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What Is Breakaway Roping?

Breakaway roping is a gentler style of calf roping that doesn’t include tying the calf. This style of roping (others are, for example, team roping) is open to cowboys and cowgirls of all ages. The skills needed for successful breakaway roping include:

  • Excellent horsemanship
  • Finely honed roping skills (practised with a roping dummy, for example)
  • Firm concentration

This timed event is especially popular with junior high and high school riders. It is also often participated in by college and university rodeo teams. It’s a popular event on professional circuits.

How Does Breakaway Roping Work?

How Does Breakaway Roping Work

Here’s what you’ll see at a breakaway roping competition:

1. The Beginning And The Set Up

At the outset, a few calves wait together in a box. A horse and rider wait in the chute right next to the box. The rules of the sport call for the calves to get a head start before the horse and rider set out in pursuit. In the interest of this, the calf has a light rope tied around its neck connected with the rope holding the horse in place.

When the calf has run a specified distance from the barrier, this light rope breaks. When this happens, the horse is also released and the horse and rider can pursue the calf. Once in pursuit, the rider must overtake the calf and throw a lasso around its neck in the quickest time possible.

2. Signaling The Horse

To participate successfully in this event, riders must have a very close relationship with their horses. Horse and rider must work as one to stop immediately when the lasso rope falls around the calf’s neck.

If the horse is not able to stop fast enough, it takes longer for the rider to lasso the calf securely. Speed is extremely important in every part of this event because it’s speed that wins the competition.

3. Breaking Of The String

The fastest way to get the string to break is to lasso the calf accurately. When the rider has successfully lassoed the calf, the rope tightens and the string breaks. This means that the calf is not hurt and the run is complete.

When the calf hits the end of the rope, the thin string is broken and an attached, brightly colored flag is revealed. This informs the timer that the run is finished and he or she can stop counting the time.

How Long Does Breakaway Roping Take?

calf roping

On the rodeo circuit, it’s a common joke that if you blink you just might miss it! Breakaway roping is much faster than team roping because the rider doesn’t dismount. It’s a simple matter of dashing out of the shoot, catching up to the calf, lassoing it and having the string break. When done correctly, this can take as little as two seconds.

Where Are Breakaway Roping Events Held?

You’ll usually find breakaway roping events in women’s professional rodeos, youth rodeo events and other specialty events. The availability of this competition has become greater in recent years as more and more people have become familiar with it.

In 2012, the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) introduced women’s breakaway roping as an open event. This was a very popular move on their part.

Because rodeo is generally perceived as being family oriented, having more options for women and youth is an excellent idea. It sets a good opportunity for groundwork so that younger cowboys and cowgirls can get involved and learn the ropes.

Cal Poly Students Demonstrate Breakaway Roping

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Horses & Foals since 2017. Horses have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.


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