Last Updated on February 20, 2023
If you are new to roping, learning how to break in a lasso is a vital skill that will transform the way you use your rope. While you may practice using a friend’s rope when you get one of your own you’ll want to make sure it is set up exactly as you need it. Taking the time to break in a lasso can transform your rope and greatly improve your skill when it comes to roping.
Lasso ropes, also called lariat, often need to be softened when you first get them. This process involves several stages and is vital to ensure your new rope is perfect in every way. Although ropes do need a certain level of stiffness, they can be difficult to use if they are too stiff and inflexible.
Older lasso ropes can also become stiff and difficult to use. This is a particular problem if your lariat is exposed to extreme weather, such as rain or hot sun, or is not used very often.
So, whether you’ve got a brand new lariat, or are trying to breathe new life into an old lasso rope, learning how to break in a lasso is a skill every wannabe cowboy or cowgirl should have. Let’s find out more!
Are Lasso Ropes Stiff?
When learning how to break in a lasso, the key is knowing exactly what a well-maintained rope should feel and look like. One of the first things a cowhand will try out is the stiffness of the rope.
It is this stiffness that enables a rope to be thrown a considerable distance, with the loop remaining open enough to secure the object or animal being roped. A more flexible rope can still be thrown, but the lariat loop will not hold its shape as well.
The level of stiffness or flexibility of the rope will also depend on what it is intended to be used for. For example, heel rope stiffness is normally very different from the flexibility of a head rope. A head rope should be relatively stiff, enabling a large loop to be thrown across the arena. Heel ropes are more flexible, for they are thrown under the legs of the animal.
What makes a lasso rope stiff
The stiffness or flexibility of a lariat rope will depend on how it was made, and also how it has been maintained. A rope with dense twisted fibers will be much stiffer than one with a loose structure.
Most lariat ropes are very stiff when first taken out of the packaging, and in this state, they are not suitable for roping activities. However, by learning how to break in a lasso, you can quickly turn your new rope into the ultimate cowhand accessory!
How to Break in a Lasso or Lariat Rope
Whether you are working cattle, competing in a roping competition, or performing trick roping, you want to make sure your rope is supple and durable. When you first get a lasso rope, it will likely need to be broken in. They are often not comfortable to use when you first get a new one.
To successfully use your lasso rope, you need to be comfortable and confident using it. A rope that isn’t softened to the right amount will often be annoying to use. However, with the right steps, you can get your rope ready to use in no time.
Test out your rope
When you first get a new rope, you want to test it out to get a feel for it. Some ropes will be stiffer than others when you first get them. By trying it out when it first comes, you can determine how much softening it will need.
Take a few practice throws, and note how stiff or flexible the rope is. If you find it difficult to coil and throw smoothly, it may need some stretching to improve your flexibility.
Stretch your rope out to improve flexibility
If your lasso rope is feeling stiff, stretching it out is key to improving its flexibility. Once it has stretched out some, it will be much easier to use.
There are several ways you can stretch out your rope. One common way is to tie the lariat to a sturdy post and your saddle horn. Carefully back up your horse until the rope is stretched tight and have your horse stand still for a few minutes. It will likely take a few sessions to get it nice and flexible.
Remember not to overdo it when stretching a new rope – it will improve in terms of flexibility as you use it. It is always easy to make a rope more flexible, but far more difficult to put much-needed stiffness back into it!
Coat the rope with powder
Have you ever seen a ranch hand in the store buying baby powder or talcum powder? They were most likely buying it to use on their new lariat ropes!
Coating the rope in baby powder smooths the outer surface, improving the slip of the rope. This enables the honda knot to slide smoothly along the rope and also improves the way the rope glides through your hand.
Liberally apply baby powder to the rope, and rub it in thoroughly with your hands. Ensure the powder is worked thoroughly into all the nooks and crannies of your rope.
Use your rope regularly
It is important to use your lasso rope regularly to keep it soft and supple. If your lasso is sitting around and not getting used, it will quickly become stiff and difficult to use.
So, even if you’re not planning on saddling up for a while, take your rope out regularly for a few practice throws.
