How Breakaway Roping Works
Breakaway roping is a fairly straightforward event. In a breakway run, the calf is placed in the chute and a barrier is looped around his neck. The rider has a rope attached to his saddle horn with a brightly colored marker on the end, such as a colored ribbon or bright tape. The timer begins as the chute opens and the calf runs out, with the rider in pursuit. The rider then ropes the calf around the neck and asks the horse to stop. The timer stops when the horse comes to a complete stop and the rope detaches completely from the saddle horn. The rider is penalized 10 seconds if his horse leaves the chute before the calf completes the barrier. The run will be marked as a "no time" if the rider misses the calf or if the rope slips loose before it pops loose from the saddle.
The most essential element in a good breakaway roping performance is the horse. Any cowboy can rope, but no score will be given without an excellent equine partner. A good roping horse is stable under pressure, interested in pursuing the cow and not afraid to push close to the barrier and break quickly. Start the horse when he is young. As soon as he starts being ridden, begin tossing a rope gently from the saddle. Back the horse into the corner of the roping chute and allow him to stand quietly while the chute opens. Eventually you can begin loading calves into the chute and allowing the horse to chase them. Once he is confident in the chase, begin gently tossing your rope towards the calves and stopping the horse to prepare him for the hard stops used during competition. A horse that is started gently and allowed to work at his own pace will make for a stable, steady roping partner.
To successfully compete in breakaway roping, you must learn a solid set of horsemanship skills that are the first facet of a good roping career. A solid seat and light hands are musts when roping calves. The rider must be confident enough to control a speeding horse with one hand and successfully rope the calf's neck with the other. The rider must be able to rope a moving target with a high degree of accuracy. Start by roping a calf's-head dummy from the ground. Rope this until you can hit it every time, increasing your distance from the dummy with each successful throw. Mount the horse and continue the process, moving onto live calves. The more practice you have roping moving targets, the more success you will find in competition.
Performing in Competition
Breakaway roping is a fast-paced event, and a rider must be able to think and react quickly to score in the money. Warm up your horse well before any runs. Getting the horse relaxed and supple will make him much more workable in the ring. Store your rope in a clean bag until just before your run. Mud, dirt or moisture will make it more difficult for you to accurately hold and throw your rope. Attach your rope with a new rubber band and tie a very bright ribbon on the end. Bright reds, greens and yellows are very helpful, since that ribbon is the visual indicator to the flagger that your rope is free and you have successfully completed your run.