Blood Sport – Rodeo Edition


July 1, 2013

According to Wikipedia, a rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States, western Canada, and northern Mexico.

images-7Back when I was a kid, rodeos were exciting, enjoyable places to be, and they gave us a chance to demonstrate how really stupid we were by allowing us to climb on the back of a 2,500 pound monster that wanted nothing less out of life than to kill us – and had a fair chance to do just that. We didn’t win any prizes, but we attracted the looks of the cute girls who were there to race barrels. All of that disappeared when big money got involved. Nowadays a rodeo is about putting on a show with professional riders, rodeo livestock companies, big name bulls and slaughter bound horses used for “bucking broncs.” 

I’m not against rodeos. Those skills were necessary a long time ago and the tradition should never die. What I am against are the electric prods, the insane use of slaughter bound horses and the $50,000 prizes. A demonstration of cutting horse skills is a wonder to behold, however animal abuse at rodeos is far more common than most of us want to believe, despite the supposed restrictions of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Their “watchful eye” is about the same as that demonstrated by the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. 

Below are two news stories that make the point. While the second story is about one ladies’ experience at the Reno Rodeo, what gets to me is the immediate denial of the deed by the organizers – even before they look at the photos. “She’s wrong! We’re innocent!” Damnit, people, if you screwed up, admit it, correct the mistake and move on. Being busted with a cattle prod up a horses’ butt, then denying it, isn’t the brightest reaction.

The Underbelly of Rodeos: Busting the American Myth

Julia Orr, The Huffington Post Blog

images-5These days YouTube seems to be doing the job of investigative journalism and law enforcement, hopefully in a helpful way. There really is nowhere left to hide and nowhere can it be said to be more useful than in exposing heinous acts of animal cruelty. Groups likeShowing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK) have used social media to such a great degree that it is hard to refute egregious acts of animal exploitation and abuse. As the 2013 rodeo season gets well under way, we can expect to see yet more evidence that the animals suffer enormously for the jeering crowds.

In 2011 and again in 2012, SHARK’s video of horses being given electric shocks to force them to buck at the Reno Rodeo tore across the national media and suddenly, the great American myth of the traditional rodeo where old fashioned cowboys show off their skills, came to a crashing halt. Like many large rodeos, Reno Rodeo is a huge money making event for everyone concerned. It is estimated to bring in around $42 million to the local economy, and that in itself is likely to bring out the worst in people. Power may corrupt, but the love of money sure competes for first place when it comes to people acting the lowest of the low and turning a blind eye to animal abuse in particular. At this year’s Reno Rodeo, officials chose to ban all video cameras in what can only be an attempt to curtail any more images of abuses reaching the general public. A general public who are increasingly showing themselves less likely to support blood for sport. Now I have to say, I have come into contact with rodeo people who do hold their animals in the highest regard and have even reached out to animal welfare organizations to help clean up rodeos, so there are good people out there. But what essentially SHARK has revealed, is a huge underbelly of rodeo stock contractors and riders, who will do everything they can to win that prize money. And there’s a lot of it at stake. In Reno, the Xtreme Bulls event alone offers $50,000 in prize money. Both Reno and Cheyenne rodeos have an estimated $1million in total of cash and prizes to be had. CONTINUED…..

Woman claims she saw horse abused at Reno Rodeo

Officials say no abuse took place


This photo submitted by Ellie Lopez-Bowlan shows what appears to be a man holding a horse's tail to the side while another man sticks a prod in the horse's anus. / Submitted by Ellie Lopez-Bowlan

This photo submitted by Ellie Lopez-Bowlan shows what appears to be a man holding a horse’s tail to the side while another man sticks a prod in the horse’s anus. / Submitted by Ellie Lopez-Bowlan

A Reno woman said she saw a horse being shocked and “poked in the anus” with a wire before it was loaded into the bucking chutes at the Reno Rodeo on Friday.

Reno Rodeo officials disputed the claims.

Ellie Lopez-Bowlan said she and her husband Steve Lopez-Bowlan were leaving the Past Presidents Room just before the start of Friday’s performance —where the announcer stand is located — to go to their seats in the grandstands. They were on a walkway that passed over the loading chutes where the stock makes its way toward the bucking chutes.

“There was one horse in a very small stall that just fit his body,” Ellie Lopez-Bowlan said. “There were three or four guys around him. They were using tasers, they were pinching his skin to make him angry, they were hitting him, like slapping him hard. Then they had a big wire hanger they were poking it into his anus.”

Reno Rodeo president John Tipton said shocking devices were not used. CONTINUED…..


AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • Sue

    These “men” who do the prodding and poking of a tightly restricted sentient being….how do they treat their own children, wives, horses, dogs, etc….?????

