When most people think about going to a roping, they think of team-roping or a breakaway roping event. But Vaquero roping is a much different event, and one that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. This type of roping is true to the cowboy way of life and has been evolving since the 1700’s (and arguably earlier) into what it is today. There’s a set of people who refuse to let the art of Vaquero roping die and started the Brannaman Pro-Am roping.
I got the unique opportunity to attend the Brannaman Pro-Am Vaquero roping that has been held in beautiful Santa Ynez, California in October since 2013.
The atmosphere at this event was one that cannot be explained but has to be felt. While everyone is there to either compete in the roping, sell their goods, or support a competitor, everyone treats you like an old friend-a sentiment can be lost in some competitions and sports today. The people that I encountered at this event made me feel like I was coming home! They answered all of my silly questions, and helped me learn so much about an event that I had little experience with before.
The contestants are generally cowboys from surrounding ranches and ranches along the west coast looking to come and make some extra cash while doing what they love! While the event is different than a team-roping per se, there are still rules that have to be upheld.
Overall, the rules are pretty simple and include things like: traditional cowboy gear required, 50’ rope minimum length with reatas being encouraged but not required and no swearing/vulgarity or complaining. There is a point based system that is used to help determine the winners. There are extra points given for the different types of head shots and heel shots thrown. It’s pretty simple, the more difficult the loop, the more points you earn. There are ways to lose points as well. These include missing shots, roping the wrong cow, losing your rope, excessive dragging and being bucked off.
The style of roping is not the only thing that makes it worlds apart from other roping events. The gear is different and the horses are even a little different as most of these are used on the ranch every day. The horses can be rode in a hackamore, a snaffle, the two-rein (a transitional setup that is used as a training tool to transition horses to a bridle) or a bridle at this event. There are no tie-downs, rubber on the saddle horn, or even a rush to beat the clock necessarily. Although there is 4-minute time limit to rope 3 head of cattle. But there is a larger focus on using traditional gear and working as a team, a 3 man team that is
When it was all said and done on Sunday, the top 50 teams competed to win $20,000 and it paid down to the 8th team. Something that is a little different as well, is that there is a Calcutta held on Saturday night where the teams are auctioned off, this year a whopping $32,000 was raised! A Calcutta is essentially a betting pool that helps raise the stakes for the teams while simultaneously adding money into the payouts!
The traditional cowboy way of life and Vaquero style roping may seem to be a dying lifestyle. Especially to those of us on the outside, but 5 minutes into my time at the Brannaman Pro-Am it’s plain to see that it is alive and well. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, this event is one that everyone needs to experience at least once! A special thank you to the Brannaman family and to Bill Reynolds for putting this event on!
Photo Credit: Nicole Poyo Photography
To check out the full gallery: http://www.nicolepoyo.com/2018-brannaman-proam-roping/