Rodeo supporters line up against 'horse tripping' bill
By MITCH LIES
SALEM — Two veterinarians, a county sheriff, a rodeo official, a mayor, state legislators and several ranchers spoke out against a bill that would ban “horse tripping” at rodeos in a hearing May 8 before the House Judiciary Committee.
“First of all, what we do is not horse tripping,” said Jerry Rayburn of the Jordan Valley Rodeo board of directors in addressing Senate Bill 835. “It is horse roping with a 20-foot loop.”
Secondly, Rayburn said, most, if not all, legislators in the House Judiciary Committee have never seen horse roping and are not equipped to legislate it.
“We think it would only be fair if you could witness it in person before you pass judgment on us,” Rayburn said.
The event that SB835 would ban, Rayburn said, involves containing horses by roping them around the neck, then roping their front legs.
“Any intentional tripping would not only mean immediate disqualification,” he said, “but the contestant could also be banned from competing at our rodeo for at least three years and maybe more, depending on the infraction.”
The annual Jordan Valley Big Loop Rodeo is one of only a handful of rodeos in Oregon that includes horse roping as an event. It is a signature event of the rodeo and a ban on it would subtract from the cultural appeal of the rodeo and could lead to a drop in revenue for the small Eastern Oregon town, Rayburn said.
Sen. Mark Hass, D-Portland, one of the bill’s sponsors, said, however, the event is inhumane and should be banned.
“For those of you who don’t know, horse tripping is the practice of roping the front or hind legs of a galloping horse, causing it to trip and come crashing to the ground for the purposes of entertainment or sport,” Hass said.
“It is done intentionally at fringe rodeos,” he said.
“Make no mistake, horse tripping is alive and very well here in Oregon,” said Rep. David Gomberg, D-Lincoln City. “Horses used in these events suffer broken legs, broken necks, rope burn, cuts and abrasions,” and many are psychologically traumatized, he said.
Hass went on to say that the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association bans horse tripping in its sanctioned rodeos. But Douglas Corey, chair of the Livestock Welfare Committee of the PRCA, said that is not true.
“While the PRCA does not have a position on horse tripping, as it has never been held in our sanctioned rodeos, we do have a concern about the language (in the bill) that would prohibit the roping of the horse’s leg,” Corey said.
“We do not feel that simply roping the legs of a horse is an act that should be banned,” he said.
“While this legislation seemed aimed at equine tripping, the language … seems to go much further,” he said.
“I sincerely believe this legislation may have unintended consequences in the future,” Corey said.
“This legislation is not necessary in Oregon. In Oregon, we already have anti-cruelty laws on the statutes,” he said.
Further, Bob Skinner, a Jordan Valley resident and former president of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, said he believes bill backers are deliberately misleading lawmakers through the use of edited video and even in labeling the bill the “horse tripping” bill.
“I feel like this bill is deliberately designed to be misleading,” Skinner said.
“The event that I have grown up with does not trip horses,” he said.
“If (SB)835 passes, it is going to do nothing but drive a wedge in this state right down the Cascades,” Skinner said. “There is no trust left on the east side.”
The committee took no action on the bill. Chair Jeff Barker, D-Aloha, said the committee would take up the issue again on May 13.
The bill previously passed the Senate.