On a good run, the tie is what wins or loses you money. Shane Hanchey breaks it down.
This photo of me was taken a few summers back in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I was there for the Pike’s Peak or Bust Rodeo CINCH Shoot Out. I was in T-shirt and jeans in 100-degree-weather helping the other tie-down ropers prepare calves six or seven hours before the rodeo.
Preparing calves is an important part of what we tie-down ropers do. Sometimes a calf just needs a refresher to remember what’s it’s like to be flanked and tied. If it’s never been roped before, we might need to tie it two or three times. The calves should be as comfortable as possible when the rodeo starts. You don’t want the crowd seeing a kicking calf and thinking we’re choking the animal or anything like that.
Too many times, especially at the bigger rodeos, the producers don’t understand the importance of preparing the calves. They don’t consider how much we care for calves on a daily basis. This is what we do for a living. We study calves, rope calves, tie calves. When we prepare calves, we’re doing it for the wellness of the animals and so we can have a nice, smooth rodeo.
All my piggin’ strings come from Willard Rope Co., based in Rockdale, Texas. They’ve been big supporters of me and my roping schools since 2009, my rookie year. Their product is consistent and always top quality. I prefer a quarter-inch medium-hard piggin’ string. Near the end of 2013, I was having trouble keeping calves tied so I tried the quarter-inch medium. That December, I won the World Title. I retired that string, and now it’s hanging in my trophy room. After that I went back to the medium-hard. It just feels like the right fit.
I probably go through fifty or more piggin’ strings in a year. I’m kind of superstitious, so if I find a string that I end up liking, I usually stick with it for a while.
On a good run, the tie is what wins or loses you money. After you flank the calf, you start your tie by stringing one leg. That’s what we call stepping across. You get in the tying position. You gather the calf’s legs. In this picture, my right leg’s up and I’m finishing my tie—about to get my hooey.
The hooey is a half hitch around the top two legs to secure your tie. My standard tie is two wraps and a hooey. If I know I need to beat a fast time, I’ll go with one wrap and a hooey. It’s faster but not as secure. For the run to count, the calf’s gotta stay tied for six seconds. If you get a kicker, one wrap and a hooey might not hold.
My brother, Jason, initially taught me how to string and gather and get my wraps and get my hooey. I was three or four years old when I first started. I had a little tying dummy, and I practiced all the time, getting faster and faster. My mom says after I learned to tie my shoes, I’d throw my hands up like I’d just won a gold buckle. Before long, I was watching VHS tapes of the National Finals Rodeo, trying to emulate my heroes. Cody Ohl, for one. He seemed so much faster than anybody else in the arena. Him and Shawn McMullen, who passed away in 1996. I looked up to Shawn a lot. His tying position was so fundamentally correct.
In 2012, I got to rodeo with Cody. He could tell I had been studying how he tied. I remember one time that summer, when I was having a hard time squaring up with my horse. Cody’s hips were bothering him. He said, “Hey, if you slide-step with your right foot, it will take a lot of pressure off of your hips. When you rotate over and get in the tying position, you’re already there.” It puts you in a better position to run your string. That’s something I work on to this day.
I still practice all the time. All tie-down ropers do. During a rodeo, you’ll see us tying our hands out of habit. It helps you visualize the process. Two wraps and a hooey. Over and over and over.