How do they make rodeo horses buck?
December 15, 2007 9:22 AM   Subscribe

How do they make rodeo horses/bulls buck?

I heard somewhere they tie a rope tightly around their precious jewels and hold it up until the gate opens, but that just sounds too... Vickian.
posted by xmutex to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total)
They're unbroken, aren't they?
posted by Lockjaw at 9:33 AM on December 15, 2007

I'm not sure if that is quite correct, but the essense of it is there. They tie ropes around the midsection of the animal in such a way that it is uncomfortable and the animal wants to get rid of it. Kind of like this [YouTube].
posted by Doohickie at 9:34 AM on December 15, 2007

there's a section of flank on horses and cows just in front of their back legs that acts as a 'tickle spot'. they strap that down and the animals bucks to relieve the pressure.

some of the sweetest horses i've known were used as "unbroken" stock.
posted by youcancallmeal at 9:39 AM on December 15, 2007

The precious jewels are nowhere near the flank strap. You can stop wincing in sympathy now. And if bucking horses often come from long lines of bucking horses, as sources claim, not only would damaging the genitalia be cruel, it would be counterproductive.

Some details on use of the flank strap:

The outside of the flank strap is made of leather. The inside is lined with sheepskin or neoprene. Rodeo rules specify the flank strap must be lined with enough sheepskin to cover the belly of the horse and both flanks, and that no sharp or cutting edges of any kind be present. These rules are consistent with what animal behaviorists have taught us regarding animals such as the horse: his first reaction to pain or danger stimuli is to flee. A horse who is afraid or in pain won’t buck, he will try to run away.

A horse has 18 ribs, and the kidneys are protected by the ribs. It is physically impossible to damage these major organs with the flank strap as the strap is nowhere near them. It is also physically impossible to cover the genitals - of a male or female horse - with the flank strap.

So if these horses really want to buck on their own, why use a flank strap? The flank strap alters the bucking action of the horse by encouraging him to kick out straighter and higher with his hind legs, thus making himself harder to ride. The flank stacks the odds in favor of the horse. It cannot make him buck.

In fact, the flank strap is so acceptable to the bronc that he can become "broke" to it very easily. This is why the pickup men move in so quickly at the end of the bronc ride. They want to get the flank off the bronc as quickly as possible so he won’t become accustomed to it.

This is the same reason the flank strap is hung very loosely and very far forward on the bronc waiting his turn in the chute. It is not "pulled" until the very last second before the bronc takes his first leap into the arena. The flank strap is never tied, and loosens with each buck the horse takes. It is also equipped with a quick release handle to facilitate it’s fast removal. All these measures are taken to prevent the bronc from becoming "broke" to the fleece or neoprene lined flank.

What happens when a horse with no natural inclination to buck is flanked? It may take a couple of leaps - not bucks - then simply run to the end of the arena.
In fact, this is an all-too common sight for the stock contractor. Since rodeo broncs are extremely hard to find, the contractor is always willing to try a reported bucker. Watching a "mankiller" gallop happily to the end of the arena - bronc rider on board and flank strap in place - is a frustrating sight witnessed all too often by the stock.

I'm as uncomfortable with the existence and treatment of rodeo horses as I am about the breeding and treatment of racehorses, but neither is really a Grand Guignol of equine horror.
posted by maudlin at 9:39 AM on December 15, 2007

There is a rope, known as a flank strap. There is, of course, propaganda on both sides of the issue.

The Professional Bull RIder's Association (link to their page on animal cruelty) says it is just a "helper", and that the animals are bred to buck. Animal rights activists, on the other hand, say it is a horrible torture that injures the animal, rather than helping them. It does not go around the genitals of the animal, according to both parties, but while the PBR holds it is not an irritant, the rights orgs all seem to think it is.

I'm skeptical of both sides, although I think it's an inherently brutal sport. I prefer the amazing acts required to break a wild horse, and would rather watch that than needless bucking.
posted by nursegracer at 9:47 AM on December 15, 2007

Ah, beaten to the link.
posted by nursegracer at 9:48 AM on December 15, 2007

A horse will naturally buck if it's not broken. Bulls (actually, a few specific breeds are used, some more violent than others...same as dogs can be) generally are 'cinched' which pisses them off and gets them moving.

I grew up on a ranch in a small BC town. I've been involved in all of this, and even I have to say it can be pretty cruel. However, in most cases there is no lasting harm done.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:49 AM on December 15, 2007

posted by mnology at 10:12 AM on December 15, 2007

It's also the case that they're trained. Some bulls are mean; when the cowboy is off their back, the bull wants to kill them. That's why there are clowns out there. (And the clowns are highly regarded, and definitely earn their pay. I've seen clowns get hurt protecting a rider.)

But some of the bulls seem to know what's going on, and as soon as the cowboy is off their backs, they head straight for the exit chute. They don't even wait for the guy on the horse to herd them.

For all that some people think that rodeo is mean and cruel to animals, fact is that cowboys get injured more often than the stock does. Bull riding is dangerous!
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:31 PM on December 15, 2007

No one mentioned the spurs. A bronc buster will kick the horse in the withers repeatedly with his spurs to encourage it to buch - take a look next time you're watching TV.

That cute PBR page on their "animal athletes" point out that bulls' leather skin is about seven times as thick as human skin and isn't damaged at all by the dull spurs that bull riders use. I think that makes sense.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:17 PM on December 15, 2007

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