How to Deliver the Heel Loop in Team Roping

By Jennifer Banfield

Team Roping is the only rodeo event involving partners. Like other rodeo events, the sport of team roping developed from ranch work. Cattle that needed to be doctored or branded were roped and immobilized. Today, it is a specialized and competitive sport based on speed, horsemanship and accuracy. When the steer is released out of the chute, one rider ropes the neck or horns (header) and the other ropes the hind legs (heeler). Delivering a correct heel loop takes practice and dedication. This starts by handling the rope correctly.

Hold your rope with the loop in your throwing hand. Keep the excess rope coiled in the opposite hand. Typically, there should be three coils in hand.

Start with a loop size that is comfortable to handle. A four foot ellipse is common for a heel loop. Loop size increases as rope handling skills progress.

Swing the rope in a counter-clockwise motion over the opposite shoulder of your free arm. While swinging, angle the tip (end) of the loop downward. The rope should dip down in front of you and rise up behind while swinging. Keep your elbow raised throughout the swing.

Keep your palm up as you swing until your hand is in front of you. As the swing rotates toward the front, your palm revolves downward.

Maintain consistent speed while swinging to help keep the loop open. Increasing or decreasing swing speed can negatively affect the swing and timing.

Point your arm directly at the target when you release the rope. The loop will be guided into place by following the direction of your arm. Release the loop with your hand open and palm horizontally facing toward you to ensure a catch.

A well-trained roping horse is a critical component.

Deliver the loop with enough power that it hits the front of the right hind leg of the steer. It should then curl around both hind legs. It should stand on edge allowing the steer's legs to move into the loop.

Pull the slack in the rope once the steer's legs have moved into the loop. For heeling, the rope must be pulled upwards. This will tighten the rope around the steer's legs.


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