    July 1, 2013
  • Abbers

    Simply put, rodeos are the spawn of the devil. Cruel abuse at the expense of animals. These people have no moral integrity

    July 1, 2013
  • Debbie Tracy

    These are not true real cowboys it is so very sad, I just watched a video actually of some rodeo where they used an electric prod, oh it was on SHARK anyway the horse after it was ridden fell and started convulsing it looked to me, JUST SICK, these animals give them a job and money and they lie and cheat and abuse NOW NOT ALL I am sure but it needs to stop that’s not true professional rodeo personnel in anyway

    July 1, 2013
  • Eric Mills

    As sponsor of two California state rodeo laws (Penal Code 597g – banning “horse tripping”; and Penal Code 596.7 – vets & electric prods), I’m here to tell you that the prods may be the least of if.

    With all due respect, some “traditions” deserve to die. EVERY major animal welfare organization in the U.S. & Canada condemns all rodeos due to their inherent cruelty, and
    for the negative message that such mistreatment of farm animals sends to impressionable young children–not to mention insensitive adults.

    Imagine the public outcry if rodeo cowboys treated pet dogs they way the do the roping calves. And mere babies, at that, often still unweaned.

    Most of rodeo is bogus from the get-go. Real cowboys never routinely rode bulls, or rode bareback, or wrestled steers, or practiced calf roping as a timed event. Or put flank straps on the animals, without which most would not buck, or much less so. It’s all hype to put fannies in the bleachers (read: $$$).

    Rodeo is an anachronism which belongs in the dustbin of history. For many of the animals involved, rodeo is merely a detour en route to the slaughterhouse. They (and we) deserve better.

    Eric Mills, coordinator
    email –

    July 1, 2013
    • JanSchultz

      It is mind blowing to have discovered thismorning that Laura Leigh and her attorney, Gordon Cowan (a past Reno Rodeo Prsident) were allowed on the grounds of the rodeo and she was allowed to use her camera (taking a reported years worth of some of the best action photography ever. I can’t make sense of it. She is taking thousands of dollars from the public to view and file lawsuits against BLM for their lack of humane care. Go here and see page 6. Does this make any sense at all.

      I have a sneaking suspiscion those horess are wild horses. Don’t lose a bet that she claims now that she was not a VIP but working undercover. The horse pays for our ignorance.

      July 8, 2013
  • Judy Wendt

    The Oregon ban against “Horse Tripping” at rodeos is meant to outlaw a specific event whereby a horse’s legs would be roped bringing down the horse and many times breaking one or more legs. Just evil! The legislator who added the “right to rodeo” rider to the bill is from my area. It was essentially to assuage the Pendleton Round-Up directors and ex-president Dennis Hunt who was on record defending the practice as “entertainment” despite the PRCA’s long time stance against it. Horse tripping was an event at a tiny rodeo in a remote area of Oregon close to the Nevada border called Jordan Valley (not even big enough to have a town).

    FYI – Hunt’s best friend is Doug Corey, DVM, who founded the PRCA’s “Animal Welfare Committee” 30 yrs. ago, (but just meets 2-3 times/yr.). Both Hunt & Corey are pro-horse slaughter. Corey is the founder of the “Unwanted Horse Coalition.” His opinion permeates the local community college Ag. dept. and many of the local residents. These are not well educated folks. (As an animal lover, I am a “fish out of water” here!).

    Because I live in Pendleton and am associated with agriculture, I have known all these people for years. I have tried to talk to some about this issue since 2011 when David Duquette proposed a slaughterhouse close by (Hermiston, 23 miles away). Duquette is a low life abusive horse “trainer” and (verbally accused, but not legally convicted) thief. The Round-Up people believe themselves to be high brow (they essentially run the town). There is no collusion as far as I can tell, but most take the stance that slaughter is a good way to “cull” the overpopulation of horses (that the greedy quarter horse industry created). That some rodeo horses go to slaughter, along with race horses, and that they view horses as commodities rather than living souls/beings explains their willingness to allow an “industry” that will permanently sully their beloved Pendleton Round-Up if slaughter is ever allowed nearby. Thank God the good citizens and city management of Hermiston, OR will not allow that atrocity. The state of OR has strict environmental use laws as well.

    Rodeo is probably a dying form of entertainment. Not allowing ticket holders to video tape violates their 1st amendment rights, especially if public $ is used for the facility. The Pendleton Round-Up grounds, for instance, use to be owned by the city. It was deeded over to the Round-Up Association (sold for $1) but now the ass. wants a tax deferment, so public $ is still being used. If someone were to videotape here, they would be within their federal constitutional right. Let the abusers beware.

