Caution: The post below contains a large heap of photographs. If your data plan is extremely limited and you usually use it all up each month, you may want to NOT click on the “More” icon to keep reading (or view the brief video) because all of the photos will begin to download with the rest of the article. There are some very nice snaps in it, if I do say so myself. The photos illustrate how things work and what often happens. Reduced to blog size, each photo is tiny space-wise, but there are about 100 of them, so they add up if you have no space at all to spare. If you already squander your monthly plan on occasional photo galleries, YouTube or Facebook, make a vow to watch one less video of a monkey picking its nose, and keep reading this instead.
Once a steer is too large for one man to handle, team roping comes into play.
Wickenburg, Arizona still wears its Old West heritage on its sleeve, and for good reason. It’s still a ranching and equestrian town. As a result, each winter from November to April, there are numerous team roping events in any of several arenas in town, public and private. Team roping is a rodeo event that contains one steer, two mounted riders, and a couple of ropes.
The historical goal is to quickly capture and immobilize a full-grown steer too large for one man to handle alone. To do this, the first rider tries to rope the steer’s horns, head or neck, while the second rider must rope both of the animal’s rear legs. Once the two pull far enough apart that the steer is judged as immobilized, the elapsed time is called. Team roping is about the only rodeo event where gender means nothing. It’s a straight-up race against time and other teams.
Notice that the rider on the left has thrown his rope while the steer’s rear feet are on the ground, and also the very small size of the loop! No way, right?
There’s a five-second penalty for roping only one rear leg, and same for either rider leaving the train station early. The equipment is not particularly specialized except for the two ropes. Once you see the photos below, you’ll know why. Each rope does a different job and must behave just so in order to succeed. You’ll notice that the steers are wearing protective horn wraps, which prevent rope burns and reduce stress on the horns. I’m very glad I took plenty of sequential photos, because that made it possible for me to see just how absurdly difficult team roping is to do well. It also helped me appreciate just how much training and experience the working horses must have in order to pull this thing off.
Same riders a couple seconds later, and the impossible has occurred. Both ropes are firmly in place, and completion is about to be called.
See, each rider’s hands are full of rope and reins, and maneuvering it with split-second timing is a pretty absorbing task. Naturally, there’s no time for the usual action/response delays once that gate opens, so the horse needs to be able to make a string of executive decisions on Read more…