Ok you guys, there are a lot of misconceptions about Rodeo out there. And I’m no expert. So this morning I made my way over to the Northern Lights Arena for Rodeo 101. You can catch the next edition tomorrow, Sunday, July 10 at 11 a.m. in the same location. Here’s a few things I’d like to share:
1. There’s a myth out there that the horses and bulls that compete in the rodeo live hard lives. In reality, these animals have it pretty good. For most the year, they live in a green pasture as a natural herd. They are well fed and card for. It’s important to keep in mind that these animals are bred and trained to be athletes. Their health and welfare is always top of mind. Learn more about life of bucking horses in this video.
2. Another misconception? That horses and bulls buck because they are being forced to or hurt. The reality is that these animals are not broken to be ridden. Any horse that is not taught to take a saddle will try to buck off its rider. (For more on myths versus truths when it comes to the treatment of animal rodeo athletes, check out this article.)
3. The flank strap is made of soft sheep’s wool (no barbs, no electric current). It does not pinch a horse’s testicles. It goes around their middle and signals to them that it’s time to buck.
4. Cowboys know these horses. They observe every horse when they compete and take notes. When they are paired with a horse, they know what they are going to get.
5. The calves and steers that participate in the events may look small, but they’re sizable animals. The calves in tie down roping weigh approximately 150-200 pounds. The steers in steer wrestling are from 400-600 pounds.
6. The tie down roping event is directly based on modern day ranching practices. When a calf needs medicine, cowboys will tie down the calves to doctor them in the field. Here’s a great video of independent livestock handling specialist Jennifer Woods talking about what the calves’ behavior tells us about their experience in this event.
7. Tie down roping and steer wrestling use something called a “barrier rope.” There is a small rope connected to the calf or steer that gives them a 10 foot head start. The cowboy behind them cannot start until the rope breaks. If they start too early, they get a 10 second penalty.
8. An electric eye is used to time Barrel Racing. The eye is triggered to start when the horses passes it the first time and stops when the horse completes the race.
9. The rope bull riders use is specially designed and costs about $400. The cowbell at the bottom is used as weight to pull the rope to the ground. One of the most dangerous situations a rider can get into is to get his spur stuck in the rope. The bell helps prevent this from happening.