Be safe with that rope
Coupling a member of the bovine species linked by a thin nylon rope to a member of the equine family with a human on its back can lead to some questionable situations. Fortunately, many cowboys and cowgirls safely rope cow, calves, and bulls all day, every day; however the occasional roping wreck occurs. Roping clinician, Brannaman’s Pro-Am Roping winner, and Billings, Montana’s Buckaroo Businesses co-owner Scott Groskopf offers a few suggestions to stay safe while roping in the pasture or in an arena setting.
• Be sure your horse’s fore and hindquarters move freely. In addition to a few others factors that a horse must be solid in before roping, a horse must be able to move his hindquarters freely and independently from its forequarters and the same for his front end.
“That way I can move away from a rope if I need to,” Groskopf said. “I’ve got to be able to lift up and get his shoulders to move over independently and to disengage or engage his hindquarters, so whether I need to face up or move away from a rope or go toward whatever I have roped, I can.”
• Control your slack. Only dallying on the horn when your rope is tight ensures several things. For one, a tight rope indicates that the rope is secure on whatever you are roping. By being sure the rope is secure, it is less likely to pop off the critter and come back at the roper. Secondly, if your slack is tight, you’re more likely to know if it’s hooked through your horse’s legs or under your own stirrup or leg.
“It allows for us and our horse to not get tangled up,” Groskopf said. “When there’s too much slack, that’s when our horse could step over it in a ranch or team roping setting, or if you dally on a loose rope, the slack could be under your leg.”
• Keep your eyes on what you have roped. While still being aware of your surroundings, especially in a cluttered situation such as branding, keep your focus on the roped cow. It doesn’t take much time at all, Groskopf said, to look away for a moment, then look up to find the cow isn’t where you left it. A small exception to this comes with dragging calves out of the branding trap.
“If I’m dragging through a trap or pen, I keep my eyes where I want to go so I’m not stopping in traffic,” he said. “Realize that when you’re on horseback, you’re the one on horseback. It’s your job to keep people safe. Always watch out for the ground crew.”
In a bind, ride toward your roped animal. If you’re in a bind of any sort, such as a rope under your leg, your horses leg, tangled in your gear, or just a mess in your rope, ride toward the cow and put slack back in the rope.
“If we stop and look down, our horse stops with us, and what we have roped has taken off,” Groskopf said.
• Don’t follow a dragging rope. From a friend’s experience, Groskopf warns to never follow or step over a dragging rope. Due to a rope’s nature to return to a coil, it can easily half hitch around a horse’s leg when loose.
“Always stay clear of dragging ropes. There have been huge, terrible accidents from that happening,” he said. It’s amazing how fast a rope can turn into a half hitch.”
Keep your coils straight. Before getting ready to rope something, check your coils to be sure they come out freely and orderly. By putting the tail of the rope, off to the left side of your horse, if you’re a right-handed roper, the tail can’t get tangled in the coils.
“I always want to go through my coils; I stay away from as many wrecks as possible,” Groskopf said. “I also make sure the left and right hands are as far away from each other as possible when dallying. I don’t want to dally with the coils right next to the horn. I keep distance to where they have time to straighten themselves out.”