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I think roping must be the most technically challenging thing one can do with a horse

I might have an opportunity to do a cow clinic this summer which may involve some roping. Now, mind you, I’m not really interested in roping as a goal to do with my horse (don’t really want a cow attached to my horse and saddle!), but I figured it would at least be fun to learn to throw a rope.

I actually have a rope and I’ve used it when starting the pony for various ground work things, but I have no idea how to throw it.

I got it out yesterday and started playing with it. First from the ground and then from the saddle (Mac, not the pony). Holy jeepers, I think of all the things we could do with a horse, that must be up there as the most technically difficult!

First you are sitting on your horse and riding. Check.

Then you have your reins in one hand and also a rope in that hand, and then the loopy end of the rope in the other hand. Okay, not so bad. If I’m standing still we can do that okay.

Then you have to somehow swirl it around over your head (and not freak out your horse, which wasn’t a problem for Mac) such that it forms a circle and doesn’t get all twisted and tangled, then you have to aim at something and throw it so that the circle goes over the thing you want to catch.

OMG. I probably threw it 20 times before I landed on what it was I actually wanted to get. And that was with Mac at a stand still. I got a log/root that was in the ground and we pulled it out and dragged it home. Great.

BUT. If you are actually roping, then you are doing it with cattle, who have minds of their own. And presumably you are doing it whilst moving, sometimes at speed. Wow.

I will say that I enjoy the “functional riding” of doing something. I could actually ride Mac one-handed and clumsily handle my rope and he was very responsive to my aids this way or that. If I don’t think and just do, sometimes things come together better.

My respect to ropers. Anyone here do that?

Try doing all that and keeping your horse soft and gathered up too…that’s what separates the horsemen from the ropers alone. Very tough to handle the rope and stock well AND keep the horsemanship component as well.

I pretend to be competent, but like you, realize I have a LONG way to go on that front.

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Roping is one thing I’ve never taken the time to learn and/or practice. Kinda one of those things where you learn it on the ground first, so that it is simply second nature when you are on the horse. I hear the old timers say that when you can rope your dummy 50 times in a row on the ground without missing, then you are ready to rope off your horse. :wink:

Maybe one of these days I will learn. Maybe when my future kids learn! Definately is very challenging.

But I do plenty of other things that require extra eye-hand coordination and attention while on horse back.

Egg & Spoon is one of my favorite (balancing a raw egg on a plastic spoon, while the instruct you to walk, trot, or lope with other idiots … errr, riders! … in the arena). Last one with their egg wins. Makes it even more challenging when it is really windy outside.

Ring Race is another challenging one. Three rings on each side of the arena that you have to “spear”. If you miss one, it’s a 5-second penalty. Fastest time wins.

Flag race takes some quick hands! Have to exchange the first flag for the second flag. Can’t drop one. Fastest time wins.

And one of my very favorites: Sack Race! Holding a gunny sack between you and another horse/rider while you make a complete circle around 4 barrels. Fastest time wins. :smiley:

I’ve roped…A LOT…in a past life. Trust me, hunting for a jump is WAY harder.


What sort of roping?

… and you have to respect the critter you are roping and handle/teach your horse to work the rope so it is just as tight as necessary, without harming what you rope.

Roping dummies have helped tremendously, save horses and steers from bad ropers.
By the time you get to live cattle, you should know how to rope.
Most roping arenas have a heel-o-matic or hot-heel dummy to practice with:


If you like roping or not, it is one more good skill to have practiced, for humans and horses.

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Just a word to the wise and speaking from past experience. I believe the correct term is “swing” the rope. I made the same mistake using “that” word in a question to my daughter (in front of her rodeo friends) at NHSFR a number of years ago. To this day, she won’t let it go…

Roping is definitely a skill. Our daughter loves to team rope and is pretty proficient at heeling. She was the Reserve Champion at a WI Super Horse Competition a few years ago. The competition entailed Break Away Roping, Heading, Heeling, Barrel Racing, Pole Bending, and Sorting.

I think the only time I worry about her on a horse is when she goes to dally or wrap the rope around the horn. There’s more than one cowboy/cowgirl missing a right thumb as the result of a split second error while roping.

