When it comes to weekends at the rodeo, riders and their horses must be equally athletic. Particularly when it comes to the rodeo's timed events - barrel racing, steer wrestling and calf roping - athleticism is essential. The success of the rodeo cowboy is measured as much by having the right horse, as it is by the cowboy's athletic skills and timing.
In timed events, horses must be willing and able to respond well to their riders, make quick turns and be able to burst forward at full speed, when it is necessary to do so.
Because of their strong hind legs and muscular power, it is most often the American Quarter Horse that is used in rodeo events. Given that the American Quarter Horse got its name because the breed clocks the fastest quarter mile runs, it's little wonder that, when it comes to timed events in the rodeo ring, Quarter Horses are used for barrel racing and steer wrestling and are considered to be great calf roping horses as well.
Calf roping horses aren't just in the rodeo ring for their speed and precision; they play a greater role in the event as well. For those who are unfamiliar with calf roping, the event involves the calf roping horse, his rider and a calf. The roping horses are brought up to a full gallop; the rider throws the lasso around the calf and dismounts. The horse then backs up enough to keep tension on the rope while the rider ties the calf. When he returns to the horse, the rider mounts and the tension on the lasso rope is eased to determine whether or not the calf will remain tied.
Calf roping horses, therefore, not only need to be trained and athletic in order to work with the bursts of speed and sudden stops, but also they need to be able to respond well to their riders. The relationship that calf roping horses have with their riders is essential to the success that will be had during this exciting competitive event.
Therefore, when most riders look to buy a horse as a calf roping horse, temperament and intelligence are characteristics that most horse buyers are looking to find in a horse. Calf roping horses - as well as all American Quarter Horses that are going to be used on a ranch and in similar settings - should have a calm disposition, and they should be able to respond quickly to their riders and the situation where they are used.
As with shopping for most products, when you are looking at any horse, you'll want to determine how you will be using the horse. Those who are going to be riding in rodeo events on a regular basis - in other words, a rider who will be taking his calf roping horses from one rodeo to another and competing as a professional athlete - will probably be looking at a horse differently than someone who intends to compete in only a few events during the year.
In other words, those who will be training their horses for a few weekend rodeos are more likely to be looking at American Quarter Horses that are not only adept in the rodeo ring, but that also are comfortable working throughout the week at the ranch. Of course, other individuals may be looking at calf roping horses that they have seen during rodeo events and may decide to choose a Quarter Horse as a cattle horse, solely for use on their own ranch without the intention of competing. Many ranchers find that the calf roping horse is well-trained and well-suited for average, everyday activities in the ranching business.
Of course, the right calf roping horse for one rider isn't always going to be the right horse for another. When looking at horses for sale, if you are looking at Quarter Horses particularly for calf roping, it's important to choose a horse that a good fit. In some cases, that will mean choosing a horse that's solid and gentle and will be great for those who are learning the sport. In other cases, it will mean a taller horse, for others it will mean a shorter horse: it's a matter of personal comfort and preference.
As always, you'll want to be sure that the horse is in good health, that its legs and back are strong enough to carry your weight, and that the horse you choose either is already in great shape or can easily be conditioned for your chosen competitive sport or other use.