Team roping in the US traces back to 1521, with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, who brought Andalusian cattle to Florida. Long after they left, the cattle stayed with the settlers, who built ranches and transported their cattle across the country. In the 1800s, day workers on the ranches had to safely catch cattle and restrain them, to treat illness, brand, or tag them.
Art imitates life, as the saying goes. Necessary skills evolved into an exciting, adrenaline-filled team sport. Let’s find out what today’s team roping looks like, how it’s judged, and what makes a winning team.
What Is Team Roping?
Team roping is a rodeo event that involves timing and teamwork between two skilled ropers and their horses. The two ropers are called headers and heelers.
Each cowboy begins the event in their own box. The steer is given a head start across the arena. Once the steer reaches the barrier limit the header is permitted to charge after it. The header ropes the steer’s horns and then wraps the end of the rope around the saddle horn several times. This is known as a dally. The dally restricts the steer’s movement and turns it towards the left. This turn enables the heeler to access the steer’s hind legs.
The heeler rides behind the steer and ropes the hind legs together with a “heel” loop. The heel loop is designed to easily come apart after the steer has been roped and released. This type of knot helps prevent injury in case anything takes a bad turn during the roping segment.
Once the steer is roped by the header and heeler both horses step backward to remove slack in the line. Both horses and respective cowboys face each other at the finish.
How Is Team Roping Scored?
A team roping event wins with the fastest run. Scoring is complex, but here’s the basics. Time starts with a nod from the header. It ends with both cowboys facing each other and the steer tied with taut lines.
Time is deducted if infractions occur. If ropers break the barrier, 10 seconds are added to the time. If a header ropes a steer without a clean catch, the team is disqualified. There are three legal catches:
- Clean Horn Catch – Around both horns
- Half-head Catch – Around the neck and one horn
- Neck Catch – Around the neck
The heeler’s job is to rope both heels. If only one is roped the team has 5 seconds added to their time. It doesn’t sound like much, but winning times are decided between only tenths of a second. This makes every moment matter.
What Does A Successful Team Roping Team Look Like?
A roping team consists of two cowboys and two horses. But not just any old two will do. Roping teams are like any professional sporting team. You can’t throw a combination together and expect it to work. It requires dedication, practice, and willpower.
Headers & Heelers
The cowboys that make up a roping team need to mesh. Their relationship will be part skill and part chemistry. Each needs to be able to trust that the other will perform their role for the team and vice versa. It takes countless hours of practice and reviewing past performances. And good ol’ cowboy sense!
Most team roping horses are American quarter horses. These powerful, coordinated, and nimble steeds make perfect head horses. The head horse is taller and stronger. It has to run down the steer and stop it. Then it needs to be powerful enough to drag it into position for the heeler. All this in the span of a few seconds!
The heel horse needs the same traits but is generally smaller. It needs more agility to get to the steer as fast as possible. Then it needs strength to turn and maintain proper positioning.
How To Get Started In Team Roping
If you want to get involved in team roping, start with the basics. A team roper needs excellent horsemanship, a good horse, and above-average roping skills.
Start Off On The Right Foot
Horsemanship is the foundation of any effective roping team. A roper knows how to cue his or her horse, and how the horse will respond. Remember your horse needs to learn the sport as well. This happens over time, don’t rush it.
Choose The Right Partner
You’ll probably need to try out more than one horse to find your roping match. Give them a trial at a jackpot roping or in a practice pen. Have a vet perform an exam for overall health and potential.
Learn The Ropes
Start off with a roping dummy. This slows down the process to ensure your technique is correct. A straight nylon rope is a good first choice before moving to the stiffer ropes that the pros use.
Saddle size is important for both horse and rider. Proper positioning is vital so don’t skimp on your saddle!
Set Your Sights On Team Roping
If you want to compete with others, while working together through excitement and danger, team roping may be for you.
X Factor Team Roping has the training, videos, experts, and resources to begin your journey. Or if you’re further along in the process, you can further hone your skills! Learn how X Factor Team Roping can help you reach your team roping goals.