Team roping is a two-man roping event in which two riders on horseback rope a calf. Cowboys compete for the fastest time in successful roping in this event.


Team roping originated in the cattle ranches of the old West. Ranchers would incorporate team roping techniques when a steer was too large to be handled by just one person. In these cases, two cowboys would work together to rope a steer. Cattle would need to be roped for a number of reasons on the ranch, including branding and vaccinations. Roping was a way to corral one animal to work with at a time.

Rodeo competitions began informally. Large ranches would sometimes meet on cattle drives and ranch hands would compete against one another in the skills of ranching. The ranch hands showcased their riding skills in these competitions. Eventually, the informal competitions became organized. Rodeo competitions became the standard main event at county fairs. Though the skills of ranching are no longer used quite as widely in cattle ranching, the rodeos continue to carry on the old traditions of ranching.

Team Roping

Two cowboys and two horses make up the roping team in this exciting rodeo event. The first roper is responsible for lassoing the head of the steer, and is called the header. The second rider ropes the legs of the steer and is called the heeler. At the beginning of the competition, the ropers start on either side of the chute that holds the steer. The steer is released first, to allow for a head start. Once the steer has a sufficient head start, the ropers start from individual boxes. If the ropers do not remain behind the barrier before the head start, a 10 second penalty is added.

The header makes the first catch in team roping. The header swings the lasso and attempts to throw the ring across a flat plain. When the rope loop is settled over the top of the steer, the roper can release the loop.

The header can rope the steer by both horns, around one horn and the head (called the half head), and around the neck. Once the head of the steer is roped, the header dallies the steer. Dallying is a movement in which the roper wraps the lasso around the saddle horn. At this point, the horse is able to use its body to pull the steer to the left. As the steer turns, the heels become exposed to the heeler.

The heeler then attempts to rope the legs. Both legs must be roped. If only one leg is roped, 5 seconds are added to the clock. The heeler swings the rope loop on the opposite side of his/her strong hand. The loop remains to the side so that the loop’s tip will slide under the feet of the steer. Heeling is considered the more difficult lasso.

Any catches that are not listed are illegal and the team is disqualified from that round of competition. When the heeler has the rope around the steer’s legs, the rope is dallied once more around the saddle horn. The horses face each other and back off in order to hold the rope taut. Once the steer is immobilized and ropes tight, the time is called.

Tack and Equipment

Team ropers require ropes first and foremost. Ropes are typically made of synthetic materials, although a few are still made with synthetic materials. Ropes for head roping are typically a bit shorter than the heel ropes. Most head ropes measure 30′ to 32′ long while heel ropes measure 35′. The lay of the rope measures the stiffness of the rope. Beginners tend to use a softer rope because it is easier to work with. Stiffer ropes make the lasso loop open more easily.

Ropers wear gloves in order to protect their hands from tearing and rope burn. Additionally, the saddle horn is protected with a dally wrap. Rubber strips are wrapped around the horn. These hold the rope better during the dally wrap, which ensures that the horse can pull the steer into the proper position.

Team roping requires good western saddles. Western saddle are made of heavy wood coated in thick leather. Stirrups are wooden and hang lower than English stirrups. Western saddles have a saddle horn, which is required for the dally. Team roping saddles must be heavy and sturdy. Steers are very strong, and when they jerk at the rope, the saddle must stay in place. Saddle pads and breast collars are essential for keeping the saddle in the proper position as well as avoiding any harm to the horse.

Boots are another important protective element in team roping. Team roping horses will wear both splint boots and bell boots. Splint boots give the horse’s ankles support and protect against any injury to the ankle. Bell boots cover the hooves in order to protect the horse’s front hooves from the back hooves. In the sudden stops used in team roping, bell boots are an important protective element.

Team Roping Horses

Team roping is a sort best suited for stock horses. Stock horses feature a variety of breeds all used to do ranch work. The quarter horse is generally the breed that dominates rodeo sports. Stock horses are quick and have great agility in their movements. Quarter horses were named according to their incredible speed across a quarter mile race.

Quarter horses are stocky and muscular. With small heads a compact build, most of the size of a quarter horse comes from the hindquarters. The powerful back end helps the quarter horse to stop rapidly and accelerate with great speed out of the gate. Typically the heading horse should be on the taller side, from 15hh to 16hh. The heading horse needs to be heavy enough to pull the steer to the left. The heeling horse should be more agile and faster in order to complete the roping in less time. The heeling horse does not need to hold the steer itself, so a smaller size is preferred.

Team roping is a sport in which horse and rider must have a good relationship. Additionally, both riders must work well together. A good temperament is needed for team roping in order for the horses to work with the riders and each other. This cooperation is evident in the exciting team roping competitions. Showcasing the athletic ability of fine horses with the ranch skills reminiscent of days past, team roping is an invigorating equestrian sport for all.

Veterinary Surgeon, London at Blue Cross UK | + posts

A London based Veterinary surgeon, Sanja is also an avid writer and pet advocate.