By Martin Black Photos by Kim Stone

This article is written for people that are familiar with roping. There is terminology that may not be familiar or entertaining to people that are not familiar with the subject. When we are talking about heeling cattle with a high percentage loop, it comes down to two different types of deliveries. You can see both of these loops thrown in high-level competitions like at the national finals rodeo. Different people may prefer one over the other, but the fact is they are both very effective. The one is generally referred to by the professionals as the scoop. The other is referred to as the trap.

We are going to focus this article on the trap because I believe it is the most versatile loop and therefore should be the first loop a beginner should become proficient with.

But to touch base briefly on the scoop, this is a heel loop that is thrown when both hind feet are in the air and the bottom strand may not even touch the ground. The loop leaves the roper’s hand and the top strand hits the legs up high and the bottom strand continues back toward the roper, thus scooping up the hind feet in the loop.

The scoop I am referring to is not to be confused with the underhand throw that is typically delivered vertically with the animal entering the loop from the top side of the loop, as opposed to most forehand swing deliveries catching from the bottom side of the loop. This underhand throw is often called a scoop loop at many of today’s ranch roping competitions.

There are several reasons why the trap shot is far more versatile. In adverse conditions, such as mud, sand, taller grass, etc., the tip is going almost perpendicular to the animal pulling the bottom strand so it is cutting its way as it goes underneath the animal’s belly, as opposed to the tip rotating and dragging the bottom strand back with the scoop. In other words the bottom strand is going from right to left as opposed to front to back. This allows the rope to be pulled underneath by the tip rather than sweeping.

If the animal’s hind feet are not in the air simultaneously (which they won’t be if the animal is in a walk or a trot, one foot will be on the ground while one foot is in the air), the loop can stay in position for a longer period of time until the animal possibly picks the feet up.

Even if the animal has set back and is dragging, the feet will be forward and toes will be higher than the heels. As long as the bottom strand is forward on the ground, they can ski over the top of the bottom strand for a possible catch.

So why don’t more people throw the trap shot? Because if too much time is spent roping a dummy, several bad habits can be developed.

If we are roping livestock that are moving fast or are being pulled from a head rope and sitting back somewhat, the hocks are bent and coming forward. When the hocks are bent and coming forward, they hook the top strand up and the feet will come over the bottom strand and into the loop.

If we are roping a dummy, most dummies are going to be made of wood or steel and offer very little resistance or Velcro effect, so the top strand is going to fall to the ground as soon as the momentum of the loop stops, especially when the bottom strand is forward. This causes people to whip the loop so it wraps around the hind feet bringing the bottom strand back which helps to hold the top strand up. Or they hold onto the slack, somewhat lifting the Hondo up so the top strand doesn’t fall to the ground. Regardless, neither one has a positive effect with livestock, even though it may look good and be encouraging on the dummy.

This is what a trap should look like: the tip is out to the side allowing the bottom strand to be forward. You can see on the hind leg of this dummy two pegs, one at about the level of the hock and the other up higher where the stifle would be on an animal. This holds the top strand up giving the person a visual and encouraging this type of loop to be thrown. Without something to hold the top strand up, it can fall to the ground making it look like an ineffective loop.

It’s important to note how we use the rodear to set the calf up for a handle going to the rodear. The header lets the calf get out in front where it’s pulling on the head rope, but yet tries to maintain a straight line with the calf. This is a completely different handle than going away from the rodear. Going away from the rodear, the header will be in front of the calf with the calf pulling back on the rope. Just the same, the header is trying to maintain a straight line for the healer to have a consistent shot.

1. In the last half swing the hand rotates from an elbow down-palm up position to a palm forward. The timing is as the calves legs are coming back the hand is coming forward as if you were to shake hands with someone. The fingers are soft, allowing the rope to slide out towards the tips where we have more feel, as opposed to a tight fist and letting go like throwing a rock. The top strand, where the Honda is, and the bottom strand are vertical. If you notice, the calf is slightly in front of me pulling on my head rope. I’m slowing her down for Wade as she is wanting to go to the herd.

2. As the loop leaves the fingertips, the palm is rotating down while the elbow is rotated up. Looking at the top and bottom strands we can see the rotation of the loop from vertical at the tip to almost horizontal where it just left the hand.

3. As the top strand touches the stifle, there is a stalling effect to it, and all of the momentum goes to the bottom strand sending the tip under and out the other side. As the rope is going under we can see the calf’s toes starting to leave the ground and will be coming forward into the loop. Looking under the horizontal palm we can see the thumb. Although the hand is very close to the rope, there is no contact to restrict the energy toward the calf.

4. The top strand is picked up by the hocks as the legs come forward; the bottom strand is completely on the ground with the tip well out the other side so both legs can come up and into the loop. We can see the palm horizontal with the index finger hooking the rope, getting ready to retrieve the slack.


5. As the calf’s feet are coming forward and down, she pulls the top strand with both hocks. The tip whips around and starts to pull the bottom strand off the ground. As the calf feels the rope, her tail goes over her back and she accelerates. The fingers start around the rope and Wade checks his horse preparing to bring everything tight.


6.As the rope is coming tight the, calf speeds up and circles left around on the radius of my rope. Because I’m actually behind the calf still I am inhibiting Wade’s rope coming tight earlier. As the heel rope is coming tight, Wade is taking his dallies.


7. As Wade’s dallies come tight, I help him keep his rope tight by riding toward the calf and slip my dallies so the calf will go straight away from him sooner.

8. As Wade’s rope becomes tight and secure, he starts turning his horse left. I have slipped enough rope and you can see slack in my rope so the calf is against Wade’s rope and not mine.

9. As Wade follows through with the turn and head towards the fire, my rope is completely loose so Wade has total control of the calf.

This article originally printed in Eclectic Horseman Issue No 115 September/October 2020