I was a rodeo fan when I was a kid. But then I shot birds, too. Luckily, I grew out of both. People who work with large animals–rough stock in cowboy parlance–can be indelicate at times in their interaction. But it ain’t the animal’s fault it’s large and dangerous. Especially if it’s forced into a situation it would rather not be. A good example is the practice in some rodeos of lassoing horses around their necks and forelegs, often leading to spectacular falls (on the horse’s part).

horse tripping

A video of the event made by animal rights activists at the Jordan Valley Big Loop Rodeo in May in southeastern Oregon, shows how it works. According to an observer at the event, “The harder (the horses) fell, the louder people cheered.”

The event causes extreme fear in horses. It also causes rope burns and, as one extremely gruesome scene in the video shows, leg injuries. In most such cases the animal has to be put down. In this instance, absolutely.

Ranchers counter that horse tripping is a humane technique for capturing and restraining untamed horses to treat injuries, brand or castrate them when corrals and chutes aren’t available.

“It’s a way of showing our heritage, our culture and how it was done and how it’s still done,” said one rancher.

The practice is likeliest to be found at remote ranch rodeos, where contestants are working ranchers, cowhands and buckaroos who don’t follow the professional rodeo circuit.

Rodeo backers say the video is deliberately misleading and unfairly depicts contestants and the audience as heartless. They also claim part of the video was taken somewhere else.

Wherever it was taken, watch the video and judge for yourself.

Critics of the practice argue that culture and tradition have long been the primary means throughout human history of justifying the very worst forms of human behavior.

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