Tying-On: Quick-Releases, Horn Knots and Hard-and-Fast

Tying-On: Quick-Releases, Horn Knots and Hard-and-Fast

Decide which option is best for you when tying-on.

roper with rope

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By AQHA Professional Horseman Jay Holmes

Did you miss Part 1 of this series? Read Tying-On: Pros and Cons for Ropers

For a roper who is thinking about tying-on, here’s what Jay had to say on the subject.

Tying-On Options

  • Leather quick-release
    • Made of leather with a brass ring.
    • Can loosen rope even with pressure on.
    • Common to jackpot ropers.
    • Cost: $5-$12

Comments: My wife, Rhonda, uses this quick release. It’s leather with a ring and a slot. You push the ring up through the slot and then push the tail through the ring. When it’s wrapped around a saddle horn, the tail end holds it on the horn. When there’s pressure put on that, it won’t come off the horn. But all you have to do is reach down and pull that tail and it comes loose.

  • Mechanical quick-release
    • Made of metal; mechanical, spring loaded. Brands include Hector Heeler and Easy-Action.
    • Can loosen rope even with pressure on.
    • Common to jackpot ropers.
    • Cost: $50-$65.

Comments: With the Hector Heeler, your rope goes in and around a little pin. It’s spring-loaded, and that holds it together. When you push that knob down, it releases.

This is probably the most used to tie-on and probably the easiest to use, because all you have to do is push down on that metal piece.

  • Horn knot
    • Made of braided leather, nylon, plastic or aluminum.
    • Must have slack to loosen the rope.
    • Used in tie-down roping.
    • Cost: $1-$5.

Comments: With a (quick release), even if there is pressure on the rope, you can get this loose. With a horn knot, you have to ride your horse up so you have slack to loosen it. If you use this to heel, you want to leave a longer tail in the knot so you can use it to pull it off your horn.

There’s nothing wrong with using a horn knot as long as your header knows you have it on your horn. When the steer gets stretched, it can’t go anywhere as long as the header holds it. You can ride up and loosen the rope and take it off.

But if for some reason your header didn’t know you were tied on, and he faces and immediately turns his rope loose, and the steer takes off to the other end of the arena, there’s still pressure on the rope, and you’re stuck. I’ve never seen someone have to cut off a rope, but there’s a heck of a jerk on the heel horse and on the cow.

My daughter, Morgan, uses a horn knot, but the only person I’ll let head for her is me. I take care of the issue of her getting it off that horn.

Rope Length

The ropes that people use to tie-on with are shorter, because you don’t need a 35-foot rope. The only reason we have 35-foot ropes out there is because we miss dallies, and we want another chance at it while that steer is still moving away, and we let that rope slide through our hand.

Normally, if everything goes right and I dally, the other three coils are still in my hand. If something goes wrong and I have to slide more rope to get my dally, then I use the other part of that 35-foot rope. But if everything goes right, this is all the rope I’m going to have out anyway.

So instead of having three coils in your hand when you dally, you have a loop and no coils when you’re tied-on. Exactly how long is by preference, but there should be no more than one coil in your hand.

Never “Hard and Fast”

If you’re out in the pasture, there are a lot of ways to tie-on: You can braid the end of your rope several ways or tie something like a half-hitch in it, tie a knot and pull it down on your saddle horn. But those ways don’t come off the saddle horn.

You only do that when you don’t have any other options. You’re out in the woods or brush, and you need to rope something, and you’re not sure you can dally. You have to tie off the rope hard and fast.

For a competition, it makes no sense – not when these safer options are available.