“The wild horse race is absolutely bent on the terrorizing of the horses…”
A horse was killed during the Wild Horse Race at the Red Bluff Round-Up rodeo on Saturday, drawing outrage from animal rights activists.
The horse, a 7-year-old mare named 474 Swan Song, stepped on its lead rope during the Wild Horse Race event, injuring its neck, according to a statement from the Red Bluff Round-Up.
“Arena personnel and the onsite rodeo veterinarian immediately responded and attended to the horse. The extent of the injuries was substantial, resulting in a fatal injury,” the statement said.
Rodeo officials said there are safeguards to protect the cowboys and livestock participating in the event.
But Steve Hindi, founder and president of S.H.A.R.K. (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness) said he had heard about the horse’s death and was appalled.
“The wild horse race is absolutely bent on the terrorizing of the horses,” Hindi said. “It’s crazy. It’s just stupid.”
Hindi said his organization had a representative documenting events at the rodeo this past weekend.
Ruth Nicolaus, who writes feature articles about the rodeo, emailed the statement for the Round-Up organization. She said the group would not have further comment about the incident.
A phone message left for James Miller, general manager of the Round-Up, was not returned. And a phone message left for Rosser Rodeo Co. of Marysville, which owns the mare, was also not returned on Sunday.
Injuries are not uncommon in rodeo.
In 2008 a bull jumped into the box seats at the Round-Up, injuring six people. In 1994 Jim Vann of Santa Maria was crushed to death by a bull during a ride at the rodeo.
In the Round-Up statement, officials said they try to conduct the rodeo in a safe manner.
“The Red Bluff Round-Up strives to promote and preserve our western heritage in the safest manner for our animals, exhibitors, contestants and guests, while providing the community the opportunity to experience the sport of professional rodeo,” the statement says.
Hindi said wild horse races are held at several other rodeos around the country.
The Cheyenne (Wyoming) Frontier Days, which bills itself as “the world’s largest outdoor rodeo & western celebration,” also has wild horse races. The Western States Ranch Rodeo Association also includes a description of wild horse races.
The Cheyenne rodeo website says wild horse races date back to the 1800s when they were held as competitions between ranch teams.
Today’s races use ranch-raised horses, instead of wild ones, according to the Frontier Days website.
The races consist of three-member teams: a mugger, who holds the horse’s head, a shanker who holds a lead rope attached to the horse’s halter. And then there is the rider, who saddles the horse and rides it across the finish line, the website says.
Videos of wild horse races show the horses running and bucking with their lead ropes dangling loose.
Kathy Guillermo, a senior vice president for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said she was surprised there weren’t more horses injured during wild horse races.
“I wonder how often it (horse injures) happens. That it happens even once is enough,” Guillermo said.
She said she grew up in the Midwest and had been to many rodeos over the years, but she hadn’t seen a wild horse race until she looked it up on the internet.
“As someone who works on a number of horse issues, it is really disturbing to see that,” Guillermo said of the wild horse races.