Team Roping Article and Photos Copyrighted - see credits below
Team roping also called heading and heeling is one of the many jobs that are required on a working cattle ranch. Under normal circumstances on a working ranch, two riders will proceed to immobilize the cow, one catching the head, the other one the hind feet. They will then stretch out the animal between them. That is when in competitive team roping the time is recorded. On a ranch, the cow may be caught and immobilized for branding, dehorning, to be given medication, or given some other needed attention. In the team roping contest it is about what team can get the job done in the fastest time.
Dally roping stems from the Mexican and Californian vaquero’s way of working cattle. He was a master at it and could play with the cow he caught with his rawhide reata like a fisherman with a fish, laying the cow down gently, letting the riata slide, with smoke rising from the saddle horn. Also, his rawhide reata would have popped at a sudden jerk by a thousand-pound steer.
Both riders are dally ropers, meaning their ropes are not tied hard and fast to the saddle horn once the catch is made, they dally their ropes they wrap it around it the horn a couple of times, and hold the end of it, keeping it taut. Thence the name dally team roping.
As soon as the cow is stretched out, the flagman is raising his flag and time is taken. Penalty seconds are added if only one hind foot is caught.
Saddles used for team roping today have so-called post horns, tall, rather upright horns, offering plenty of space for the dallies. And they are usually wrapped with rope and rubber to protect them from the enormous wear and tear.
The start is out of a chute (starting box), and the heading horse starts behind a barrier. The barrier will not open until the steer has a head start, and breaking the barrier will be penalized. The header’s job is to get to the steer, with the horse putting the header in position to throw the loop, then pull the steer to the side. In team roping, the heeler now gets a chance to catch the hind legs, after which the header will turn around and the steer is stretched out.
As in other roping disciplines a good horse gets in the right position fast, rates the steer constantly, and keeps the rope taut, which was critical in the days of the wild longhorn cattle for the safety of both cowboy and horse.
The heeler trails behind the header and steer, staying out of the way until the header pulls the steer to the side. Then he moves in, drops his trap, and the horse sits down.
Team roping is a stupendous display of partnership between horses and riders! Throughout all of the action, the heading horse and the heeling horse are being judged separately and the criteria is based on what a cowboy would want in a perfect roping horse. Both header and heeler have one minute to rope and hold the steer. Horses are scored between 60-80, with 70 denoting an average performance. In regular contests at roping events and rodeos, only the fastest time counts.