Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Low Stress Roping

When most people think of roping, they think of it as it is done in the arena. Run hard, throw a loop and jerk the animal around so another person can rope the heels and stretch an animal out as fast as they can. Cowboys often feel that this is the only, or at least the fastest way to get cattle doctored in the pasture. Just like low stress stockmanship, the original Vaquero style of roping appears to be slow, but is actually faster and more efficient in the long run.

A good example was one ranch I was on where we were having a scours/ pneumonia wreck.  Between two of us, we were doctoring up to 160 calves a day, or 80 to 90 calves apiece everyday. By using the old style big loop style that people consider to be "fancy," I was able to accomplish it without having to change horses at noon everyday. My cattle stayed calm and easy to handle. At the same time the other guy (who constantly cussed me for "packing a clothesline") not only had to change horses everyday at noon, but the cattle he was doctoring on would take off at a trot as soon as he rode into view.

There are several secrets to why big loop roping are low stress.
  1. Variety of available loops. Rather than being limited to either a conventional run them down head or heel loop, a person will have four or five varieties of head and heel loops to fit different scenarios.
  2. This variety of loops, combined with low stress handling methods allows a person to do the vast majority of their roping at a walk or trot. 
  3. Allows ropers to handle cattle without constantly choking them because of the style of hondos used.

As you can see in the picture to the right, this style of hondo will give an animal a chance to breath when the rope is slackened.  While allowing an animal to have slack on the end of the rope may sound strange, in actuality is allows the animal to remain calm. This helps in two ways. If a person is doctoring cattle too large to wrestle to the ground, it allows you to trot a couple of circles around the animal (having them step over the rope with their front feet), basically heeling them so you can pull them over with minimal effort. If two people are doctoring, this allows the heeler to throw their loop and get the animal down for treatment with minimal stress on the cow and minimal effort on their horse. Combined, this method allows you to doctor more cattle on fewer horses while keeping your cattle from getting wild. 

Many people are reluctant to try the big loop style of roping because they are afraid of getting tangled up in the "extra" rope. The best way to learn is to practice on a roping dummy, then rope cattle using a breakaway hondo. If you do something wrong, instead of being tied to a cow, the hondo will release the rope. Once you get to the point of being able to stop your cattle with the breakaway hondo like in the video below, you are ready to start roping for real. Between the variety of loops and distance they can be thrown, you will be able to doctor more cattle in a day, with less effort than you ever thought possible.