Tie-down roping directly descends from our ranching traditions when cowboys needed to rope and secure cattle to provide medical treatment or identification. This practice soon tuned their work into informal contests of who could complete the task the quickest and eventually became organized events. The roper and horse back into the box and wait for the calf to settle in the chute. The cowboy carries a rope in one hand and a “piggin’ string” in his teeth, which he will use to tie the calf’s legs after roping it. When everyone- cowboy, horse, calf and chute help- is ready, the cowboy nods his head and the chute gate opens; the calf gets a running head start. The cowboy throws a loop and catches the calf, quickly dismounting his horse, while the horse stops and pulls the rope taut. Sprinting down the rope, the cowboy must lay the calf on the ground – a maneuver called flanking- and uses the piggin’ string to tie any three legs of its legs together. The horse should keep the rope taut so the cowboy can tie the calf’s legs; that’s why tie-down roping requires a smart horse that can make decisions without being signaled by the rider, whose hands are busy. After the roper finishes tying the calf, he throws his hands in the air as a signal that the run is completed. The roper then mounts his horse, rides forward to create slack in the rope, then waits six seconds to see if the calf remains tied. If the calf kicks free, the roper receives a no-time.
Cattle utilized for this even must weight a minimum of 220 pounds and are given a fair head start, called the score, before the roper and horse leave the box. A neckrope, equipped with a pull pin, is looped around the neck of the calf and is released when the score length has been met. This mechanical rope device is referred to as the barrier and signifies the start of the competitive run. If a cowboy exits the box too early, he ‘breaks the barrier’ and is assessed a 10-second penalty.