“Team roping” was developed on working cattle ranches for when it was necessary to capture and restrain cows that were too large to handle by a single man (for treating illness or injury). Over the years, it grew into a competitive sport, and a numbering system was developed to rate each roper’s individual skill level. The numbers go from one to nine (1-9) for headers and one to ten (1-10) for heelers. Using these numbers, a handicap system (the subtraction of time) has been developed to even the competition. For example, a number 3 header and a number 6 healer would be called a number 9 team. Today there are tens of thousands of amateur ropers in North America who compete for millions of dollars in prize money.
The event features a steer with horns (typically a Corriente or Longhorn) and two mounted riders. The first roper is referred to as the “header”, the person who ropes the front of the steer, usually around the horns, but it is also legal for the rope to go around one horn and the nose resulting in what they call a “half head”, or around the neck. Once the steer is caught by one of the three legal head catches, the header must “dally” (wrap the rope around the rubber covered saddle horn) and use his horse to turn the steer to the left.
The second roper is the “heeler”, who ropes the steer by its hind feet after the header has turned the steer, with a five-second penalty assessed to the end time if only one leg is caught. Both men and women can compete equally together in professionally sanctioned team roping competition.
The goal is for each ”team” (header and heeler) to rope the steer as fast as possible, with the time starting when the steer leaves the chute, and ending when heeler has caught and the header’s horse turns and faces the steer with both ropes tight. A typical team roping jackpot would consist of 3 or 4 runs, with the times for each run being combined, and the winner determined by the lowest aggregate time on the most cattle caught.