Gear up

You will need a rope, cotton or leather gloves, and a roping dummy. The dummy can be as simple a set of horns in a bale of hay or as elaborate as a mechanical dummy that’s pulled behind a horse or ATV. Some mechanical dummies have adjustable heights and sets of interchangeable horns. Use gloves to protect your hands from rope burns. (They allow you to pull the rope tight and quickly adjust slack.) Choosing a rope is a matter of personal preference, though. Most heading ropes are 30 feet long and made of nylon or a nylon/poly blend.

Set the scenario

Dummy roping allows you to practice several scenarios in a short amount of time, such as varying distances and angles. Always approach the dummy from the left side, and always use your right arm to swing the rope (even if you are left-handed). You never want to throw across your body. Start with a distance of 10 or 12 feet and then vary it throughout the practice.

Get in the loop

Take your rope in your left hand and build a set of three coils; make a loop from the remaining rope. As a general rule, Sartain recommends making the loop twice as large as the horns, and make sure the slack between your loop and coils is sufficient. There should be enough to hold the coils in your left hand and freely extend you right arm and loop away from your body.

Take a swing

Tuck the loop under your right arm, and get into position. As you move toward the dummy, untuck the looped rope and grip it one to two feet back from the eye splice (the hondo). Using your entire right arm, swing the rope counter-clockwise just above your head.

Follow through

Release the rope toward the right horn and follow through with your right hand in a downward motion, across the horns from right to left. Legal head catches include roping around the horns, around the neck, or around the neck and either horn (half head). As soon as the rope catches, pull your slack. Remove the rope by hand, and go again! Sartain notes that the biggest mistake novices make is releasing too early, which causes the rope to go to the right. If it goes to the left, you’re hanging on too long.

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