All of your top ropers can head and heel. The guys who’ve put a lot of effort into their roping have spent enough time and have strong enough fundamentals that most of them can rope both ends. You can sometimes get a lower number on the other side, which makes it possible to capitalize on being able to do both. Years ago, I had a lower number heeling, so I heeled in the number 15 ropings. There was some incentive to do that. I learned a lot doing that about what heelers see back there. Heeling helps a header understand what we can do on the heading side—what handles help the guy on the back end. When headers heel some they figure out what happens if the heeler doesn’t haze a steer, over-hazes one or if the heeler cuts in too early, and how that affects what the header’s trying to do. It helps not only to be able to see both ends, but to be able to experience both.
Headers might not be going to compete at a level heeling to try and make a living doing it. But it’s still handy to be able to do both. Until last year, it also came in handy for a header to be able to heel a steer at the (Wrangler National) Finals (Rodeo), so if you missed with your first loop your heeler could head the steer and you could finish off the run heeling and stay in the average.
It’s good for your head horse to track a lead steer and heel him. It gives one a little different look. If you have a head horse that’s a little bit chargy, that helps one relax and back off.
If you’re a multiple event guy, being able to rope both ends could also help you out at events like the (Wrangler) Timed Event Championship of the World. When you love to rope, it’s just fun to be able to do it all.
It’s really handy for high school kids to be able to head and heel, because sometimes you have to switch ends in order to get the best partner. Parents are the same way. If you have one kid who heads and one who heels, the parent needs to be able to do both. Being versatile is always a good thing.
Any time you’re handling a rope it’s a good thing. You hear phobias from people who say you can’t rope calves and head. Some parents won’t let kids rope calves and head, because they think it’ll mess them up and get them to top-notching calves. I don’t agree with that. It’s two different events. The only difference is the angles. Lots of guys do it. If you understand the mechanics of the loop and get proper position, it’s not a problem.
It’s pretty special to see someone who can do all the events who spent the time learning the different disciplines and events. Making a living with a rope, sometimes I just really enjoy going out and heeling. I practice heading each and every day to get better and make my horses better to make a living at it. But sometimes I like to just kick back, relax and not think about heading. It’s fun for me to heel steers. I never get to compete heeling anymore, but I do enjoy it. It’s fun.