They have no idea it is just for fun and fear for their lives.
The speed involved in rodeo events serves only to increase the risk of injury as the panicked animals try to escape capture or are pushed to their limits.
Footage shot at various rodeos has shown animals are prodded, slapped and harassed prior to entering the rodeo ring to encourage them to perform by increasing their anxiety and stress. Injuries can result from animals crashing into barricades, being thrown to the ground, and leaping uncontrollably as they try to throw a rider. Animals can be killed through injury in rodeo events and training sessions, but there are no public records kept.
Calf roping, or ‘rope and tie’, is generally considered to be one of the cruellest components of a rodeo. Young calves, just three months old, are chased at high speed, roped around the neck and thrown to the ground; a horrific experience causing stress, fear, pain and sometimes injury.
The Rodeo Code of Welfare says that it is best practice that the calves are not used in rodeo events.
Learn more about the suffering behind calf roping.
This event involves calves being ridden by children. If the child sits too far forward on the calf, the animal’s front legs can buckle, so he collapses on the ground. This is not supposed to happen but is regularly witnessed. Spurs may be used. The Rodeo Code of Welfare says that is it best practice that calves are not used in rodeo. This event not only causes stress and potential injury to the calves, but it also puts children in danger.
In steer wrestling, or ‘bulldogging’, riders chase after steers on horses then leap from the horses to grab the terrified running steers by the horns, before twisting their necks to force them to the ground.
An animal would never naturally twist their neck around to the extent forced on them in this event. It causes undeniable physical stress and pain to the animal. Injuries can include broken horns, a broken neck, and other spinal injuries, as well as the pain resulting from the extreme neck twisting. As prey animals, steers will fight to stay upright, knowing that being on the ground leaves them in a vulnerable position.
They are used for this event because a calf’s neck would break too easily, and they have large horns for controlling them.
This is the only team event in rodeo. Two riders chase one steer, before one ropes the steer around the horns or head and the other around his two hind legs, forcing the steer to lose balance and slam to the ground. The riders often pull the winded and confused animal in two different directions.
The ropes must be taught before the timer is stopped, causing discomfort and most likely pain to the terrified and helpless steer.
In this event riders attempt to stay on a bucking horse for at least eight seconds, holding on only with one hand.
A flank strap is pulled tightly around the horse’s abdomen, causing discomfort which makes the horse buck, trying to escape the torment. On the first buck once out of the chute, the riders must ‘mark out’ the horse – both spurs must touch the horse in front of the shoulders. As the horse bucks, the riders roll their spurs up the shoulders.
Although New Zealand contestants cannot have fixed spurs, this repeated action will cause discomfort and possibly injury to the horse. Horses are at risk of broken bones and spinal injuries as they jump and twist in a desperate attempt to unseat the rider.
Similar to bareback horse riding, but with a saddle. Riders attempt to stay on a bucking horse for a minimum of eight seconds, holding on only with one hand.
In order to make the horse buck, flank straps are used in this event as well. Riders ‘mark out’ their horse as in bareback riding, with spurs. The terrified and stressed horses sometimes crash into barriers, break limbs or damage their spine as they struggle in a panic to free themselves of the rider.
The aim is for contestants to hold on for at least eight seconds once the bull is released into the arena. The terrified animal bucks unnaturally and jumps to try to throw the rider, and get away from the torment caused by the tight flank strap. Michael Latting, a Chicago rodeo organiser, has said,
"Bulls today have been bred to be docile. You can't make an animal buck if you don't do something to it".
In barrel racing, a female-only event, riders race around three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern. Horses are pushed to go as fast as possible and make unnaturally tight turns at speed. It is not uncommon for horses to lose their footing, which can result in muscle damage or broken bones.
One overseas study showed that almost fifty per cent of barrel racing horses had radiographic abnormalities of the fetlock joint (equivalent to a human ankle joint).