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Fundamentals And Risks Of Steer Roping

Steer roping is among the most dangerous events in professional rodeo. The power of the full-grown steers used in these competitions presents a high level of risk to the rider and his horse. Plus, the process that riders use to rope and bring the steer down has elicited cries of protest from animal rights activists. Because of the danger to the rider and horse as well as a growing tide of sentiment against the treatment of the steers used in the event, steer roping is seldom seen in rodeo tournaments throughout the United States.

Also known as "steer tripping" (because the steer is effectively thrown off its feet with the rider's lasso), this event doesn't always involve tying the steer's legs. The steers often weigh up to 650 lbs. As a result, the risk of injury to a rider who attempts to tie the steer's legs is often considered too great. In this article, we'll provide an overview of what happens during a steer roping event as well as a brief exploration of animal abuse claims.

What Steer Roping Involves

Like most rodeo events that involve a calf or steer, the steer is led through a chute until it reaches a barrier. A 10-foot rope is tied to its neck to provide a marker for the steer's head start. The other end of the rope is tied to a barrier behind which the rider waits. Once released, the steer launches onto the field at a full run. After running 10 feet, the rope around the steer's neck stiffens and the rider's barrier comes down, releasing the rider onto the field.

The rider chases the steer down and throws his lasso around the steer's horns. Once the lasso is around the steer's horns, the rider throws some of the rope around the hips of the steer. After the rider does this successfully, he veers his horse to one side, tightening the rope around the steer's hips and dragging it off-balance. The lurch of the horse's pull throws the steer off its feet.

In some steer tripping events, the rider dismounts and ties the steer's legs. Because of how the rider's rope is thrown around the steer's horns and hips, the steer is usually immobilized by the time the rider approaches it. He uses a "half-hitch" knot to secure its legs. Then, he mounts his horse and directs it into a position that loosens the lasso. If the steer is unable to escape the rider's half-hitch knot after 6 seconds have passed, the rider's official time is recorded.

Animal Cruelty And The Future Of Steer Roping

Many activists have claimed that the manner in which the steer is restrained by the rider's lasso and dragged off its feet is cruel to the steer. They insist that the force with which the steer hits the ground and the position of its head and neck pose an enormous risk to the steer's safety. Animal rights advocates say that this event should be banned from professional rodeo tournaments.

Though it was once a popular attraction on the rodeo circuit, steer roping is now rarely seen in the United States (though the event continues in Mexico). Not only is there a huge amount of risk for the rider and his horse, but the pressure exerted by animal rights groups has discouraged the industry's governing organizations from continuing to sanction the event. Despite rodeo's persistent popularity, steer tripping is likely on its last legs.