558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Learning the ropes
Prineville City Manager is taking time to learn how to be a rodeo heeler
Steve Forrester (left) practices on the Heel-o-matic with his son, Chad.
February 18, 2013
Some dads bond with their sons through sports, hunting, or fishing, and while Steve Forrester may do some of those things, he is going outside his comfort zone.
Forrester, Prineville City Manager, is learning how to team rope with his 14-year-old son, Chad.
“My youngest son, Chad, started high school rodeo last year and has been team roping for two or three years now. He’s been working with his horsemanship for about four years. So, I’ve been working with him,” Forrester explained.
“I’ve never roped before in my life. I always had motorcycles, always had snowmobiles, but never rode horses,” he added.
Team roping consists of two people on horseback who try to rope a running steer at break-neck speeds.
One rider, called the header, ropes the head then the other one, the heeler, ropes the back heels of the steer together.
Forrester is practicing to be the heeler.
Although, always involved in farming and other agricultural activities, Forrester has not done much horseback riding, so this is a new skill set for him.
Luckily, he has a good pool of professional people ready, willing, and able to show him the ropes.
“About two years ago, I bought a horse. Chad has a trained horse and I bought a colt. I’ve been working with Jerry (Honk) McBeth, who we got both horses from and who has helped Chad and I with our process.
“Honk is an excellent horseman — he’s been around horses all his life. He’s done a miraculous job helping both Chad and I in both horsemanship and roping,” he said.
The Forresters have also had a lot of help from Hank Simmons, Patti Lane, from Prineville Men’s Wear, Brandon and Joe Beers, and Kenny McBeth, Honk’s brother, has done some coaching as well.
To make things convenient for practice, Kenny McBeth built a large arena on the Forrester’s property.
“I’ve been working on my horsemanship, so I can ride good enough to ride and throw a rope. To this point, I’ve been spending a lot of time with a practice dummy and rope,” Forrester said.
He explained that from horseback he ropes a moving dummy called a Heel-O-Matic, which is pulled by a pick-up or 4-wheeler while he ropes the heels.
“I can do that pretty good, but I have yet to catch in live action a steer, but I’m getting really close,” he said.
Chad said, “It’s good for him to learn something new.”
The biggest challenge for Forrester is to keep his balance and be in sync with the horse. Although he is an accomplished motorcyclist, it’s very different with a live animal.
“With a horse, you’re throwing another set of variables in there. Just moving with the horse, you know, quick stops, quick turns, and quick starts, and being able to anticipate the movement of the horse so you stay in balance with the horse is the hardest thing for me,” Forrester said.
He explained that it is very difficult to gain all the skills of not only moving with the horse at full speed, but also rating with the steer, while turning and catching the steer’s heels with the rope.
In the not-too-distant future, the Forrester team will get a chance to test their skills in front of an audience of peers at the Paulina Rodeo.
He and his wife have some property in the vicinity of Paulina so they are eligible to participate in the Paulina Rodeo.
“So, the goal that I have this year is for Chad and I to be in the rodeo,” he said.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m kind of a gear head. I’ve dragged-raced boats and still have a drag boat. I enjoy cars and have some hot-rod cars, so I like speed and for me you can get your horse in a box and it’s excited and it’s slipping forward to chasing that steer, so for me it’s almost like drag racing. You’re drag-racing a steer. It’s really a thrill.
“I also equate it to golf, because you’re managing so many variables when you’re roping. You’re managing a horse, you’re managing a rope, your timing with the steer. Not unlike golf where you have different terrain, you have different clubs you can use. You might be in the rough, you might be in the fairway. You might be in the sand, you might have a water hazard,” he explained.
Paulina Rodeo is a two-day (Sat. and Sun.) amateur event held in Paulina, Ore. on Labor Day Weekend every year.