Roping is one of those sports that has been around forever. Since men worked cattle and kept them for food and what not there have bee ropers and roping. It begin in Spain, Mexico and later the U.S. What it comes down to is that here is only a few ways to bring down a large cow to be treated or branded. One person would rope the cow over the horns, another would rope the back legs. Thus rendering the large animal immobile and easier to treat. Once the commercial aspect of cattle took effect these ranch hands would come together near the end of their cattle drives and often bet or dare their fellow “cowboys” to shows of talent and feats of strength. This would lead to become what we now know at the modern “Rodeo”. In modern rodeo there are two competitions that still involve the same work that founded the rodeo. Team roping, known also as heading and healing, and Calf or tie-down roping.
Team roping is two mounted riders against one steer and the time clock. The first roper or header has to rope the steer around the horns. There are only three ways he can rope the steer. Both horns, one horn and the head, and the neck. Penalizes are issued if the rope misses or is not a legal catch. The second proper is the heeler's. It is the heeler's job to rope the steers back feet. Again if the heeler only gets one leg there is another 5 second penalty. Time stops when the cowboys catch the steer, there is no slack in their ropes, and their horses face each other. A professional level team can take between 4-12 seconds to have time called.
Calf roping is just as it sounds. One mounted rider ropes one calf. Once the calf is roped the rider dismounts from the horse, runs over to the calf, heaves it to the ground and ties three of its legs.
Again this is a timed event that shows the amount of team work necessary of a horse and rider for doing work like this. The horses are taught to back up and keep tight on the line that runs to the calf’s head all while the cowboy is tying the calf's legs. Once the calf is roped the rider mounts the horse and relies tension on the rope around the calf's neck, the calf must stay tied for 6 seconds for the official time to count.
For Ropers the tools of the trade are simple but designed from years of use and need. A well trained roping horse, a rope(lasso) made of stiff rope, and the tie-down rope if you have calf's to rope. It takes many years to be good at roping a moving target, and will any sport practice makes perfect. There are many training aids to be come a better roper, there are fake cow heads, and fake rear ends that can be set up on a trailer and moved to hone skills required while in motion.
From its humble beginnings with working the cattle to today's lime light roping continues to be a fun and enjoyable sport. Created and molded by the cowboys, designed to make ranch life and work easier, modern roping is not very far from its past. The modern rodeo brings back to life the traditions that with all the modern convenience could not wipe from our culture, our past and our future. Roping is engrained in our history as Americans forever immortalized by the western greats such as Will Rogers, Montie Montana, and Kevin Fitzpatric. Even today, the modern rodeo and roping still holds the thrill of the chase and catch.