Saturday, July 05, 2014

Of horses, rodeos and people

This 4th of July, like every 4th of July, we went the local rodeo. It is a nice celebration and just being in close proximity to so many horses and cattle makes it all worth while.

However, this year an ugly conclusion struck me out of nowhere: if you love horses and cattle, you should not be at a rodeo! Why? Well, for one, the level of horsemanship at the rodeo is appalingly low. I am not a high-falootin' horse whisperer, in fact, I consider myself to be a beginner with only four or five years experience, however, I have high standards of what the horse should be doing, how they should be doing it and what tools the horseman or woman should be using to get things done. I may not know how to get there yet but I do know what I want and don't want.

First off, almost every horse at the rodeo was ridden with a tie-down and a shank bit in their mouth. The “horsemen” riding these horses were all heavy handed, it hurt just watching things unravel. Nine out of ten horses were prancing and jigging with the owners pulling one way and the tie-down pulling the other way with the horse's mouth in the middle.

It is strange because at the beginning I thought it must be the steer-wrestlers or the ropers or the barrel-racers that had the bad and antsy horses who just couldn't sit still (despite the tools and the heavy hands). Then I realized that the “pickup horses” were the same (by pickup horses I mean the horses used to untie and catch/steer the cattle, the bulls and the broncs).

Even the team of ladies who came in to help kick off the rodeo by doing their show with the American flag at a canter and a gallop had bad horses. They all looked uncontrollable and some of them looked like they could come unhinged within a matter of seconds. With the exception of two horses, that whole team too had tie-downs and harsh shank bits.

By the end of it all, I just thought to myself how awful it all is. These people are horseback almost every day and they are what signifies America's history and love of horses and horsemanship. They are what the general public comes to watch, no, pays to watch in some delusion that horsemanship experts are in front of them putting on a show.

How sad! But you know who I feel worst for? Those poor horses. Even with all the tie-downs, shanks and heavy hands (and sometimes whips as an added bonus), most of these animals are nice and still do what they are asked to do. If it were me out there with a saddle on my back, my chest tied to my head and a 3 inch shank pulling on my mouth, I am not sure I would be that nice.


Happy 4th of July!!

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