Noble Life

Understanding Team Roping

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Team roping, also known as heading and heeling, is a modern day rodeo event that features two mounted riders and a steer. Team roping, as a sport, evolved when cowboys turned common ranching procedures, like securing a steer for branding or doctoring, into a competition. Today’s team ropers can be men or women, kids or adults, professionals or amateurs. They compete in big and small events across the country simply for the fun of the sport or for prize money.

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A team roping event begins with a steer in a chute and the ropers on either side. The run begins when the steer is released from the chute and given a 10-15 foot head start to run down the arena, at which time the ropers may give chase on their horses. The first roper is known as the header and he will come up on the steer’s left side and rope the animal around the horns or neck. Then, the header will secure the steer by wrapping the remaining rope around the saddle horn called dallying. Next, the header will ride left across the arena, pulling the steer behind him.

From this point, it is the heeler’s job to follow the steer and skillfully throw his rope or loop so that it captures both of the animal’s hind feet. The heeler will then stop his horse while dallying his rope around his saddle horn. When the steer is stretched out between the two riders, the flag-man or flagger will drop his flag signaling to the time keeper to stop the clock and record the time.

From beginning to end, the action of the roping team and the steer takes under 15 seconds if all goes well. The team that does the job in the quickest time wins the event.  There can be penalties which would be added as time to the team’s total time for the event. These penalties may be incurred if the team goes after the steer before it has traveled the allotted head start distance or if the heeler is only able to rope one of the two hind feet. If either the header or the heeler fails to rope their target, then the team does not receive a score for the run.

Prizes for team roping events can include cash, trophy saddles, or buckles. As one of six rodeo events, team roping is a blend of skill, horsemanship, team work, and a little bit of luck. It is a sport that the whole family can get involved in and have a lot of fun.

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The Author:


James “JP” Pitassi started riding when he was in kindergarten and he is now a PRCA Team Roper. JP has won several World Series team roping jackpots this year with his horses. His biggest accomplishment is being ranked with a #8 USTRC classification. That means that he is a competitive jackpot heeler with skills suited for the amateur ranks of rodeo. The two Quarter Horse geldings that JP uses for heeling are named “Rattlesnake” and “Diesel”.

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