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Like many rodeo events, the roots of tie-down roping can be traced back to the working ranches of the Old West. Of course, being quick and accurate with a rope has always been a large part of this event, but as it evolved, being a quick sprinter as well as a good horseman, has become necessary to win.
The roper begins his run from “the box”—a three-sided fenced area, with a barrier rope across the open front. The box is adjacent to a chute, containing the calf, that opens towards the arena. One end of the breakaway barrier is looped around the calf’s neck, and is released as soon as the calf reaches its advantage point, which is determined by the length of the arena. If the roper breaks the barrier before the calf receives its head start, a 10-second penalty is added to his final time.
As the calf is caught by the cowboy’s loop, the horse is trained to come to a stop and begin to pull back to remove any slack out of the rope without dragging the calf. With a quick dismount and a sprint down his rope to the calf, the contestant turns the calf by hand, referred to as “flanking”. If the calf is not standing when the cowboy reaches it, he must allow the calf to stand before he proceeds to flank it.
Once flanked, the roper ties any three of the animal’s legs together with a “pigging string”—a short looped rope he clenches in his teeth during the run. To signal that his run is complete, the contestant throws his hands in the air. He then remounts his horse and rides forward to create more slack in the line while waiting six agonizing seconds to ensure that the calf does not kick free. If the pigging string does not hold the calf, the roper receives no time.
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