Understanding Rodeo Team Roping

Team roping is currently the only sanctioned event in professional rodeo that allows the use of teams. It's also the only event during which you'll see cowboys and cowgirls competing with each other. Teams can consist of 2 men, 2 women, or 1 man and 1 woman. The event is also known as "heading and heeling" because 1 team member is known as a "header" while the other is referred to as the "heeler."

Like many events in professional rodeo, team roping sprang from the duties of cowhands on ranches. It's often necessary to subdue and restrain a full-grown steer. The technique of heading and heeling is still used on ranches today. On the rodeo circuit, team roping has always proven popular and consistently draws a huge crowd.

How Team Roping Works

The event involves 2 riders, their horses and a fully-grown steer. One rider assumes the "header" role and the other, the "heeler." A rope is attached to the neck of the steer as well as the barrier blocking the team from the arena. When the steer is released from its chute, the rope quickly becomes stiff and the barrier rope is pulled off, signaling that the team can enter the arena at will.

Once the team members enter the field, the header first has the job of throwing a lasso in 1 of 3 ways. First, he can throw the lasso around both of the steer's horns. Second, he can throw it around the steer's neck. Finally, he can throw the rope around the steer's neck and 1 horn. Each of these 3 throws is considered a legal catch. After a legal catch has been performed, the header wraps the rope around his horse's saddle horn. Then, he turns his horse to guide the steer into position for the heeler.

After the header turns his horse and leads the steer, the heeler looks for an opening to lasso the steer's hind legs. Once she accomplishes this successfully, she wraps her rope around her horse's saddle horn. Once the steer has been roped and secured by the 2 riders' saddle horns, both position their horses to face the steer. They instruct their horses to back up, creating tension in the ropes that secure the steer. After the steer has been properly retrained, a judge stops the clock. The roping team with the fastest time wins the event.

Each Duty Is Important

Both the header and heeler have a job that requires skill and precision. If either fails to lasso the steer properly, the success of the other teammate is useless. As a result, headers and heelers avoid switching roles. Once they've chosen their respective roles, they master the techniques necessary to excel at it.


If either the header or heeler cross the barrier blocking their entry onto the field before they're allowed, a 10-second penalty is given to the team. Also, if the heeler only manages to lasso one of the steer's hind legs, a 5-second penalty is given. Since most professional team ropers can successfully immobilize a steer in under 12 seconds, such penalties can ruin a team's chances to win the event. Like other roping events, team roping requires skill. But, it also requires cooperation between team members. Both must act flawlessly and work well together to be effective.