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Horse Abuse Documented at Rodeo

Photo credit rodeocruelty.com
Photo credit rodeocruelty.com

Horses were roped by the legs, dragged by the neck and thrown to the ground in a practice called horse tripping at a recent rodeo in Jordan Valley, Ore., and one bucking horse broke its leg. A graphic video of the events from the May 19-20 Big Loop Rodeo was posted on YouTube by the animal advocacy group SHowing Animals Respect & Kindness (SHARK). 

According to SHARK the rodeo’s sponsors include Les Schwab Tire Centers. The Les Schwab Facebook page is full of angry comments from customers. The company tells EW it reviews its sponsorships annually and has no comment at this time.

Horse roping is the Big Loop Rodeo’s signature event.

SHARK says on its YouTube page that it has not received a response from the Big Loop Rodeo to the video and criticism. 

Scott Beckstead, Oregon senior state director of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), had previously videoed these events at the Big Loop Rodeo in 2008, and he says it prompted him to introduce a bill to the 2011 Oregon Legislature that would ban horse tripping in the state. The bill didn’t succeed “in part because people were saying this doesn’t happen in Oregon anymore.” 

 In 2011 the horses were roped by the neck but not the legs at Big Loop, and Beckstead says, “We thought maybe our effort to introduce the bill got them to stop tripping.”

In a press release after the anti-horse tripping bill was killed in committee, Dave Duquette of United Horsemen said, “No rodeo event in Oregon condones, or conducts, horse tripping. Oregon has comprehensive laws in place to protect animals. This bill was totally unnecessary. It was nothing more than a first step by HSUS to ban all roping of all animals in our state.”  

He added, “Horses are livestock, and if this bill had become law, it would have set the precedent for making it illegal to rope a cow. After all, they’re both livestock — what’s the difference between horses’ legs and cows’ legs?”

Duquette has currently been working on a project to bring horse slaughter back to Oregon.

Most people are unaware that horse tripping even happens, according to Beckstead. He says rodeos like Big Loop don’t get sanctioned by the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association). “The animals obviously are traumatized, injured and badly hurt.”

Idaho Power Company was also a sponsor of the rodeo. Communications specialist Kevin Winslow says while he did not attend the rodeo, he didn’t see any tripping in the YouTube video. He says the bucking horse that broke its leg was an “unfortunate and uncommon incident” and says Idaho Power sponsors the rodeo because it is a vital part of Jordan Valley, and the utility’s intent is to support the communities that it serves.

“Some sponsors are making very bad choices with the activities they are sponsoring,” Beckstead says. He says that it’s imperative mainstream rodeos like the Pendleton Round-Up take a strong position on horse tripping. The Pendleton Round-Up opposed the anti-horse tripping bill. 

He says that under Oregon’s current animal cruelty laws, which exempt rodeo events, he doubts cases like this could be prosecuted. “It’s obnoxious to most Oregonians,” Beckstead says.

The video of the Big Loop Rodeo, which includes graphic images of a horse with a broken leg and animals crashing violently to the ground can be seen at http://wkly.ws/1b3

The Eugene Pro Rodeo runs July 3-7 at the Oregon Horse Center. It is a PRCA event and does not feature horse tripping.