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Fantasy and facts

On this page, I will go through some of the allegations about rodeo that I have heard and seen over the years and explain why they are nothing but fantasy.

Fantasy: They squeeze the testicles of the animals with a groin strap to make them buck.
Fact: There does not exist any strap or other thing which sits on the place on the body of the animals where the testicles are on mammals.
I have often heard this allegation referring to the flank strap but that is called so because it is a strap which sits on the flanks of the animals. It sits on the same place on the body as – and neither more or less tightly than – the belt which men in my generation and even older use in order to hold up our pants. That is not where the testicles are. Besides, more than 99% of all rough stock horses in the world are mares or geldings, which do not have any testicles. Therefore, you cannot squeeze them.
The flank strap serves three purposes:

  1. It increases the natural inclination of the animal to buck in its attempt to throw the rider off. But please note the difference: it increases the inclination, it does not cause it. Otherwise, the animals would start bucking when you put the flank strap on them and continue bucking until you remove it, which everybody can see with their own eyes that they don't. And as most horse riders know by their own experience, it happens now and then that a riding horse bucks a rider off even though there is no flank strap on it.
  2. It gives the animal a kind of pulse which makes the animal work more vertically and less horizontally. Without the flank strap, some animals, mainly broncs, may have an inclination to run as fast as they can to shake the rider off. This increases the risk that they slip or stumble when they have to turn at the other end of the arena and hurt themselves.
  3. When the rider has come down from the animal, one way or another, there is still an alien body on it which it wants to get rid of. This makes it harder for the animal to concentrate on attacking the rider, who is not always able to stand on his feet just after the ride.
All these purposes make it necessary that the flank strap fits so loosely that it can tickle the animal by sliding a bit back and forth due to the movements of the animal, but not so loose that it can slide back over the hip of the animal and fall off.

Fantasy: Bareback riders use knife-sharp spurs which they chop into the shoulders of the horse to make it buck. One rodeo opponent wrote this in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten August 30, 2009.
Fact: If this were true, the blood would be streaming down the poor horse. But I have never seen that, nor have I ever met anyone who had seen it. I do not believe that she has seen it herself either. If so, not only the audience but also the veterinarian and the judges would have seen it and then the judges would have intervened and disqualified and fined the rider. And it would probably not be very pleasant for the rider to meet the stock contractor afterwards.
Besides, I have never heard of any athletes, neither two-legged nor four-legged, who performed better in a competition if they had so severe injuries as the horse would get in this case.

Fantasy: They cut a chili through lengthwise and jam it under the tail of the bull. That burns and itches and that is what makes it buck. A man told me this at the country music festival in Kolding, Denmark, 2009.
Fact: I replied that I have cut a lot of chili through at home in my kitchen, both lengthwise and crosswise, but I have never felt anything like that. He then said this is because I have human skin on my fingers and the bull has bull skin on its butt.
We do have that but it puzzles me that you cannot see the ends of the red chili sticking out from under the brown tail of the bull and, specially, that the bull does not start bucking immediately when they place the chili there and continues bucking until somebody removes it.
He just replied: "I know all those tricks." He replied that no matter what I said. He seemed to be one of those types that I call bodega geniuses. On the other hand, intoxicated or not, he was also one of the paying visitors who finance the whole event so I thought I had better be polite to the customer.
So I asked him if he did not think the bull would just raise its tail so the chili would fall to the ground. He did not think so; when you grab the tail and lift it, you also lift the uppermost part which the bull cannot lift itself.
Then I had to explain to him that I have seen several bulls and cows at close range over the years, both in stables and outdoor, and I have worked as a helper at rodeos, also loading the bulls into the chutes, putting the flank strap on them and taking it off after the ride. Besides, I once had a job at a company which supplied slaughter house equipment; among other things, we sold a machine which pulls the asshole of the cows three inches out of their body and wraps a plastic bag around it. What you are saying there, is not possible.
But he knew all those tricks.

Fantasy: The chili guy then shifted to saying that they place a 10-mm (approx. 3/8") ball from a ball bearing under the saddle, right over the spine – "that's something that makes the eyes water!"
Fact: I tried, once again, to explain to him that anything that might hurt the animal is forbidden according to the rules of the sport. I also told him that three of the four rough stock events are ridden without a saddle; that the saddles used in saddle bronc riding have a groove between the two pads resting on the horse's back, right over the spine, just like the saddles used on riding horses; that horse skin is four times as thick as human skin and bull skin is up to seven times as thick; and that the skin of both animals is covered by a fur. The riders' butts are just covered by their blue jeans and normal underwear. I wonder whom the ball would hurt most.
Besides, I doubt if the ball would stay in place, the way the animals jump around. But he knew all those tricks.

Fantasy: In bull riding, the flank strap sits across the urethra of the bull, which causes pain. This prejudice is also found in an expert opinion (Gutachten) of April 25, 2005, from the German Tierärztliche Vereinigung für Tierschutz e.V. (Veterinarian Association for Animal Protection). On April 1, 2007, Mr. Christian Hansen, then a member of the Danish parliament for the Danish People's Party, also wrote this in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in connection with the rodeo planned to take place in Copenhagen that year. Mr. Hansen even claimed that the strap is sitting so tightly that it prevents the bull from urinating and "everybody knows how painful that is".
Fact: Firstly, each and every man in the whole world – including Mr. Hansen, I am sure – knows by his own experience that it does not hurt at all when you squeeze you penis so hard between your fingers that you stop the urine flow.
Secondly, it is not true that the flank strap sits so tightly that it could possibly inhibit the urine flow at all. If it did, you could easily see that it were pressed deeply into, shall we say, the soft tissue on the underside of the bull, which anyone can see that it is not. As mentioned above, the flank strap must sit so loosely that it can slide a bit back and forth on the flank of the bull.
Thirdly, I have seen several times that bulls went around half an hour or more without urinating (just like humans can). Therefore, I do not believe it would be any problem for a bull to hold back the water those few seconds the flank strap is on it – had it been true that it sits so tightly, which it is not.

Fantasy: Rodeo is not a sport but just a circus without any competition element at all and the animals are exposed to sufferings merely to amuse the audience. Therefore, rodeo is, or should be, forbidden according to the legislation on animal protection.
Fact: The nearest I have found in the Danish Animal Protection Act which could be used as a reason for this allegation is clause 17, paragraph 1, which, in my translation, says: "Animals must not be trained or used for display, circus shows, shooting of film or similar if this causes substantial inconvenience for the animal."
Firstly, as you can read under the link Events – and as anyone can see with their own eyes at rodeos – rodeo is nothing but competition sport. If the anti-rodeo people really mean what they are saying here, I wonder why they do not object to circus shows, which are, well, mere circus shows, performed for no other purpose than amusing the audience and in which there really is no competition element.
Secondly, the question arises what a "substantial inconvenience" is – and what the animals think it is. Do riding horses, for example, consider it a "substantial inconvenience" that they have to go around with a stick through their mouth and carry a rider who keeps interfering in which way they should go? No matter what the horses might answer to this question, or what some people like to feel on behalf of the horses, I cannot see how it makes the inconvenience more or less substantial if the rider wears a riding helmet or a cowboy hat on his head.
Thirdly, as regards the objection that an activity is not sport if it is performed in order to amuse a paying audience, I have never heard of any kind of sport which nobody pays for watching for their own amusement. Have you?

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