A little clarification is needed

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In doing my daily research on rodeo, I came across a piece by Dorothy Marie Kucera on allvoices.com, a website that enables writers to blog about anything (special thanks to Kelli Wright at MichaelGaffney.com for finding it originally). In her post, Dorothy writes about Sunday’s NBC telecast of the final day of the PBR World Finals.

I applaud Dorothy watching and attempting to learn more about the sport, but her post is proof that we must get the word out about rodeo and bull riding to as many people as possible as soon as possible. “Those tight straps cinched around the poor animal’s chest and private parts are mean, in my opinion. If you have to create pain to make them jump so wildly, how does that further life on the ranch?”

To clarify: There are two pieces of equipment around the animals. One is the bull rope that is wrapped around the bull’s chest and allows the cowboy to hang on with one hand while keeping his free hand from touching the animal in accordance to the rules; the other is the flank strap, which, as the name describes, is wrapped around the animal’s flank.

The flank strap DOES NOT come in contact with the bull’s genitals. The bulls are not induced to buck by pain. No animal —¬†especially a man — would be athletic in the least if a rope or string were wrapped around his “private parts.”

These animals are worth a lot of money to their owners, both as bucking athletes and as dads and grandads to generations of bucking athletes. No stock contractor would want to injure a bull, hurting that investment, and the last thing a livestock owner would do is potentially destroy the development of his herd by damaging the bull’s testicles.

My hope that the myths and untruths about the care of animals in rodeo and bull riding will be put to rest by folks with common sense. With education, we might get there. And while Dorothy’s post shed the light on the athleticism of these great bulls and bull riders in the PBR, many of her ignorant comments prove how far we have to go.

Common sense goes a long way; let’s home more bloggers use it.


Comments (5)
Ted Stovin / October 28, 2010

I agree with you 100% on this Ted. I’m even doing a speech about it in my COM 101 class next Wednesday. Being a bull rider and hearing these comments frustrates you quite often. I’m not sure as to how many times I have already had to inform someone of what’s actually happening with the flank on a bull or horse. I guess I should write my own piece about how it actually is in rodeo.
Also, if your question about the bull riders who have qualified for both the PBR World Finals along with the NFR, I know at least one. Paulo Crimber did it in 2004. I bet Ty Murray made them both a few times too.

Ted Harbin / September 28, 2011

Dorothy Marie Kucera read this post on Aug. 6, 2011, and posted this comment, which, for some reason, went through some SPAMsphere and just hit my inbox. Thanks, Dorothy, for commenting. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to make it to the comment box:

“Well, I just found this on 8.6.11 and thank you for removing my “ignorance.” I’m not sure I buy the “doesn’t hurt them,” though because once they start bucking and kicking up so high, wouldn’t that strap be jostled around?

“However, the question remains…WHY are the bulls coming out of the gate so angry? I still do not get the purpose of why they have these events in the first place, other than spectator sport income. It still seems mean to treat animals this way. It is not “practice” on the ranch; no cowboy needs to ride a bull each day, right? So, why do it other than to show man is mightier than the bull, maybe, for a few additional minutes?

“My mother used to work on dairy farms with my dad for a short time long ago; she said that bulls are just plain mean. So, forcing one into a gate would evidently make them explode out in anger. I get it.

“Also, my husband’s family owns a quarter-horse ranch in western Nebraska, so I am not altogether without information.

“Smile. Watch your kidneys, gentlemen…you’re going to pay a hefty medical price in years to come from this sport.

“By the way, my mother loves to watch the rodeo events. Therein lies the reason why it is done. It is not for the animals’ benefit.”

Ted Harbin / September 28, 2011

Dorothy, in your first paragraph, there is no evidence that a flank strap has caused pain to a bucking bull. These are animals that do that sort of thing in a pasture all the time. As your mother attempted to explain, bulls are generally mean by nature. I suspect it’s the male gene, the same type of aggression you’d find in most other male animals.

And, yes, rodeo and bull riding are spectator sports, and the reason bull riding is the last event at a traditional rodeo is because it is a fan favorite. But I’ll allow you that most of these bucking athletes are treated much better than most livestock. That, I guess, would classify as a benefit to the animals.

Bull riders know the danger involved in their sport, and they choose to play the games anyway. They know they’re at a distinct disadvantage, and they know injury, and even death, is possible.

I hope the next time you visit your family’s quarter horse ranch you take the time to watch the colts play. If you can, spend time watching calves, too. You’ll see the animals play involves running, jumping, bucking and kicking. Those that come from strong bloodlines of bucking animals will be more likely do crave it; they’ll also be more likely to excel at it.

And thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get this post up and running. I wish I’d seen it in August when you posted it. Blessings to you.

Dorothy Marie Kucera / October 4, 2011

I just read it on 10.4.11 and appreciate your patient feedback. I was surprised to read that bulls “kick up” their heels frequently when in the field. I do not see them that often but they have always seemed slow, sluggish, unwilling to move forward much less jump (smile) in fields. Then again, they are not the ones going to rodeos.

Re: “no research” as to whether the flank strap hurts them or not…has anyone really done such monitoring?

I’ve always heard that you have to poke animals really hard to make them want to jump out of the gates. What does make them so angry when the gate is open? Just the idea of someone on their back and also being confined to claustrophobic quarters in those stalls?

Ted Harbin / October 4, 2011

I think, Dorothy, you would be better served going to a bull riding or a rodeo to get an understanding. You’ve “always heard” something about this or that; I think it would be in your best interest, if you care this much, to witness the care of the animals up close and in person. Because what you’ve “always heard” isn’t really working for you.

You do not have to poke an animal really hard to make them jump out of the gate. What makes you think the bulls are angry when the gate is open? The gate opening is like a starting gun going off for the athletes, both animal and human. Almost all of those great bucking animals know their job, and when that latch sounds and the gate swings open, they go to work.

There is no claustrophobia in the stalls. There is no claustrophobia in the chutes. It’s quite funny that you’re reaching that far to try to find some kind of torture for these great athletes. It’s almost as if you’re just searching for any reason but the most obvious, that the animals are born to do this and that they love to do this. Trust me when I say you won’t ever be able to manipulate an 1,800-pound animal into doing anything it doesn’t want to do.

As far as anyone doing the monitoring, yes, people do monitor the health and well-being of the animals, and most of the time it’s the stock contractor that owns the valuable bucking animals. If an animal is injured or hurt and unable to perform, then the animal isn’t in the mix. The animal is cared for and comforted and rehabilitated, just like any other athlete. If the flank strap actually harmed the animal, it wouldn’t be the exceptional athlete.

I say go to a rodeo close to home and watch these marvelous athletes in action. If you don’t and you still want to go by things you’ve “always heard” and not trust your own witness, then you’ve established your own agenda, and no words from me will help you garner a better understanding of this fabulous sport, this wonderful piece of Americana.


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