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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, Dunedin.
"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 bulls.
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 problem was.
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 female.
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 them.
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 them.
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 nature.
Just like there is no way I would ever be a prize fighter or bungee jumper.
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 animal partners?
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 grandchildren.
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.