Throwing My Loop…
By: Michael Johnson
The old fellow
sat staring into the fire. Twenty years ago now it was.
Seems like yesterday. I was failing miserably in this new
career of mine, and had called him for help. Some friends
knew of my troubles and they said, “Mr. Joe can help you. He
will tell you how.” Then they added, “He's rough and he's
mean, and you won't be able to stay with him long - but the
longer you can stay, the better you will do.” And here I was
sitting around a fire in his back yard listening to him. He
told me how that night. Then, he said, “You won't have any
'balance' in your life for a year or so. You will have to be
single-minded and focused on these things I've told you. So
for a time, you won't have any balance. Later, you will
have to get that back. Balance is important in
Had no idea what he was talking about.
Watching the golf channel the other day. “Imagine a
line on the ground,” said the instructor. “The line is
running down your target line from back to front – the line
is dead square under the arches of your feet. Imagine all
your weight on the arches of your feet. Hit the ball with
that thought. If you do that, you will have better balance.
Balance is what helps you hit the ball straight.”
My friend, Bronc, came to see me back in the summer.
Our mutual friends were scheduled to arrive the next day, so
we spent our time before company came roping (naturally).
After a few runs, he said, “You're roping well.” I said, “I
appreciate that, but I'm really not roping well at all. I'm
sliding all over my horse, I'm catching them all at the
other end of the pen, and no matter what I do, it seems to
take forever to get the rope out my hand.”
“Why are you roping them at the other end?” he asked.
“It takes me that long to get ready to rope,” I
“Why aren't you ready to rope when you come out?” he
“I'm off balance when I come out...” and I stopped in
my tracks. I looked over at him. He was staring at me with
this little smile on his face.
“Oh,” I said. “I'm off balance when I start.”
“Balance is important,” he said. “Balance is important
After demonstrating a better position for my feet, he
said, “Curl your toes over your stirrups, put your weight on
the balls of your feet. You can help Blue run with much more
power if you will tilt your spine forward just a bit, and
ride him with the core of your body over his withers...”
I made those adjustments with my body, and he said,
“Feel that athletic position?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Now,” he said, “Don't lose that balance. Maintain that
position to help your horse, and now that you are ready –
because you have balance - you can throw your rope when
After a few runs, I was amazed at the difference. On
that day, I learned about 'balance' in a new way. Later, my
daughter-in-law, Alison, was helping haze steers for me, and
I shared the details of my recent lesson about posture,
feet, riding with your 'core.'
“That's such an amazing coincidence,” she said. “I just
took a mountain bike class in Colorado. Our instructor used
all those same words and same points – almost verbatim – to
help us become more skilled in our riding ability.” Then,
with a hint of wonder in her voice, she said, “He even said
riding the mountain bike with skill is much the same as the
great horseman – who rides with light hands, rides with his
core, rides with his legs, and above all, displays great
posture and balance.”
We spent the rest of that beautiful fall day riding our
horses, roping, and talking - talking about how enjoyable
'learning' can be, and about the value of “balance.” And we
agreed balance is critical - certainly in roping, in golf,
and riding mountain bikes, but also in all aspects of life –
like marriage, parenting, and in our work. When we have
trouble in life, it's often because we are out of balance.
It's like Mr. Joe said long ago...
“Balance is important in everything.”
-- Michael Johnson
Sharon and Rowdy