Properly store your rope
Keeping your lariat properly stored is key to keeping it softened. After using your rope, be sure to wipe off any mud or dirt. Once it is cleaned, apply more powder to it before storing it.
You can purchase rope bags to safely store your lasso. They will keep them clean and away from the elements.
What’s The Difference Between a Lasso and a Rope?
Whilst lassos are made from rope, not all ropes are lassos! Strictly speaking, the term rope is used to describe a single piece of thick, intertwined string, while a lasso is a rope that has been tied to create a sliding loop at one end.
In western riding circles, the terms lasso and rope are also used to describe how a piece of rope is used. Traditionally, the sliding loop of a lasso is used to catch animals. This is achieved by tossing the loop over the head of the animal, where it will tighten around the neck.
Roping is another technique used to catch animals, and this is now a popular spectacle at western riding displays. The same lassoing technique is used to catch young cattle, but they are then tied up and restrained using the same rope.
On a working ranch, you may find it hard to tell the difference between a lasso and a rope, and many ranchers will use one rope for all jobs. You may also find that everyone has their favorite rope, so make sure to ask before borrowing a rope or lasso!
How Long is a Lasso Rope?
The standard length for a lasso rope is between 60 and 100 feet long. The rope needs to be long enough to fulfill the job it is intended for, but not so long that it becomes unwieldy and difficult to manage. A lasso rope that is too long will be more of a hindrance than a help and could be hazardous if it becomes entangled.
There are other types of ropes used in western riding, and these come in different lengths. A standard head rope is around 30 feet in length, making it a good choice for a beginner rider to practice with.
How Do I Choose a Lasso Rope?
Choosing your first lasso rope is a serious business! The wrong type of rope will seriously hinder your attempts at roping and may be so difficult that you are unable to use it at all. Some of the heavier, stiffer ropes are only suitable for use by experienced riders and should be avoided when you are learning to rope.
A full-size lasso rope can be too much for a novice to handle, so a good option is to go for a half-length head rope instead. When it comes to the material your rope is made from, there are myriad options to choose from. The aim is to get a rope that is soft and sits easily in your hand, and you may need to try a few to find this.
If you have been practicing roping using a friend’s equipment, it is a good idea to ask them what they use and their preferences in terms of a lasso rope. This will help you narrow down the choice and find the perfect rope for you.
How to Tie a Knot at The End of a Lariat Rope?
The knot tied at the end of a lasso or lariat rope is called a honda knot, bowstring knot, or lariat loop. The aim is to create a loop through which the end of the rope can slide easily; this forms the larger lasso loop used to capture animals.
To tie a honda knot, two separate standard knots are loosely formed towards the end of the rope. The knot nearest the end of the rope is pulled tight, then the end of the rope and the tightened knot are passed through the loop of the first knot. The second knot is then pulled tight, leaving a loop of rope held securely between the two knots.
The free end of your rope can then be passed through this loop, forming a larger sliding loop – the classic lasso. If your honda loop is too tight, the two knots were placed too close together, and vice versa.
How to Clean a Lariat Rope?
The method used to clean a lariat rope will depend on the type of material it is made from. Some types of rope are machine washable and can be laundered in this way. Others may shrink or become misshapen if exposed to hot water.
Keeping your rope in good condition is key to keeping it in good condition, and will help your rope last for a long time. Poorly cared-for ropes can become weakened or start to fray, causing them to snap. This could put you and your horse in a difficult or dangerous situation with a risk of injury.
If you do choose to wash your lariat rope, make sure it is completely dry before storing it away. Packing a damp rope in a roping bag will cause it to develop kinks and bulges that mean the loop no longer runs smoothly along the rope.
Summary – How to Break in a Lasso
So, as we have learned, a good lariat or lasso rope needs regular maintenance, and this includes breaking it in properly when you first use it. New lariat ropes tend to be very stiff, but with the proper stretching, powder, use, and storage, you can soften your lasso rope. A lasso rope that has been softened is much easier to use than a new stiff one.
We would love to hear your thoughts on how to break in a lasso! Leave a comment below with any questions, and we will get back to you!