Speed Roping versus Average Roping

If roping were a race, an average roping would be like running a marathon. You have to pace yourself. You don’t try to stay in the lead from start to finish when you rope in an average. Theres more strategy and jockeying for position involved. Most ropings start off looking like they’re going to be really tough. Then everybody presses, and things fall apart in about the fourth go-round. Occasionally, an average will start strong and stay that way the whole roping. But rarely will you not place in an average roping if you avoid mistakes. Rodeo roping is more like a 40-yard dash. You put your head down and go, and you have to go for broke. You have to get a start and reach, your heeler has to take a fast shot and get dallied, and you need to get facedall fast. In a go-round or one-header situation, you get from A to Z by skipping a lot of the letters in-between, whereas in an average roping you pretty much go through the whole alphabet. The dominant ropers are the guys who can win under any conditions, but theres a big difference in how you rope depending on the setup.

In an average, it’s all about breaking the ice on the first steer. You don’t want to press too hard at the barrier. You do want to avoid unforced errors,

so you don’t end up behind the eight ball in the first round. If you break a barrier, you’ll have to beat the odds and draw a pup to have a chance in the rounds. And the odds of drawing one of the four aces aren’t that great.

A lot of average ropings are “enter first, rope last.” So it’s a real advantage to take care of business and get entered early. There isn’t anything you can do about when you’re up if it’s a random draw, which it is at ropings like the BFI. It’s obviously an advantage not to be up first. If you are, you just have to make the best of it.

The draw really dictates the outcome of a roping. If you’re aggressive on a steer that’s really strong, the chances of shooting yourself in the foot are pretty good. You can’t press too hard on the steers that won’t let you. If you get a runner or two and avoid making mistakes, you might still be roping for third or fourth. If the teams are close enough together going into the short round, the team that gets the good one has a chance to come from behind and get you. That luck-of-the-draw factor is just part of the game.

Very seldom do I rely on go-round roping. Unless I’m out of the roping and have no choice, consistency is my deal and I rarely let a go-round entice me into making unforced errors. A one-head rodeo is another obvious time when you have to go all out. But generally speaking, the pot of gold’s at the end of the rainbow at an average roping or multi-round rodeo. That’s where the big money’s paid, so that’s where my focus has always been.

When you’re rodeo roping, you have to deliver the knock-out punch. You have a lot of teams going for a handful of checks. You have to draw from slow to medium, and the score really comes into play. You need to be on the barrier, and your head horse needs to break flat. You don’t want your horse to raise up in the front end when the gates bang, or you’re probably going to be late. When you’re trying to be fast, your head horse will usually anticipate and try to get ahead of you a little bit. Everything happens fast, and there can’t be any flaws in the run. Both partners and both horses have to be snappy to be successful.

When you’re trying to be fast, you use a bigger loop so you have more range when you reach. Your horse is widening, so it takes more loop to get there. It really helps if the heeler tries to bring the steer to you a step or two. You don’t want him going hard left, but if he goes to the right it’s that much harder on the header and you’ll be more likely to rope a front leg. It also takes away from the handle when steers go to the right