angle-left Picking a Rope Horse Prospect

Picking a Rope Horse Prospect

Finding the right rope horse prospect starts with good conformation.
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I have a very stout, big-boned American Quarter Horse. Whenever I take him anywhere, people ask me if I rope on him. I don't – we just trail ride – but what is it about him that makes him look like a rope horse? What do ropers look for in a horse?


Roping is a little bit different from other equine disciplines. It’s only natural that picking a rope horse prospect would be a little different, too.

Some horse disciplines start searching for prospects when they’re weanlings or yearlings. If you’re considering a roping prospect, you might be looking for a 6- or 7-year-old horse. We like to say that rope horses earn their money in the second 10 years of their life. If you look at horses that are used by the top ropers at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, those horses are about 15 or 16 years old. So there’s no need to rush getting a roping prospect ready. We can take our time and make the horse as good as he can be, and a horse is going to be 6 or 7 before he completely matures.

For me, the two most important qualities a rope horse needs are good conformation and good basics. I want a horse that’s broke, and I want a horse that’s built to do the job of roping. When a client backs his horse out of a trailer, I can tell right away whether that horse is going to be a star or a weekend jackpot horse. It’s important for an amateur to be as well-mounted as possible. Open riders should be able to get by on less-talented horses, but amateurs need the best horse they can find. That starts with conformation.

-- AQHA Professional Horseman Doug Clark of Wayne, Oklahoma

*AQHA and the provider of this information are not liable for the inherent risks of equine activities. We always recommend consulting a qualified veterinarian and/or an AQHA Professional Horseman.