Turlock may be stealing — or at least borrowing — Oakdale’s title as Cowboy Capital of the World this week as thousands of ropers are set to compete in the American Cowboy Team Roping Association’s State Finals held at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds.
Turlock was picked to host the four-day event because of its central location, said ACTRA vice president and local businessman Duane Green.
“This event will bring in about 2,000 cowboys and their families,” he said.
Team roping originated on ranches and was used to capture and restrain animals that were too big for one person to handle. Today the popular rodeo event is enjoyed by city folk and farmers alike.
In fact, Green said that only 10 to 15 percent of ACTRA’s members are working cowboys. Some of the members are professionals — business owners, doctors, lawyers — who rope for fun, and many others are people who just enjoy horses, rodeo and roping.
Team roping requires close cooperation and timing between two highly skilled ropers — a header and a heeler — and their horses. The header ropes first and must make one of three legal catches on the steer around both horns, around one horn and the head or around the neck. Any other catch by the header is considered illegal and the team is disqualified.
After the header makes his catch, he turns the steer to the left and exposes the steer's hind legs to the heeler. The heeler then attempts to rope both hind legs. After the cowboys catch the steer, the clock is stopped. The team that ropes four steers the fastest wins.
Team roping is also the only rodeo event where men and women compete equally together.
Turlock business owner Red St. Clair has been roping for 45 years. He will be one of the approximately 200 local cowboys and cowgirls competing in the state finals.
“I’m real competitive,” St. Clair said. “It’s a great accomplishment when you get the four fastest steers. It takes a lot of practice and a really, really good horse.”
St. Clair said that it’s not about winning prize money — although, the state finals event will give out over $200,000 in prizes to winning participants.
“There are the awards, buckles and saddles, but I look forward to sitting in my rocking chair and thinking about the good times,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of nice people through roping in California, Nevada and Arizona.”
In preparation for this week’s roping finals, the ACTRA built an additional roping arena at the fairgrounds and brought in 300 horse stalls. These improvements will remain at the fairgrounds even after the event and will be available for rental use.
The ACTRA California Finals event is free and open to the public. Roping action can be seen from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday; and from 9 a.m. until the end of competition on Sunday. The Stanislaus County Fairgrounds are located at 900 N. Broadway, Turlock.
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