how the event works
On one side of the arena, a calf is loaded into a chute while the contestant waits on the right side of the chute. Just like in team roping and steer wrestling, the livestock is given a head start with one end of the breakaway rope barrier looped around the calf’s neck and stretched across the open end of the box as the horse and rider wait behind a barrier. When the calf reaches its advantage point, the barrier is released, and the chase is on. However, if the barrier is broken before fully being dropped, a 10-second penalty is added to the contestant’s time.
As the cowboy runs after the calf, they must throw their rope around the calf's neck, get off their horse and flank the calf, otherwise known as picking it up and laying it on the ground. As the cowboy does all of this, their horse maintains enough tension on the rope (without dragging the calf) to help keep the calf from running away. When the calf is on the ground, the cowboy must tie any three of the animal’s legs together using “piggin’ string,” which he carries in his teeth until needed. When the cowboy completes his tie, he throws his hands in the air as a signal to the judge and timing is stopped. The cowboy then remounts his horse, allowing the catch rope to slacken. If the calf kicks out within six seconds, the run is invalid, and the contestant receives a no-time.
The History of Tie Down Roping
In moments when ranchers’ calves become sick, the only way for them to reach and treat their livestock is to rope and tie them down for medical treatment. Formerly known as calf-roping, tie-down roping originated during the days of the Old West. As ranchers roped calves faster and faster, ranchers soon made this chore into a competition. As this ranch chore grew in popularity, the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association turned tie-down roping into one of its seven traditional rodeo events. However, unlike what you might find on the ranch, this timed event requires not only roping skill but extraordinary teamwork between the cowboy and his horse.
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