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How to Pick a Rodeo Rope

By Jennifer Boyden

Rodeos provide entertainment for all ages while highlighting many of the real-life skills required of cowboys and other ranch workers. The two roping events – team roping and tie-down roping – showcase the abilities of participants to capture and secure livestock from horseback using specially-designed ropes. Shorter and stiffer than the traditional ropes used on farms, rodeo ropes play an important role in the excitement of the rodeo – and picking the right one remains key to your success.

Heelers and Headers

Rodeo ropes comprised of nylon and polyester blends offer the best durability. Other available specifications depend on your preferred event, size and experience level. If you have small hands, select a rope with a smaller diameter, and if you are a beginner, shorter ropes afford more control. During a rodeo, ropers fall into two categories – heelers and headers. Heelers compete during team roping and lasso larger cattle around their hind legs. Heel ropes boast a stiff lay, meaning the rope’s loop is rigid in order to better slip under the animal’s feet. They also measure around 35 feet long. If you are a header, you can compete in both team roping and tie-down roping. During team roping, your job is to rope the steer’s head while your partner targets the hind legs. In tie-down events, you rope a calf from horseback by yourself. In both cases, a head rope provides a softer lay as well as a shorter length – usually 30 feet. This gives you more control and aim while preventing the animal from escaping the rope once you have thrown it.

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