RAM NCFR Rodeo Rundown: Team Roping

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RAM NCFR Rodeo Rundown: Team Roping

Team ropers Clay Smith and Jake Long at the RAM NCFR in Kissimmee

RAM NCFR Rodeo Rundown: Team Roping

Team roping, the only true team event in ProRodeo, takes the utmost cooperation between two horses and two ropers, a header and heeler. This event was born on cattle ranches when ranch hands needed to doctor or brand cattle, making it one of the several rodeo events that directly evolved from cowboys’ ranch duties. 

Team roping starts with each roper backed into their respective boxes. The header is responsible for catching the head of the steer while the heeler is responsible for catching both back legs. The steer must be given an advantage or a 10-second penalty is added to the team ropers time. The header ropes first, making one of three legal catches; a clean horn catch around both horns of the steer, a catch around the steer’s neck, or a half-head catch around the steer’s neck and one horn. Any other catch is considered illegal and is grounds for disqualification. Once the steer is roped, the header then turns the steer to the left, giving the heeler a clear shot to his back legs. The heeler must catch both back legs or a 5-second penalty is added to the team ropers time. The clock stops when they are facing each other and ropes are pulled tight with no slack.

Since working together as a team of four (including each horse and rider) is vital to their overall performance, ropers often spend countless hours perfecting their timing as a group. Not only must the ropers be in shape and in synch, but their horses are also an important aspect of the event. The American Quarter Horse is the most popular breed of horse among all timed event competitors. A team roping head horse (the horse the header rides) ideally is tall and heavier because they need the strength to turn and lead the steer once it is roped. A heel horse (the heelers horse), needs to be quick and agile so they are better equipped to follow and react to the steer. 

Team roping header Clay Smith in Kissimmee RAM NCFR Team Roping Champion Header, Clay Smith

Team roper heeler Jake Long in KissimmeeRAM NCFR Team Roping Champion Heeler, Jake Long

At the 2019 RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo (RAM NCFR), Clay Smith (header) and Jake Long (heeler) stopped the clock at 4.8 seconds to take the title as your 2019 RAM NCFR team roping champions. Hailing from the Texas circuit, as of December 18, 2019, Clay Smith is in the 3rd place spot and his heeler, Jake Long is in 8th place, according to the Texas Circuit standings. Header, Clay Smith is currently your reigning world champion header and has earned a total of $268,819.91 during the 2019 rodeo season. Heeler, Jake Long has earned $150,954.18 and is currently sitting in the number ten spot. To see Clay and Jake compete, tune into the Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo January 2nd-4th, 2020, in Waco, Texas, where they will be competing to qualify for the 2020 RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo and defend their title as the 2019 RAM NCFR team roping champions!

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