Rough Stock Horses
Tie Down Roping
Animal welfare, which is caring for and meeting an animal's needs, is practiced as a matter of course in the sport of rodeo. We respect, admire, and want to take care of the animals that are so important to our way of life.
It's obvious that rodeo is not taxing for the huge, powerful bulls that toss cowboys around like rag dolls, but some people may wonder if roping is hard on calves. A calf has more than tripled its weight when it is first roped, which is at about 200 pounds on the Senior Pro Rodeo tour, and is a strong animal. It takes the special roping and handling skills exhibited by the rodeo cowboy to manage the strength of a calf whose instinct is to flee or fight rather than cuddle.
The roping contest is an extension of the necessary skills developed by ranch cowboys on the open range over the last 200 years, to help with doctoring, etc., without benefit of pens and corrals. The muscular structure of a calf and its hairy, thick hide allows prudent roping without harm. As is observed, immediately upon removal of the rope, calves trot out of the arena in a most unconcerned manner. Calves, who soon outgrow weight limits for the event, then fulfill the same purpose they would have in the dairy or beef industry, after their brief stint in the rodeo arena.
Bull riding has become rodeo's most popular contest. It is not related to any ranch task, but looking at it from the standpoint of the animals, bull riding serves the bull population. More female cattle than male cattle are required in both dairy operations and the building of beef herds. More male cattle are born than are needed for breeding purposes. Rather than send some of those male cattle to the beef packers, rodeo adds years to their lives. Injury to animals is infrequent with rates documented at a small part of 1%. The use of horses and bulls in rodeo is so undemanding that they stay healthy and perform well for many years. It is not unusual for a bucking horse to be kicking up its heels in fine fashion over the age of 25 and many bulls are still active buckers at 15 years of age. Veterinarians attribute it to the good care they receive which includes quality feed and adequate exercise. Rodeo associations throughout the country have rules that dictate how contests will be conducted and animals will be handled. The first rules for the humane care and treatment of rodeo animals were established by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) in 1947, seven years prior to the founding of the Humane Society of the United States. The average bucking horse or bull works less than five minutes per year in the arena.
Human skin is 1mm-2mm thick, horse hide is 5mm thick, and bull hide is 7mm thick, so, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the spurring action produced by blunt rodeo spurs is not harmful to our animal athletes. The flank strap is fleece-lined in the flank area, which can be compared to the waist of a human. The straps do NOT cover genitalia or cause pain. If the strap were tightened too tightly, the animal would refuse to move, much less buck.
Spurs used by bareback and saddle bronc riders are dull and blunt with free-rolling rowels so that their showy style of leg movement is not harmful to the horse. The rowel, which is the star-shaped wheel on a spur, is loosely locked in bull riding to allow the cowboy a better hold on the loose-hided animals.
An important tool in a livestock operation is the cattle prod. Since large, untrained animals do not reliably respond to voice or hand signals, an effective device is needed for the safety of both people and animals. A veterinarian developed the electric prod powered by size "C" flashlight batteries as a safe alternative to instruments which can poke and bruise. The prod gives a minor surprise shock, much like a dog training collar, without any ill effects.
Each year, the contestants of the National Senior Pro Rodeo Association honor the best performing horses and bulls in the rough stock events - bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding. The athletic ability of these honest animals to consistently turn in a good performance is greatly admired, along with the beauty of their efforts. Awards are also given to the owners of the best trained horses ridden by the timed event competitors. The performance of rodeo animals is a matter of pride to the owners and riders and stock contractors. The reputation of the best animal athletes, like the famous bucking horse Trails End or the bull Tornado, live on in our memories and in legend long after the animals are retired.
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