An Oregon bill to ban horse tripping includes a clause aimed at calming the concerns of rodeo aficionados.
An earlier proposal to ban the practice of roping horses’ legs in competition died in committee in 2011. It wasn’t that opponents loved the idea of roping horses’ fragile legs – after all, the Jordan Valley Big Loop Rodeo is the only Oregon rodeo to run the event. Rather, they saw a slippery slope leading to calf roping and steer roping — two of rodeo’s bread-and-butter events.
“They saw the camel’s nose under the tent,” said Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena. “The possibility of this bill passing created a lot of concern and angst among rodeo fans.”
Hansell lives near the 103-year-old Pendleton Round-Up, so he knows rodeo. When he saw that another horse tripping bill seemed likely to pass in the 2013 session, he sponsored an additional piece of legislation called the Right to Rodeo Bill.
“I’m envisioning it like Right to Farm,” Hansell said, earlier in the process. “It would say that rodeos have a right to exist.”
Modeled after proposed Missouri legislation, the senator said the bill caught the imagination of Senate leaders who suggested blending the Right to Rodeo bill with horse tripping legislation. The hybrid bill would end horse tripping, but also would mean rodeos wouldn’t receive less favorable treatment than other organized exhibitions or events.
Sen. Mark Hass (D-Beaverton), who introduced the original horse tripping bill, co-sponsors the blended legislation (SB 835) with Hansell.
Illinois animal rights advocate Steve Hindy would love to see horse tripping go away.
Hindy, of Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK), narrated a YouTube video posted last June of horse tripping at the Big Loop Rodeo in Jordan Valley. The video, which has gotten more than 187,000 views and 1,400 mostly negative comments, shows cowboys on horseback bringing down horses by roping their legs or necks. One horse tumbles headfirst to the dirt.
“People outside the world of rodeo are appalled when they see this,” said Hindy. “It simply shouldn’t be happening.”
Hindy doesn’t much like the Right to Rodeo portion of the bill, saying traditional western ranching ways have been perverted into the “circus environment of rodeo.” He would like to see rodeo disappear.
“This is not a sport,” he said. “These animals are bucking and running for their lives.”
Rodeo supporters obviously differ with Hindy. Some, even those who don’t especially like horse tripping, worry that banning one event could affect others. Hansell, however, said the bill is narrow, affecting only horses in actual competition.
“Pickup men can rope horses to get them out of the arena,” he said. “Vets can trip them to get them on the ground for doctoring.”
Randy Thomas, Pendleton Round-Up director in charge of publicity, said the proposed legislation would protect the rodeo industry’s right to exist. He said the ban on horse tripping fits the Round-Up’s horse culture.
“We have never done horse tripping at the Pendleton Round-Up and have no plans to start doing it,” he said. “We go out of our way to guard animal welfare. A love of horses is really what the Round-Up is all about.”
The bill is currently in committee. A public hearing and work session is scheduled for Monday. To see the text of the bill, go to http://wkly.ws/1g3.
Contact Kathy Aney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0810.
This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.