Tips & Tricks

How to Build a Roping Dummy

Roping is an exciting rodeo event that takes a lot of practice. More than mastering horseback riding, it is also crucial that you know how to properly hold and throw a rope to loop your target. Being an expert in this sport does not happen overnight. As a part of your training, one of the most important is to build a roping dummy.

A calf may not always be available for you to chase. More so, you might not have the luxury of space for the horse and calf to run around, especially if you live in the city. This does not mean that you cannot practice roping! An easy solution is to build a roping dummy, which will function as a makeshift target. This way, you can practice how to throw a rope properly toward your target.

While you can buy a roping dummy, for those who are on a budget, you can make one yourself. It takes a bit of time and requires quite an effort, but this is sure to be a rewarding experience. It is nothing that you cannot handle. Keep on reading and we’ll let you know how to do this right.

A Step-by-Step Guide in Making a Roping Dummy

Ready to start a DIY project for your roping dummy? Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Prepare a PVC pipe and cut four sections in a length of 24 inches. Use a tape measure, making sure that the size is accurate. Once measured, mark using a pencil and cut with a hacksaw. By the time the four sections are ready, you have now prepared the legs of the dummy.
  2. After cutting the would-be legs of the roping dummy, it’s now time to proceed to the body. This time, you will need to cut a 40-inch section of the PVC. You can also make it longer depending on what you are most comfortable with.
  3. With the main body cut, you also need PVC trimmings for the head. You will need a six-inch PVC, which will form the neck. Plus, cut two four-inch PVCs, which will be the mounting point for the dummy’s head. An easy alternative is to use a faux animal head. This is often used as a home décor, but you can incorporate it in front of the dummy so that you don’t have to make a head out of PVC.
  4. After making the PVC cuts, now is the time that you start with the assembly. Work on the rear part of the dummy first. You will need a 3-way PVC coupler. You will insert the main PVC, which acts as the body and connect the two PVCs, which will then function as the rear legs.
  5. In front of the dummy’s body, you will need a 4-way PVC. One of the holes will be for connecting the main body. The other two will be for connecting the front legs. The other one is for the head of the dummy.
  6. By now, you have already formed the main structure or body of the dummy with four legs and a head. Don’t forget to seal the connections. Use epoxy, glue, or similar material. Make sure that the pieces are attached as securely as possible. It is frustrating if your dummy easily breaks down into pieces as soon as you throw a rope on its head.

Make Your Dummy Better

By doing the things above, you will have your roping dummy by now. However, this is nothing but a bare skeleton. If you are practicing, the dummy will help, but there are ways by which you can make it better. Exerting a bit more effort can turn it into a better target, which will help in improving your roping techniques.

Among others, one thing that you can do is to add hay bale. By wrapping the body with bale, you are making it larger compared to a bare PVC. This way, it is more realistic and will give you a better feel of how to catch a calf. If bale is unavailable, you can also wrap it with foam or insulation. Use lightweight materials that the PVC can support. If it is too heavy, the legs may be unable to support such.

Another good thing that you can do is to create a pallet where you can mount the dummy. This does not have to be complicated since you can use a pallet that has already been built. All that you need is to pick one that is large enough to accommodate the size of the dummy you have earlier created. Once there is a pallet, attach the dummy. You can glue or screw it on the pallet. You can also use a rope to tie the dummy. Make sure that it stays in an upright position then connect a rope to the pallet and tie it to a truck or whatever vehicle that can pull the dummy. Have someone run the truck over a vast open area and chase the dummy. This will give you a feel of how it is like chasing a calf while you are holding a rope.


If you want to get started learning the ropes of roping, one of the best things to do is to build a dummy. This will let you simulate your target, allowing you to practice even without having to chase a real calf. All that you need is several pieces of PVC and you can create the skeleton of the dummy. To make it bigger to simulate the size of a calf, then you can cover it in hay bale. You can also mount it on a pallet and let it be towed by a car. Once the car runs, chase the dummy as you would when it comes to a real roping event.

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