Doing Right By the Horse

As breakaway enters its biggest moment, we as an industry have to take this opportunity to prioritize our horses and our treatment of them to put our best foot forward.

Doing Right By The Horse
Bull Stock Media

I’m going to use this platform this month to talk about something that’s concerned me across all events for a long time: Why are we the only industry that doesn’t hold people accountable for their actions in the arena? Our attitudes—and our attitudes toward our horses—define us as competitors and horsemen and -women, and now is the time for us as competitors to demand more from one another for our actions.

Breakaway ropers, of all people, should be held accountable to keep their minds and attitudes together. What is this—why are we as competitors OK with some of the things that go on?  Of course, I’m known for getting in the middle of a situation. I understand discipline. I will discipline my horse. I will discipline my child.

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But beating a horse because you’re frustrated? That wears me out. How are we OK with that? I know there are rules against it, and if judges catch you, they’re enforced. But too commonly we let our friends and fellow competitors get away with taking out their frustrations when they just shouldn’t.

We have to figure out a way to grow up as adults. We have to figure out a way to ask WHY did whatever situation you’re frustrated about happen? Not ‘I’m going to fix this and this horse right now.’ We’ve got to control our emotions. Think—what happened in the practice pen? What bit is in his mouth? How is his tie-down adjusted? We all have to appreciate this puzzle. You have to grow in this sport and figure out what makes the horse tick, or you won’t be the best you can be and your horse sure won’t be the best he or she can be either.

Like it or not, horsemanship is a part of this sport. You’ve got to be OK with thinking adversity through and not taking frustration out on your horse.

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Example: At Cheyenne, T-Boy, when I threw, T-Boy went left. I pulled him over, and then it was done. There’s a fine line. It wasn’t an emotional correction. It was a fix, and I wasn’t going to gain anything by losing my cool on him in that arena—especially not in front of all those fans, at a time when fan support across the spectrum and particularly by new fans, means the world to our future.  

I feel like every roping producer and association needs something to hold people accountable. Consequences need to be immediate, with no question. Every association and producer should hold people accountable. Other industries do. The only way you get to the bottom of people if they get DQ’ed and banned. I think you see judges get scared to say anything, producers get scared to say anything. While there are bylaws in the WPRA for both major and minor violations, they’re hard to enforce to hold people accountable. I try to do my part, and I try to stand up for it if I see it. But it’s a touchy thing, and hard to put on the other competitors without solid support from the associations and producers.

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