The History of Teamwork and Team Roping
The only true team event in the sport of professional rodeo was born on ranches in the Old American West. Like most of the other rodeo events, the history of team roping derived from the practices of day workers in the 1800s to safely treat an injured member of the herd or to brand or tag calves. This daily life turned into a world-famous sport. Today, team roping is an event that requires the coordination of two ropers and two horses to place on the leaderboard and cash a check. On the blog, we’re breaking down team roping.
What is team roping?
Team roping requires close cooperation and timing between two highly skilled ropers – a header and a heeler – and their horses. It is one of rodeos timed-events, similar to barrel racing, steer wrestling, and tie-down roping.
The header and heeler start in their respective boxes. Before leaving, the steer must be given a head start, determined by a rope, known as a “barrier.” After the header ropes the steer, they make several wraps of the rope around the horn of their saddle, called a dally, to secure the steer and turn him to the left. Turning the steer to the left opens it up for the heeler to catch the steer’s hind legs.
How is team roping scored?
Just as steer wrestling, tie-down roping, and barrel racing are timed-events, team roping is based on time, too. Meaning the quickest time… wins! Once the header nods his head, the gate opens and the header and heeler sprint out of the roping box, starting the clock. To stop the clock, both cowboys must be in a straight line, facing each other, and no slack in either of their ropes.
The barrier’s length is determined by the length of the arena and if team ropers break the barrier, a 10-second penalty is added. The header must rope the steer with one of three legal catches: clean horn catch (around both horns), a neck catch (around the neck) or a half-head catch (around the neck and one horn). Roping on any other part of the steer is considered illegal and the team will be disqualified. The heeler must catch both of the heels, and if only one is caught, the team will be given a five-second penalty.
Where is team roping from?
The history of team roping begins when cattle were brought to the continental United States in 1521 by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon. After he delivered a small herd of Andalusian (cracker) cattle to Florida’s west coast, Florida settlers began to claim them as their own, build ranches and drove them around the US. Eventually, cattle made their way out west where they cultivated a system to raising these cattle. When ranch hands needed to safely treat an injured member of the herd or brand or tag calves, a pair of cowboys would rope the cow or calf.
Team roping is one of the several rodeo events that directly evolved from cowboys’ ranch duties. Prideful cowboys would boast about how quickly they were able to complete this task, ultimately leading to informal competitions.
What breed are team roping horses?
One of the unique and strategic elements of team roping is the type of horses used. The most popular type of horse used in team roping is the American quarter horse. Quarter horses are agile, naturally coordinated, and have an athletic build. These qualities make a great head horse (header’s horse) because they must have the strength to pull the steer to give the heeler a shot at roping the hind legs. This is all done within seconds, so the heel horse must be coordinated and able to move quickly and effectively.
What started as a way of life in the Old West has migrated to Central Florida as a fraction of the professional rodeo action you and your family can see at the Silver Spurs Arena! For over 75 years, the Silver Spurs Rodeo has been carrying on this American tradition. Trade-in a night of theme park hopping to witness an Osceola County legacy. To learn more, check out our event schedule!