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Next: Butterfly Tricks Up: The Lasso Previous: The Vertical Loop


There are three fundamental tricks to trick roping of which the Flat Loop and the Vertical Loop are the first two. The third fundamental trick is called the Butterfly.

I first tried to learn the Butterfly from Frank Dean's book. I read and reread the description, however, my efforts were rewarded with very little success. In the end I doubted that the trick was physically possible. I'm usually a little skeptical about what I read in books and it seemed to me that making a small loop spin vertically in the air with what seemed like no reasonable source of support made me suspicious.

Fortunately, and quite coincidentally, a small rodeo was passing through the Boston area at about the time that I was trying to learn the Butterfly. Let's face it, the rodeo is not a part of New England culture. In any case I had never heard of one passing through before. Excited, I headed off to the rodeo hoping to see how the lasso was used to catch livestock. After some time in the grandstands watching the calf and steer roping I left the stands to have a walk around and during this promenade I almost fell over with amazement when I saw a small boy behind one of the cattle pens doing a Butterfly just as nonchalantly as you please.

I spent the rest of the weekend and a good part of the ensuing week working on the Butterfly. Within five or six days I was able to keep it going back and forth 20 or 30 times but were my elbow and wrist sore!

The Butterfly is by far the most difficult of the three fundamental roping tricks, however, it is also the most important. You can't really consider yourself an accomplished trick roper until you master the Butterfly. You'll have a difficult time with it but in the end, after having mastered it, it will be one of the most appreciated and versatile tricks in your repertoire. Many beautiful lasso tricks such as bounces, rolls, and catches are based on the Butterfly and it has the agreeable feature that the spoke requires no untwisting as does the Flat Loop. The twists work themselves out automatically.

The Butterfly looks a little like a miniature vertical loop passed from one side of the body to the other, however, the resemblance ends there. The technique of spinning the Butterfly is completely different from that of the vertical loop. If the reader carefully follows the ensuing sequence of explanations (admittedly rather tedious), the task of learning the Butterfly should be facilitated.

The Butterfly is difficult to describe because it is a complex trick. Consequently, the following description is made in three parts. The first part of the description gives the path of the loop and the number turns required at each position in the path. This is followed by a detailed description of the honda, hand, and spoke positions for each position of the loop. These first two parts of the Butterfly description map out the geometry of the trick, however, the third and final part of the description explains how to make the Butterfly work from the point of view of the rational principles of the trick. This is probably the most important part of the description.


4.1 Flight Path of a Butterfly

The Butterfly is made with a small loop, 2 to 3 feet in diameter, which is spun in the vertical plane and which is repeatedly passed from the right side of the roper to the left, and then back again. It is the repeated back and forth passage of the Butterfly loop which makes the untwisting of the spoke unnecessary. Each twist that is put into the spoke on one side of the roper is untwisted when the loop is passed to the other side.

To get the  starting configuration of the Butterfly coil up the rope into the left hand and then open up a small loop two to three feet in diameter with the right hand. The Butterfly loop is held by the right hand in a manner similar to that shown in Figure 1.3. The length of the spoke between the honda and the right hand is a little less than a fourth of the circumference of the loop. There is a length of spoke between the right and left hands and the left hand does not grasp the loop since it is holding the excess coiled up spoke.

A single Butterfly sequence consists of four complete turns of the loop. Figure 4.1 shows the path of the honda for three of these turns. Referring to Figure 4.1 the first turn is made on

Figure 4.1: Flight(-Path) of a Butterfly

the left side of the body in the clockwise direction. At the end of the first turn the loop is pulled from the left to the right side of the body making exactly one turn in the process and thus constituting the second turn of the Butterfly. The third turn is made on the right side of the roper's body. The loop still turns in the same direction, however, from the roper's point of view the loop is now turning in the counter-clockwise direction. The fourth and final turn of the Butterfly sequence is made by pulling the loop back to the left side of the body (not shown in Figure 4.1). At this point the Butterfly sequence is completed and can be continued by repeating the preceding steps.


4.2 Morphology of a Butterfly

The preceding description is an outline of the Butterfly's path. The details of the positions of the honda, hand, and spoke are now given turn by turn. The first turn of the Butterfly, made on the left side of the roper, is begun with the honda at 12 o'clock and the hand at 3 o'clock.   The loop turns through a complete circle on the left side of the roper all the while the hand and the honda obeying the quarter circle phase advance described in Section 1.4.

When the hand gets to 12 o'clock on the hand path circle it begins to pull the spoke, and thus the loop, towards the right side of the roper. Because of a slight delay between the time when the hand pulls and the time when the loop starts to move the loop begins moving to the right when the honda is at 12 o'clock. This is the start of the loop's second turn. As the loop is making its second turn the honda must go through 6 o'clock at the half way point between the left and right sides (see Figure 4.1). The hand and the spoke are still on the right side of the loop until the honda gets to 6 o'clock. As the honda spins up from 6 o'clock to 9 o'clock the hand and the spoke are passed just outside the loop so that the loop can pass from the left to right side which then positions the hand and the spoke on the left side of the loop. The loop arrives at the right side of the roper at the same time that the honda reaches 12 o'clock thus completing its second turn.

