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Overview Of Professional Rodeo\'s Roping Events

The roping events in professional rodeo are the closest equivalents to what cowboys and ranchers do daily. Gathering the animals for branding, medical care and treatment require skill, precision and timing. Typically, a lasso is thrown around an animal's neck to capture and detain it. In rodeo tournaments, cowboys and cowgirls compete with each other by lassoing and tying the legs of calves and steers in the shortest amount of time. Roping events include calf roping, team roping, breakaway roping and steer roping. Below, we'll give you a quick overview of each of these events.

Calf Roping

Today, calf roping is called tie-down roping (the name was changed years ago by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association). In this event, a rider begins mounted on his horse. A calf is released from a chute and the rider gives chase. The rider attempts to throw a lasso around the calf's neck. Once he does this successfully, he dismounts from his horse and races to the calf. While his horse keeps the calf steady by pulling back on the rope, the rider's job is to flip the calf on its back (or side) and tie 3 of its 4 legs together. The rider with the fastest time wins the event.

Team Roping

In team roping, the calf is replaced by a full-grown steer. 2 riders form a team (team roping is the only event in professional rodeo in which cowboys and cowgirls can compete with each other). Each team is comprised of a "header" and a "heeler." The header's job is to lasso the steer's horns. The heeler's job is to lasso the hind legs of the steer. After both members of the team successfully lasso the steer, they use their horses to pull the steer until it falls on its side or is otherwise immobilized. The team with the fastest time wins.

Breakaway Roping

This event is actually a derivative of calf roping and is typically reserved for cowgirls and competitors under 12 years of age. A calf is released from a chute with a rope tied around its neck. The rope (10 feet in length) provides the calf with a head start on the rider. Once the rider is released, she must chase the calf while mounted on her horse. Then, she throws a lasso around the calf's neck and stops her horse. The other end of the lasso is tied to the horse's saddle horn with a small string. When the calf reaches the end of the rope, the tension breaks the string, signaling the rider's success. As in other roping events, the fastest time wins.

Steer Roping

This event involves only 1 rider. A full-grown steer is released from a chute with a 10-foot rope around its neck. As it runs, the rope becomes stiff, releasing the barrier holding the rider. Once released, the rider and horse chase the steer. With precise timing, the rider throws his lasso around the steer's horns and uses his horse to throw the steer off its feet. The rider dismounts and ties 3 of the steer's legs with a secure knot. Steer roping is incredibly dangerous for the rider, horse and the steer. Because of this, the event is often excluded from professional rodeo tournaments.

The Fastest Time Wins

Each of the 4 roping events is a race for time. The riders must know exactly what to do once they're released from the gate. Penalties are issued for a variety of circumstances and can add several seconds to the riders' times, destroying their chances for finishing with a competitive score. With the exception of steer roping, roping events stem from the actual responsibilities of cowhands on ranches throughout the United States.