EATON — The roots of tie-down roping can be traced back to the working ranches of the Old West in much the same way as saddle bronc riding and team roping. When calves were sick or injured, cowboys had to rope the calves and immobilize them quickly for veterinary treatment. Ranch hands would pride themselves on speed with which they could rope and tie calves, and they turned their work into informal contests.
Today, the mounted cowboy starts from a box; a three-sided fenced area adjacent to the chute holding the calf. The fourth side of the box opens into the arena. The calf receives a head start determined by the length of the arena. One end of a breakaway rope barrier is looped around the calf’s neck and stretched across the open end of the box. When the calf reaches its advantage point, the barrier is released and the contest begins. If the roper breaks the barrier before the calf reaches its head start, the cowboy is assessed a 10 second penalty.
The horse is trained to come to a stop as soon as the cowboy throws his loop and catches the calf. The cowboy immediately dismounts, sprints to the calf and throws it by hand. This is a maneuver called flanking. If the calf is not standing when the cowboy reaches it, the cowboy must allow the calf to return to its feet before flanking it.
After the calf is flanked, the roper ties any three legs together with a pigging string: this is a short looped rope that he clenches with his teeth during the run. As the contestant is roping, flanking and tying the calf, the horse must pull back hard enough to eliminate any slack in the rope, but not so hard as to drag the calf. When the roper finishes tying the calf, he throws his hands up in the air as a signal that the run is complete. The roper then remounts his horse, rides forward to create slack in the rope and waits six seconds to see if the calf remains tied.
If the calf kicks free, the roper receives no time.
Join the fun and watch the cowboys compete in the upcoming International Professional World Championship Rodeo at the Preble County Fairgrounds in Eaton. The rodeo event begins Monday, Aug. 1, at 7 p.m.
Reach Jim McElroy at the Broken Horn Rodeo at 937-392-4608 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.