The loop now makes its third turn on the right side of the roper turning in the counter-clockwise sense from the roper's point of view. As before, the hand must always be a quarter circle ahead of the honda.  

When the hand reaches 12 o'clock it begins to pull the spoke and thus the loop back to the left. The fourth and final turn of the loop is made while passing the loop from right to left. This pass is identical to the pass from left to right except that now the hand and the spoke are passed from the left to the right side of the loop while the honda is spinning up from 6 o'clock to 3 o'clock.


4.3 A Rational Basis for the Butterfly

Up to this point the geometrical aspects of the Butterfly have been described: the positions of the loop, honda, spoke, and hand have been given for the entire Butterfly trajectory. However, the most essential element for succeeding with the Butterfly depends on the correct application of the spin-acceleration technique described in Section 1.7.    As has already been explained, the Butterfly loop is pulled from side to side. Since pulling on the spoke acts to diminish the size of the loop a counter-acting force must be applied to prevent the loop from closing. This is done using the spin-acceleration technique: as the loop is pulled its rotational speed is accelerated which increases the tension in the loop. This increased tension counter-acts the loop closing force coming from the pull on the spoke.

Since the roper starts to pull the loop when the hand is at 12 o'clock the spin of the loop must be accelerated at the same time. The acceleration continues up to the point where the honda passes through the 6 o'clock position which is the point at which the hand and the spoke pass to the other side of the loop. At this point the hand no longer accelerates the loop allowing the loop to finish its passage to the right side of the roper.

The loop then performs its third turn in the normal way before the hand pulls the loop from the right to left side of the roper. In this fourth turn the loop must again be spin accelerated as in the passage of the loop during the second turn from the left to right.

In the second and fourth turns the amount of spin acceleration necessary to counteract the force of the pull can only be determined by experimentation. You must learn how to feel the correct balance. However, you can observe the behavior of the loop to determine whether the spin acceleration is working correctly or not. If the loop diameter is shrinking it's because there is not enough spin acceleration or because the quarter circle phase advance is not being correctly applied. If the loop diameter grows it is because you are overpowering by using too much spin acceleration.

To summarize, a full Butterfly sequence is started as follows. The roper forms a loop of about 3 feet in diameter coiling up the excess spoke into the left hand. The first turn of the loop is made on the left side of the roper in the clockwise sense by giving the loop a good parting spin while releasing it. After the release of the rope the loop is not really spun. The loop kind of turns under the force of its initial rotation. Nevertheless the hand obeys the quarter circle phase advance technique.

At the end of the first turn the loop is pulled to the right while simultaneously applying spin acceleration. The pull and spin acceleration are discontinued when the loop gets half way across from left to right. At this point the hand and spoke pass to the left side of the loop while the loop continues its path to the right side of the roper. During this whole sequence the hand continues to maintain a quarter circle phase advance on the honda.

For the third turn of the loop the hand allows the loop to turn under the force imparted to it during the spin acceleration from the left to right sides being careful, nevertheless, to maintain the correct hand-honda phase advance.

Finally, for the fourth turn the loop is pulled and accelerated from the right to the left executing all the elements of the second turn but in the reverse direction. Overall the Butterfly gives a cyclic sensation of tension and relaxation where the tension refers to the spin acceleration phase in the second and fourth turns and the relaxation to the first and third turns. If the loop diameter changes during the Butterfly the balance between pull, spin acceleration, and relaxation must be adjusted to counteract the change.

The beginning roper is bound to have problems mastering the Butterfly. Integrating together all the components is tougher than roundin' up a herd of cattle. It may be helpful to simplify things by practicing one aspect of the Butterfly at a time. This can be done by learning the path and hand positions separately from the spin acceleration part. One way of doing this is by fixing the position of the honda so that it can no longer slide freely. This will allow you to practice the hand path of the Butterfly without having to simultaneously apply the correct spin acceleration.

Figure 4.2: Training Wheels for Learning the Butterfly

A quick method for fixing the honda is illustrated in Figure 4.2. Note that the spoke has been knotted with the non-honda side of the loop. This prevents the honda from moving and, consequently, keeps the loop diameter constant. The problem with this method is that the knot adds quite a bit of additional weight to the honda which changes the dynamics of the Butterfly. With a little more work you can fix the honda by sewing it to a single position with cooking string. In either case you'll have to practice with a normal lasso sooner or later. I don't recommend fiddling with a rigged lasso too long because you'll just feel dependent on it later.

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next up previous contents index
Next: Butterfly Tricks Up: The Lasso Previous: The Vertical Loop

Carey Bunks
Mon Jul 8, 1996