Roping action at the 2013 Spanish Trail Classic [Photo courtesy of Horse Tales Photography]

More than 1,500 cowboys will gather on Saturday and Sunday, May 3 and 4, at the Old Spanish Trail Arena for the annual team roping competition the Spanish Trail Classic.

The Spanish Trail Classic, which has taken place in Moab since 1995, is a team roping event produced by the United States Team Roping Championships (USTRC). The USTRC is a national organization that hosts numerous team roping events throughout the year across the country.

“Much in the same way as golf and the PGA, the USTRC a national organization that produces events and keeps track of team ropers handicaps,” said Ben Clements, the editor for SuperLooper Magazine.

Clements said the USTRC produces hundreds of roping events each year.

“The USTRC holds about 90 sanctioned events each year, 400 affiliated events, seven region finals, and one national finals event,” Clements said.

The USTRC National Finals of Team Roping will take place Oct. 25 through Nov. 2, at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City. Teams qualify for the event by participating in affiliated events like the Spanish Trail Classic.

“The finals will be nine days of non-stop roping action,” Clements said.

In team roping, also known as heading and heeling, two ropers on horses work together to bring down a steer.

“Team roping is a rodeo sport that was developed from the olden days when cowboys had to doctor cows too large to handle for one person,” Clements said. “There is one header and one heeler. The header member ropes around the horns and the other (heeler) comes in and ropes the steer around the back feet.”

The ropers work as quickly as they can to rope the steer, and the teams with the fastest times win. There are time penalties for teams that cross the starting barrier too early and if the heeler manages to rope only one hind leg.

Besides winning cash, the USTRC also hands out prizes for the winners. The Spanish Trail Classic will award two trophy cowboy gold saddles, 31 trophy gist buckles, and four trophy gist knives. The event includes nine different divisions, and awards will be given to winners in each of those divisions.

Heavy Sursa, a team roper from Bluebell, Utah, who won the Spanish Trail Classic in 1998, said he travels to USTRC events all over the country and attends the Moab event each year.

“Roping is just a good, competitive sport where you can win some money and be around good friends,” Sursa said. “Moab is a short drive and it’s usually good roping and good weather. They also have a good facility.”

Clements said the Spanish Trail Classic draws between 600 and 1,000 roping teams, with riders coming from Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, Arkansas, Washington and Texas. Riders pay a $120 entry fee for each division they compete in, and registration for the event takes place on-site at the event.

“Anyone is allowed to enter,” he said. “They just have to be a member of USTRC.”

Riders can register to be a member of the USTRC at the event.

Team roping will start at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 3, with the upper amateur and professionals divisions. At noon on Saturday there will also be a Junior Looper event, with teams being broken into divisions by age. The action will continue Sunday, May 4 at 9 a.m. Both days are expected to last until around 8 p.m.

Admission for spectators is free and there will be concessions and vendors on site.

More information about the event is available at the USTRC website:

Spanish Trail Classic team roping competition takes place this weekend

Where: Old Spanish Trail Arena, 3641 S. Hwy 191

When:Saturday, May 3, and Sunday, May 4, beginning at 9 a.m.

Cost: Spectator Admission Free


“Roping is just a good, competitive sport where you can win some money and be around good friends. Moab is a short drive and it’s usually good roping and good weather. They also have a good facility.”