    July 1, 2013
  • Cynthia Curtis

    Rodeos are a form of hunger games for a certain segment of society that is bored and seeking thrills at the expense of animal cruelty and abuse. It is shocking that young people and children are introduced to such entertainment as a cool thing to watch and how fun it is to laugh at animals falling over themselves and being unnaturally provoked. I live in Texas and it is one pastime that I detest since it is so glorified just like barbecue and beer.

    July 1, 2013
  • Jade

    I had the privilege of being married to a “professional PRCA bullfighter/rodeo clown” who was from the old school. Before he passed away in 1994 he told me how ashamed he was of a sport he had grown up in, and it had become all about the money instead of the physical challenge. He said the animals were treated so cruelly anymore, and it was no longer a “fair” challenge between cowboy and animal, that he couldn’t even stand watching it from the sidelines – he just felt ashamed of what the PRCA had become.

    July 2, 2013
  • Jade

    When you look at the rampant animal cruelty in this country, even from our government agencies that deal with animals, you know we are so far in the dumper that there’s little hope beyond a planet cleansing.

    July 2, 2013
  • Mustang man

    You want Rodeo? Then be real and attend and support The “Californio’s” Rodear,

    This is REAL ranch work as it was meant to happen. You run you r cow you lose, you pull too hard you break a $1500.00+ Rawhide reata; these are real ranch worker techniques. How they treat their livestock on the range I have no idea but I can tell you that at the event you will never sit on the edge of your seat in such high anticipation again for such a slow moving series of events held by 3 people teams that know their stuff. All the rest of rodeo is just Hick crap for money and the animals are just a commodity like the paper cups their Beer Light comes in.

    July 2, 2013
  • BlessUsAll

    @ Eric Mills: thank you for saying everything I’ve been thinking. I ditto your respectfully worded comment: Some traditions need to die. Rodeo is one of them. The comparatively idyllic good ole days of rodeo can’t come back. I believe that the corruption and violence now so apparent in this “sport” prove that it was unjust to the animals to begin with; before, it was a hidden, “kinder” sort of exploitation.

    @ Judy Wendt: I admire you extra now, after hearing what level of mentality you have to live with day after day. As I recall from your previous comments, you don’t “use” animals for profit or pleasure in ANY way, is that right? Thank you for taking seriously your guardianship privileges.

    @ Jade: It touches my heart that your husband was ashamed of what rodeo has become. Bless his heart.

    Kudos to Ellie Lopez-Bowlan for reporting the sickening crime she witnesses and photographed — and for refusing to be cowed into silence. Ellie, I hope you and your husband Steve will never give another dime to any rodeo, unless it is for the purpose of helping SHARK investigate the most egregious abuses in this inherently abusive form of “entertainment.”

    July 2, 2013
    • Judy Wendt

      Thank you, BlessUsAll. Yup, I am an admitted “animal lover.” I don’t eat them, I don’t wear them, I don’t use them for entertainment, I don’t condone using them for medical testing, and especially not for cleansers and cosmetics. I wasn’t always this evolved, but as I have become spiritual, I have learned to respect all God’s creation – not just pick and choose.

      Horses are gorgeous, regal beings and I will fight slaughter with everything I’ve got – which may not be a lot alone, but multiplied by millions, is unbeatable.

      July 3, 2013
  • mary Gardner

    Oh yes “Big Cowboys” I’d like to see someone use a coat hanger on them!!! I understand this goes on all the time !! I have and always will be against Rodeos!! I can’t see why anybody would want to see animals treated bad.
    If you will watch when the horse is in the stall there are men all around the horse, lots of the time I’ve heard they use cow electric sticks! Lets see if the rodeo can be closed down for GOOD!!!
    which is so bad!! Lets try to close

    July 2, 2013
  • There is a great group trying to expose rodeo abuse and get protection for those animals. Look up SHARK and Steve Hindi. Lots of videos on YouTube, and visit his website. You watch and decide. After discovering the extent of this inhumane treatment of horses and cattle, I cannot ever support rodeo with my dollars again.

    July 3, 2013
    • Judy Wendt

      Oh yes, Sherillyn. Steve Hindi debated Doug Corey in 1997. See my earlier post for a description of who Doug Corey is and his significance to rodeo. Score Hindi 1, Corey 0! I believe SHARK still has a video of this debate on their website.

      A SHARK volunteer was also arrested and roughed up recently in Jordan Valley, OR, where he went to videotape any type of continuing abuse. Jordan Valley is the tiny rodeo that became infamous for “horse tripping” as a ghoulish event. That event is now outlawed (Gracias a Dios).

      July 3, 2013