Shocked, shocked by rodeo tactics
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2008:
TUCSON, DENVER, LAS VEGAS–Exposing three major rodeos in
as many months for electro-shocking so-called bucking horses, SHARK
founder Steve Hindi and investigators Janet Enoch and Mike Kobliska
are wondering just what it will take to persuade prosecutors to put
their videotaped evidence in front of a jury.
To Hindi, the SHARK videos unequivocally demonstrate
intentional cruelty. Time and again rodeo stock contractors
furtively press a black two-pronged device against the flank, rump,
or sometimes the face of a horse, and the horse bolts, then erupts
into spasmodic jumping.
Thousands of YouTube viewers and increasing numbers of
journalists are convinced from the videos that the horses are in
pain. But since the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association fined a
Cheyenne Frontier Days stock contractor $500 in 2006 for repeatedly
shocking bulls, neither the PRCA nor local prosecutors are doing
much about electroshocking.
Kobliska identified apparent frequent facial shocking at the
National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas in mid-December 2007. Videotaping
four performances, SHARK noticed that “Other people behind the
chutes gave way when the shocker showed up. The judges watched as
the horses were shocked. At least one horse who received the
treatment, High Life Gal, came crashing down on the arena floor and
had to be stretchered out.”
Hindi said he recognized the alleged shocker as Charles
Soileau, the saddle bronc riding event representative for the PRCA.
Unable to obtain a cruelty prosecution in Las Vegas, SHARK
tried next at the National Western rodeo in Denver in January.
There, “The prod was misused even according to the PRCA standard,”
Hindi charged. “One horse that was shocked was down in a chute.
According to its own rules, the PRCA’s remedy for that scenario is to
open the chute gate and release the horse.”
The SHARK video taken at the National Western rodeo “showed
men leaning into the chutes and touching a prod to several horses’
necks and hips,” recounted Ann Schrader of The Denver Post. “The
horses then bolted and bucked out of the chute, and the men pocketed
the prods. Most prods produce a 4,500-volt shock,” Schrader
observed. “The marketing director of Miller Manufacturing, which
makes one of the devices, told The Denver Post that the devices are
not intended to be used on horses at rodeos.”
Denver animal control chief Doug Kelley and Colorado state
veterinarian John Maulsby refused to pursue cruelty charges against
National Western participants.
Schrader learned that “Officials investigating a claim that
some National Western rodeo saddle broncs were inappropriately jolted
with an electric prod did not contact the manufacturer before
deciding not to seek charges.”
By then Hindi was already en route to Tucson for the Fiesta
de los Vaqueros Rodeo, held annually since 1925.
“The Tucson rodeo staff were very secretive about using the
shock prod,” said Hindi. “These guys know they are doing wrong.”
Reported Dale Quinn of the Arizona Daily Star, affirming
the content of SHARK videos posted to YouTube, “Men can be seen
pressing a black hand-held device against horses’ flanks once riders
are on top of the horses and the stall gates swing open. The men
then appear to try to hide the device as they step back from the
Tucson Rodeo general manager Gary Williams told Quinn that
the purpose of the shocking is to get the horses to leave the chute
and enter the rodeo arena before they start bucking. Rodeo defenders
in Las Vegas and Denver claimed that only “known chute-stallers” were
shocked, which had occasioned Hindi to ask why “known
chute-stallers” are used in a rodeo in the first place.
Williams identified the men shown in SHARK’s Tucson video as
employees of the Tucson Rodeo stock contractor, Beutler & Son Rodeo
Co., of Elk City, Oklahoma.
“A complaint requesting a criminal investigation leading to
charges against those responsible has been filed with the Arizona
Department of Agriculture Animal Services Division,” SHARK announced
on February 25, 2008. “A DVD [of the SHARK video] will be provided
to aid in the investigation.”
Arizona Department of Agriculture animal services division
spokesperson Ed Hermes confirmed to Quinn that an investigation had
begun, but said that agriculture department staff at the rodeo did
not see any animal abuse, and noted that the Beutler & Son crew had
probably already left the state.
While electro-shocking horses and bulls during bucking events
is the most ubiquitous abuse SHARK has documented, finding it at
approximately 40 rodeos so far, Hindi believes the most serious
rodeo cruelty occurs in “steer roping, also known as steer busting
and steer tripping,” now often held separately from other rodeo
The 2007 Nat-ional Finals Steer Roping competition in Hobbs,
New Mexico “resulted in injuries to seven animals,” Hindi e-mailed.
“Five steers had to be sledded out, another was injured but was
able to limp out, and a horse was injured. But as bad as the rodeo
finals were for the animals, the aftermath was even more bleak,” as
injured steers were pushed into a livestock trailer “and left to
die,” Hindi said. Keeping the trailer under observation for several
hours produced no evidence that the steers received prompt veterinary
attention, Hindi said.
While lawmakers and enforcers so far seem unwilling to
address mainstream rodeo, the board of commissioners in Lyon County,
Nevada on February 13, 2008 prohibited horse tripping, a staple of
charreada or Mexican-style rodeo. Lyon County refused to ban
steer-tailing, however, despite pleas from former humane
investigator Tom Blomquist of Silver Springs and wild horse advocate
Willis Lamm of Stagecoach.
The Omaha City Council on December 18, 2007 voted
unanimously to ban both horse-tripping and steer-tailing.