Calf Roping Horse
Calf Roping Horse
Calf roping, also known as tie-down roping, is a rodeo event that features a calf and a rider mounted on a horse. The goal of this timed event is for the rider to catch the calf by throwing a loop of rope from a lariat around its neck, dismount the horse, run to the calf and restrain it by tying three legs together in as short a time as possible. The event derives from the work of actual working cowboys, which sometimes required catching and restraining calves for branding or medical treatment.
The calves are lined up in a row and moved through narrow runways leading to a chute with spring loaded doors. When each calf enters the chute, a door is closed behind it and a lightweight 28 foot rope, attached to a trip lever, is fastened around the calf's neck. The lever holds a taut cord, or barrier that runs across a large pen or "box" to one side of the calf chute, where the horse and rider wait. The barrier is used to ensure that the calf gets a head start. When the roper is ready, he (or, in some roping events, she) calls for the calf and the chute operator pulls a lever opening the chute doors and releasing the calf. The calf runs out in a straight line. When the calf runs to the end of the rope, it trips the lever, the rope falls off the calf, and the barrier is released, starting the clock and allowing horse and rider to chase the calf.
Timing is critical; from a standstill, a rider will put his horse into a gallop from the box shortly after the calf leaves the chute, so that the horse saves valuable seconds by being at near-full speed the moment the barrier releases. However, if the rider mistimes his cue to the horse and the horse breaks the barrier before it releases, a 10-second penalty will be added to his time. This is sometimes referred to as a "Cowboy Speeding Ticket."
The rider must lasso the calf from horseback by throwing a loop from the lariat around the calf's neck. Once the rope is around the calf's neck, the roper signals the horse to stop quickly while he simultaneously dismounts the horse and runs to the calf. The calf must be stopped by the rope but cannot be thrown to the ground by the rope. If the calf falls, the roper loses seconds because he must allow the calf to get back on its feet. When the roper reaches the calf, he picks it up and flips it onto its side. With calves weighing between 200-300 pounds, this takes a bit of effort. Once the calf is on the ground, the roper ties three of the calf's legs together with a short rope known as a piggin' string. A half-hitch knot is used, sometimes referred to colloquially as two wraps and a hooey. The piggin' string is often carried between the roper's teeth until he uses it. The horse is trained to assist the roper by slowly back away from the calf to maintain a steady tension on the rope.
When the tie is complete the roper throws his hands in the air to signal "time" and stop the clock. The roper then returns to his horse, mounts and moves the horse forward, relaxing the tension on the rope. The timer waits for six seconds, during which the calf must stay tied before an official time is recorded.
Top professional calf ropers will rope and tie a calf in 7 seconds. The world record is just over 6 seconds.
The event is recognized by most rodeo organizations, including the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and the International Professional Rodeo Association. Other timed rodeo events that use cattle include breakaway roping, where the rider ropes but does not throw the calf, plus steer wrestling, and team roping, which use adult cattle.