Here’s a good view from the saddle to give you a feel for roping. Fortunately for this young man, nothing serious happened.


My friend that trains roping horses did get his thumb in his dally a dozen years ago.
He didn’t even pull his glove, told everyone it was cut and was taken to the ER, where they did surgery to reattach it, it was completely cut off.
He said that it mostly still works fine today, but hurts when is cold.

The drs were telling him stories of roper’s friends looking in the arena for the thumb and bringing it after the patient was already in there and they would wash it and reattach it and it was fine.

Seems that around here those hand surgeons get good practice at that kind of surgery.

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Yeah, my fencing guy cut off the tip of his first finger by getting it caught up in the rope. Ouch! Another reason I think it is way beyond my skill set! :eek:

I’m going to give it a try this summer! I hope to keep all my fingers.

Roping is probably one of my favorite things…ever. It is like a drug. It is one of the most fun yet frustrating job/events. When I am roping good, I am euphoric, I will relive those shots in my head over and over trying to keep a hold of the feeling; when I am roping bad, I feel like the scum of the earth and I will dwell on it, angry. Trying to fix what I did wrong so the next time I rope I can get that euphoria back. There is not a day that goes by that if I’m not roping I’m thinking about it.

My advice to those looking to try it:

Before you even get a horseback, before you rope the dummy, before you purchase your first rope, get yourself a good mentor! Do NOT teach yourself to rope nor have someone that is not a proficient roper try to teach you. You will only establish bad habits that will make it frustrating and you will fight them forever. Ask me how I know this. I have habits that I’ve been fighting for 20 years because of some bad advice.

Have someone help you pick out your rope(s). Like buying tack they all have a purpose and buying the cheap feed store version is usually not the best.

Learn to rope the dummy correctly so it transfers easily to horseback. I see so many people rope it like they are roping a foot. Roping the dummy as it relates to weight placement in your stirrups during your swing, delivery and follow through is the best practice.

Ride your horse first! Seems simple, but ride your horse to where he needs to be, position him correctly. Riding and positioning properly makes a mediocre roper look like a super star. Being in the right spot at the right time makes it easier.

Good luck and prepare to get addicted!

Well guess what? I’m having a roping lesson later this week. …starting with ground work / rope-handling skills.


You know, I grew up in a family of ropers and barrel racers. My Dad, who is in his 70s, still does both but mainly ropes. Has had numerous championships back in the day. I know how to swing a rope and do the basics with cattle but have never roped from horse back (have been told I am good enough to though when I have been practicing). However, my Dad made me start riding English once he knew I was serious about horses to become a good rider and better horseman. To me that speaks volumes about the riding side of it. BUt I have no desire to be attached to a cow, plus I kinda need all my digits

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[QUOTE=Pocket Pony;8636040]
Well guess what? I’m having a roping lesson later this week. …starting with ground work / rope-handling skills.[/QUOTE]

Awesome! Have fun!!!

Not exactly on point, but my ma was a rancher’s daughter from Wyo. She used to rope us kids --if you’ve never felt a rope or had someone rope you, it HURTS! Even so, us kids (and all our friends) would dance around ma screaming for her to try to rope us. She’d usually catch us around the waist/arms, but every now and then she’d throw a low loop that would take your feet out. She taught us all how to rope, but it wasn’t until last year when my grand daughter wanted to ride Ranch Horse trail that I dug into my memory banks and remembered how to do it. Funny how that stuff sticks with you. I’m nothing as good as my ma was, but I pretty much can hit what I aim for. FYI in Ranch Horse trail, the points are awarded if the horse stands still. The actual roping doesn’t really count. But it was fun to teach my grand daughter.

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Sorry for the late reply - I’m not on the board much any more - heeler.



Better late than never!


No, I dont rope but I would sure like to find a “Mac” for myself. :grinning:

Feeling sorry for the calves/ cattle. Great when you need to do it for maintenance. Nasty as a game. JMHO. I like cows.:heart:

When done right it doesn’t hurt the calves or steers.
How is it any different than riding a horse, done well doesn’t hurt the horse. Done poorly can cause serious damage.

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