Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Bunch of Dummies

No, I'm not talking about us, although the way the weather's been lately you've got to wonder about the smarts of the people who choose to live out here.

This post is in response to a conversation on Twitter the other day, when one of the people I chat with online posted a picture of a roping dummy she built, and someone else said I should get one. I sat down and counted, and realized that we own nine roping dummies, not counting the table top version.

Roping is like any other sport. You don't learn to play basketball by jumping right into a full court game, and you don't learn to rope by jumping on a horse and going hell bent for leather after a calf. First, you have to master the basics. How to swing, how to throw, how to handle the slack so you don't end up tangling your horse in the rope with a calf on the other end.

To do that, you begin by standing on the ground, roping a dummy.

Roping dummies come in three basic varieties: calf roping dummies without horns, steer roping dummies with horns, and steer roping dummies with legs to practice heeling the hind feet.

Or, one dummy that can be either a calf or a steer. This is my college dummy. It's made of a section of six inch steel pipe. The legs come off so he can be stuffed in the tack room of your horse trailer. Or under your dorm room bed. Yes, that is a section of a radial tire. When you take the horns off, the tire becomes the calf head. We're not going to talk about how old this dummy is, or how many miles he's got under his treads.

However, throwing a loop while standing is a completely different experience than while seated in a saddle. Plus, for tie down ropers, there's the whole issue of learning to step off the right side of the horse after throwing (the opposite side of a normal dismount, for my non-horsey readers). That's why we have this guy:

(The white stuff is salt, we have to work it into the dirt every few years to keep the ground from freezing in the indoor arena.)

Next, it's time to learn to throw from the back of an actual horse. In order to learn under controlled conditions (i.e. without a calf running wild), some roping dummies are designed to be pulled along behind a horse or a four wheeler. This is one of my dad's designs. We call him Buford, though Johnny seems more appropriate since he's painted John Deere green.

My husband designed this dummy with the same concept in mind, except for calf roping. He built it out of race car tire and flattened one side so by bolting in a chunk of wood for a base. It's towed along on the sled and can either be tied on, or left loose so it rolls off when roped, mimicking what happens when a tie down roper catches a calf and gets off to tie it, while the horse keeps the rope tight. This is the dummy we use most when first getting a new horse used to tracking an animal and not spooking at the rope when it's swung and thrown.

Dad bought this dummy, which is really cool except I can't seem to get a rope around its 'neck' to save my life. It's also meant to be pulled. Notice the long, curving rails. Once you catch it and the rope comes tight, it rocks back until the rope pops off the front, then drops back down to be roped again. No getting off to retrieve your rope. Another excellent training tool for beginning ropers or horses.

If you don't have the money or the space for a full roping dummy, there's always the option of just buying a head that's mounted on steel spikes that can be stuck in to a hay bale. Most are molded, high impact plastic, like the calf head on the right. Our steer head is slightly more authentic, although a tad lopsided since the bulls got into the indoor arena and stomped around.

Not all dummies are for roping. Some are for tying:

So, with all those options, it's only natural that people ask what I rope when I'm fine tuning my loop. And the answer is...none of the above. I prefer to rope the plain old hay bale.

Addendum: Since posting this blog I've had several inquiries about the white Calf Tracker dummy in the middle picture. We've had it since I was in high school so I had no idea where it came from, but when I said so to my husband he not only knew, he'd met and chatted with Don Parsons, the man who makes them. Don is from Walla Walla, WA, I don't have a number or address but I did find a great newspaper article about his business:


Anonymous said...

For a city gal like this, all this is a foreign language to me..but but SO interesting.

Hubs found that the PBR is going to be in Florida while we here, so I'm going! Woo-Hoo. Best day? Friday. Saturday. or Sunday?

Stan Grace said...

Do I also see three dummies addicted to the sport of roping serving to illustrate the practice? Have you ever thought of taking up ice fishing as a winter hobby? At least you can wear mittens and insulated coverall's while participating. LOL! Kari keep up the blog as it brings back fond memories.

~The South Dakota Cowgirl~ said...

Ah the hay bale. My favorite!

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Stan: We're getting pretty wimpy in our old age. We rarely see the inside of the indoor arena unless the temperature is at least in the twenties and the sun is shining. I've also gotten to the point where there's nothing about going to a rodeo before the first of May that sounds remotely like fun.

toni mcgee causey said...

Kari, I love the pics and the explanations--thank you! Although having to salt the ground to keep it from freezing so that you can work on it... well, that just moved with a bullet up to #1 on why I am not moving north, thank you, mother nature. Geez. We've been grumpy down here just because it got as low as 18 the last couple of days, and I can't remember when it was that low here.

Crystal Posey said...

Somehow I skipped over this one. I don't know how, I think I even RTd it on twitter.

I can't help but giggle every time I see one of these pictures. I've scrolled up and down like five times.

P.S. What I said was that you needed one with a pink bow. I'm still waiting for that picture. And while you're at it a picture of Fat Pony with the pink bow.

Anonymous said...

Was wondering where your dad got the white bullet roping dummy from?? Ive been looking for one alll over and cant seem to find it anywhere?! Thanks!!

Kari Lynn Dell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kari Lynn Dell said...

Dear Anonymous: Scratch my original answer to your question, my husband set me straight. I have now added the information on where to get a Calf Tracker to the end of the post if you want to go back and check it out.

Unknown said...

The owner and manufacturer of this dummy now live in Howell Utah. His name is Rod Ward. Its called The Original Calf Tracker. They have a favebook page with all the contact information available on it.

Unknown said...

Rod ward is the new owner and manufacturer of The Original Calf Trackers. There is a Facebook page with all his information

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Billie. Every once in a while someone asks me where they can find one.