so made her a heel horse instead, which she also excelled at.
Head horses are usually big for a reason-- they really have to pull sometimes, especially with larger steers, and that takes a toll. When searching for a head horse, I'd want something at least 15 hands-- 15.2+ ideally, with GOOD WITHERS and a big hip. A bigger horse will also take fewer strides, which on a fast steer, can make a big difference in your time.
Now, if you are team roping as a hobby and go out and rope a dozen steers on Saturday night and don't compete, you could probably get by with a big-hearted small mare. If, however, you want to go to competitions or rodeos every week, rope a few weeknights, and win at the jackpots, a bigger horse is likely to remain sounder for longer with big steers and questionable ground.
How many horses will you have? Will this be your only head horse? Or will this be one for practice or one for competition? I'd definitely want bigger for a practice horse. If you want one to add to a rodeo string that you can ride if conditions suit her (good ground, smaller steers) then she may work well.
Also, be aware of resale value. A horse under 15 hands will be a hard sell to a roper.
If you are still considering her, really look at how she's built. If she's 14 hands and 800 pounds, that's not going to work. If she's 14.2 and 1200 pounds and you don't have to adjust your cinches from a much bigger horse, then we may have something. Stout and wide and athletic can make up for a smaller size. You want a nice set of withers-- round and mutton-withered will be problematic for a head horse. Good bone and big, sound feet. A small horse built really well with a nice back and withers and the bone and hooves of a larger horse may work just fine. If she rides and feels like a big horse, she may be worth the risk. If you ride her and feel like you're on a pony, she's going to throw your timing off when you get on a bigger horse, especially if you aren't riding multiple horses a day.
Last edited by SilverMaple; 08-29-2018 at 01:07 PM.