Ropes for Fancy and Trick Roping
Performance roping in the early days of rodeo
Based on the florea de reata (making flowers of rope) techniques of Mexican vaqueros or charros, performers in the original wild west shows thrilled audiences by exhibiting their fancy roping skills.
Ropes were twirled, spun, and twisted in an elaborate dance while the roper jumped in and out of the loops, often from a perch on the back of their horse. Equally popular were trick ropers who performed catching tricks, roping several people at a time or twirling the rope while another horse and rider jumped through the loop.
Different ropes were needed for fancy and trick roping. Softer ropes made of braided cotton fiber were used for spinning tricks, where a smooth motion was needed to create intricate patterns. It was the preferred rope for fancy ropers performing moves like the Texas Skip, a trick where the roper jumps back and forth through the spinning loop, because it holds a wide loop well.
Catch ropers prefered to use a stiff rope woven from the fibers of the maguey plant, sometimes called a century plant. This type of rope was made to throw accurately and maintain a large loop. It was ideal for catch tricks in which the roper would catch several people at a time.
Both of the ropes seen here belonged to Sam Garrett (1892–1989), one of the most famous trick ropers in early rodeo history. Originally from Oklahoma, Garrett began performing rope tricks at the age of 14 when he was discovered by Will Rogers. He started traveling with several wild west shows in the early 1900s. He was a headliner act at the Madison Square Garden rodeo, and also an active participant in steer wrestling, steer roping, calf roping, and trick roping competitions. He was world champion trick roper at Cheyenne Frontier Days seven times from 1916-1926. A favorite performer in Hollywood, he starred as a trick roper in over 90 films.
Courtesy National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK
Time Period: 1937 - 1945
Exhibit: Rodeo! The Exhibition
This artifact is currently on view.