Rodeo Kings

Rodeo Kings

From St. Thomas Dog Blog July 8, 2011. Sadly in this year’s Stampede, 2 horses died in chuckwagon race crashes.

William and Kate opened the Calgary Stampede and attended the parade. William even took part in a chuckwagon race. I’d wondered what they’d do. Before their visit, there was a furor about their endorsement-by-attendance at what some call an event about animal abuse.

But wait, doesn’t Vancouver Humane Society have abandoned and abused animals in its own city? Doesn’t it receive calls about horse starvation within its jurisdiction? Isn’t there factory farming in the Lower Mainland?

UK Protests

And the UK’s RSPCA and League Against Cruel Sports? (sorry, Stampede articles are gone.) Isn’t there abuse and neglect within the UK? What’s happening with fox hunting? That can be pretty hard on horses let alone the fox, if there’s still hunting of live foxes. And polo. Show jumping, eventing, steeplechasing, hurdling: all involve horses as active partners under the control of a human.


The protestors made a lot about the UK having banned rodeo in 1934 and that it was William’s “great-great-grandfather George V who signed [it] into law.” Funny, I had no idea rodeo was part of British culture and history. Not like Canada and the US where the activities that comprise rodeo have been part of the national landscape since the beginning.

Stampede and all horse sports

But there are horse sports that William, his father and brother, his aunt Anne, his cousin Zara, grandfather and other members of both sides of his family actively participate in. Polo, show jumping, eventing and driving. His paternal grandmother and late great-grandmother have huge stables of Thoroughbreds and have long been active in “The Sport of Kings.” How many horses are killed yearly in Thoroughbred racing alone?


In Los Angeles, where William and Kate headed after Calgary, he is participating in a polo match. Not one peep about animal abuse in anything I read about that. Why weren’t the Vancouver and UK animal rights people all over that one?


I do not want to fuel activism against polo. It is a beautiful sport. But, like any sport involving animals, it has a lot of room for abuse in treatment of horses and in training methods. Read Jilly Cooper’s Polo. She explains the game and the training.

There are good trainers and players, and bad. There are selfish, egotistical, win-at-all-costs brutes who take out their frustrations on their horse partner. Some training methods rely on infliction of pain to “teach” the horse. There can be individual and systemic abuse of half the polo team. The description of the training by the world-champion level Argentines is so horrific that I flinched at the mere word Argentina long after finishing the book. And that’s just the world of polo.

Look into the spikes and sticks used by some show jumper trainers to get a horse’s feet lifted high. I’m not sure that the flank strap used to cause bucking by rodeo broncs is worse than many tools used by horse trainers unwilling to practice patience.

Priorities for animal activists

Should we ban show jumping and polo? No. But abuse should not be permitted in those sports any more than it should be permitted in rodeo or any sport or event that involves animals. Also maybe UK and Canadian animal rights people ought to clean up their own backyards first. Feeding and fixing ‘stray’ cats, stopping the supply of puppies on Kijiji: that’ll keep you busy right there.


Amazon link for RidersJilly Cooper’s Rutshire Chronicles are sequential so, if possible, start at the beginning, with Riders (tap image). Here’s a link for all Jilly Cooper books on Amazon. They are wonderful stories, with horrible people and lovely animals and a few nice people.

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. OK…I might give Jilly’s books a try…when I retire and have more time to read (one of these days).

    Another blog came to my attention through a site on FBook…Red Rocks and Sunflowers. Ann Sullivan (I think that’s her name) wrote a blog called “Tears for the Animals”. I shed a few tears reading about shedding tears, but it does end on a high note…and Ann wrote so eloquently. Take a look.

    1. Thinking about it, I don’t know if you’d like the books. The people are unbelievably horrible, except for a few nice ones. It’s a glimpse into a different world and it’s riveting, but! So be warned. Very entertaining though, with a lot of emotional ups and downs.

      Books I think you would like are the Richard Jury mysteries by Martha Grimes. The first one is The Man with a Load of Mischief, where we meet the characters. They’re again mostly of the ‘idle rich’ I suppose, although Jury himself isn’t. They’re likeable people, and there’s lots of great kids and animals in them. Also good animal-related info. I started with The Grave Maurice (half way through the series) and learned a lot about the mare urine production industry – hideous. Then I went back to the beginning and read them all in order. She also writes other non-Jury mysteries, set in the US. I wasn’t so fond of them. I’ll have a whole reading list developed for you by the time you retire! 😉

  2. Great blog Dorothy! As a child, I read “Beautiful Joe” and “Black Beauty” and I remember being totally heartbroken. Although I now avoid books that present these sort of images to me, I’m glad people are still writing and bringing attention to such practices as Jilly Cooper does in her book “Polo”.

    So, you are right! There is still much for those of us who love animals to do!


    1. Hi Kim, thanks. Yeah, I can’t read Black Beauty or watch the movie even now. Did as a kid, cried my heart out, didn’t do it again. I cried – and laughed – in all Jilly Cooper’s Rutshire books. Love them, but absolutely hate some of the people. But that polo team training part was the absolute worst – because it was “accepted” methods for those trainers and players. But all her books are worth the read – they take you into a whole different world of wealth and privilege. On rodeo, horses and cowboys, heard a repeat interview with Ian Tyson on Sunday Edition CBC today. Worth a listen – a really interesting man.

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