Terror or truth, asks Kedo Olson on the subject of rodeos
and animal cruelty. Mr Olson is the featured announcer at
tomorrow's International Rodeo at Forsyth Barr Stadium,
So much information is floating around on the internet
and in people's heads and sometimes we don't really know what
is correct or not. So I wanted to take the time to help address
some issues I read about in this newspaper and have seen before
in my country, the United States, and also Canada.
"Rodeo entertainment at animals' expense" (ODT,
14.11.12) was one of the articles I read. I was wondering if
the author, Carl Scott, had ever been to a rodeo or a farm. I
have spent most of my life ranching, being around animals and
have competed in roping events, ridden bucking horses and
We used our roping skills on the ranch to doctor cattle when
sick or injured. We had a ranch that encompassed about
20,200ha and at times we would be miles from a corral where
we could subdue the animal and take care of whatever the
So it was more humane to rope the cow and handle it with
skill and care, take care of the problem and let it go and
watch it trot off a few metres and go back to grazing.
As we raised cattle and horses to better the breed and for
use on the ranch, we were proud of our accomplishments. We
used artificial insemination for better results in raising
calves and used the latest techniques we could. In this day
and age they use embryo transplants to raise bucking bulls,
as they have learned 75% of the bucking traits come from the
They are also in the beginning stages of DNA testing for the
traits to make great animal athletes that buck.
I have a neighbour in the States who is a stock contractor
(provides animals for rodeo) and has a special breeding
programme for raising bucking horses, good mares and good
stallions; just as you would while raising racehorses, sheep
or any creature.
These horses graze on miles and miles of land and live free
for most of the year. They are gathered and hauled to the
home ranch and put on irrigated pasture and used for maybe 16
seconds per weekend. They are fat, handled with care (as they
are the pride of the stock contractor) and the "terror" an
uneducated eye may see, most of the time is the excitement
and anticipation of an athlete.
These horses since they were young have been in chutes,
loaded on trucks and are familiar with the routine. They
represent pride by the owners and respect from those who ride
I have seen countless thousands of times bucking horses throw
off riders and prance with their head up around the arena
with their tail in the air knowing that they won.
There is no "terror" in their eyes. They are veteran warriors
just as are rugby players who enjoy physical contact and the
excitement of the game.
If these animals didn't have an outlet for their aggressive
dangerous behaviour, there wouldn't be many options left for
Many people think different pieces of equipment are used to
make the horses buck. That can't happen. You cannot force an
animal to buck (on a consistent basis) if it's not in their
Just like there is no way I would ever be a prize fighter or
In every rodeo organisation you can go through the rule books
and see the rules always favour the animals.
Many of these bucking horses, when they are done with their
career in the arena, can be used as pick-up men's horses and
ranch horses; not all, but many.
Many-time all round champion Ty Murray has on his ranch a
special pasture for retired bucking horses as well as a
cemetery and monuments to the great ones.
So if you banned rodeo and there was no place for these
animals to display their natural traits, and skills, they
wouldn't be walking this Earth.
The value of these four-legged athletes is astounding.
About eight years ago, a bareback bucking horse was bought by
an American from Canada for more than $US32,000 ($NZ39,000).
Do you think that person is going to abuse that investment?
Would you not think this person understands and cares for his
My neighbour can walk through his herd of almost 300 horses
and tell you their names, what event they are used in, how
old they are and probably know more about his horses than his
So I encourage anybody, on any subject, to investigate and
learn more about the subject before pontificating. And I
appreciate the concern of the authors (including letter
writers) and encourage them to come and see what really goes
on in the rodeo world of ours, meet the people involved, talk
with the veterinarians on staff.
Yes, there are always exceptions. This isn't a perfect world.
Let's always look to improve. But let's approach these
various subjects with an open mind and do some research and
put our energies in areas of definite need.
- Kedo Olson is a member of the United States
National Senior Pro Rodeo Association Hall of Fame.