Consider Heading and Heeling

Posted in: Featured, Horse Training, Ranch Life

Many brandings in our part of the country, eastern Wyoming, western South Dakota, and western Nebraska, are host to hind-feet roping and drag brandings. Once calves are roped and dragged to the fire, they are secured via nord-fork, a crew of wrestlers, or a front-foot roped staked into the ground.Wyatt Van Eaton

Here’s one simple reason why you should head and heel at your next branding: folks come to brandings to rope.

Wrestling involves one horse and two humans to man the cattle, then one to two more to vaccinate and brand. Heading and heeling requires two cowboys and one to two ground men to set ropes and brand and vaccinate. You may claim this goes slower, however, when you have all your men on their horses and only a few to ground crew, you can move some calves through.

This method saves your man-power and uses your available horsepower. Your horses wrestle with the calf if they fight the ropes, not the arms and legs of your wrestlers. You also have the opportunity to throw a variety of roping shots and get handier from different angles.

Heading and heeling gives more chance to better horses, especially the fairly young ones who need more time on the end of a rope, because, on average, more ropes are swung, due to roping two ends of the calf instead of one. It can sometimes be easier on saddle horses because they don’t have to drag calves so far and are often worked where they’re roped. If they’re too far away, a calf can easily be dragged by the heels.

This method of roping requires room, but don’t most ranches have wide-open spaces? Setting up pens a little differently allows for heading and heeling to happen versus dragging.

It is easy to keep a few cows in the calf herd and still neck rope calves, keeping calves more at ease.

Even if you keep doing things the way they work for you, whether wrestling or nord-fork, consider heading and heeling near the end of your branding or for big calves. Those last few hard-to-catch calves or big ones that are tough on tired horses to drag to the fire can easily be necked then heeled. While you’re at it, try a new head shot or a hip shot!

Posted in: Featured, Horse Training, Ranch Life


About Savanna Simmons

I'm Savanna Simmons and I live north of Lusk, Wyoming, on the Four Three Ranch with my husband Boe and our sons, Brindle and Roan. I grew up evolving my horsemanship with clinicians like Ray Hunt, Joe Wolter, and Jack Brainard, but not within a...

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