The event is also known as Heading and heeling. A two-person team competes. The first
roper is referred to as the “header”, the person who ropes the front of the steer, usually
around the horns; the second is the “heeler”, who ropes the steer by its hind feet. Team
roping is the only rodeo event where men and women compete equally together in
When the header is ready, he or she calls for the steer and an assistant pulls or trips a
lever, opening the chute doors. The freed steer breaks out running. When the steer
reaches the end of the rope, the barrier releases. The header must rope the steer with
one of three legal catches; clean horn catch (around both horns), a neck catch (around
the neck) or a half-head catch (around the neck and one horn). The header then takes a
dally, that is a couple of wraps of the rope around the horn of the saddle. Speed is
important and some have lost fingers in this event. Once the header has made the dally,
he will turn his horse, usually to the left, and the steer will follow, still running.
The heeler waits until the header has turned the steer. When he or she has a clear way,
he throws a loop of rope under the running steer’s hind legs and catches them. As soon
as the heeler also dallies tight, the header turns his horse to directly face the the steer
and heeler. Both horses back up slightly to stretch out the steer’s hind legs,
immobilizing the animal. As soon as the steer is stretched out, an official waves a flag
and the time is taken. The steer is released and trots off. There is a 5 second penalty
for roping only one hind leg and 10 second penalty for breaking the barrier.
A successful professional-level team takes between 4 and 12 seconds to stretch the steer,
depending on the length of the arena. At lower levels, a team may take longer,
particularly if the heeler misses the first throw and has to try again.