Rodeo livestock well-being

ANIMAL WELL-BEING

At the heart of the festival are the rodeo competitions. But behind the rodeo spectacle is the livestock, and the well-being of those animals is a core priority for us.

The horses and bulls trained to compete in rodeos are examined by expert veterinarian, who closely monitor the animals’ routines and provide care and treatment in keeping with a stringent policy governing animal protection and well-being.

HOW OFTEN DO THE ANIMALS PERFORM EACH YEAR?

Rodeo livestock perform, on average, 10 to 15 times each year, which translates to between 80 and 120 seconds annually.

During a competition lasting two or more days, rodeo horses are brought out twice at most and bulls, with their superior strength, a maximum of three times.

WHY DO HORSES AND BULLS BUCK IN RODEOS?

Foals are born ticklish and highly sensitive to touch. From the outset, breeders desensitize the animals through full-body massages to release this innate tension. The young animals learn to accept the pressure of human hands on their bodies. They are then taught to tolerate the sensation of a saddle on their backs and a strap around the ribcage; and, eventually, they also learn to accept the weight of a rider on their backs. All of these steps are aimed at making them saddle horses.

A rodeo horse, on the other hand, does not experience this treatment after birth; he will remain ticklish and sensitive to touch. When he feels physical pressure, his reflex is to make it go away. So when a strap is tied near his flanks, he instinctively wants it removed. He will try to flee, or he will buck and kick.

DETERMINING AN ANIMAL’S SUITABILITY AS A RODEO ATHLETE

A good rodeo athlete is recognized by its desire to rid itself of the strap by bucking, rather than fleeing. During training, the animal is encouraged to buck and the behaviour is reinforced. How, you ask? Very simply, by letting him win. A good rodeo horse takes pleasure (and a certain amount of pride) in making his rider fall off.

With time and positive reinforcement, the sheepskin strap becomes merely a signal that tells the horse when his work begins and ends. This is why rescue riders hurry to remove the strap as soon as the performance is over – to let the horse know his work is done.

IS IT TRUE THAT THE GENITALS OF RODEO HORSES ARE TIGHTENED WITH A STRAP, OR THAT ELECTRIC PRODS ARE USED ON THE ANIMALS?

There are enduring rodeo myths that need to be dispelled. One such myth is that the genitals of horses and bulls are tightly strapped to make the animals buck and kick. Nothing could be further from the truth. The testicles are not bound, nor are electric prods used to make the animals rush bucking and kicking into the arena. In reality, a leather strap covered with sheepskin is used, or a cotton rope that sits in front of the flanks, nowhere near the genitals. Furthermore, in 99% of cases, rodeo rough stock are mares or geldings (castrated males).

ARE INJURIES COMMON?

The incidence of injuries among rodeo animals is .0046% (source: 2010 Veterinarians Report on Rodeo Livestock)

During the event, NomadFest Urban Rodeo Festival organizers have a hired team of veterinarians on hand to do a basic examination of each animal to ensure that they are healthy and able to compete. A horse or bull that limps due to even the smallest of injuries will be excluded automatically. The vet team stays on duty during the rodeos to deal with any issues that might arise.

FOR MORE DETAILS, we encourage you to read the ANIMAL WELFARE GUIDE

Animal welfare guide