SB 835, better known as the
horse tripping bill, is a classic example of the
urban-rural divide. I believe the bill represents an
animal rights activist measure disguised as a bill for
the humane treatment of horses. In my opinion, it
represents a first attempt to outlaw the use of animals
for competitive events, such as team roping, ranch
branding and other rodeo competitions.
The purpose of the sponsors
of SB 835 is to play to the emotions of the many
legislators that have no idea what comprises the scope
of daily ranch work. They know that some legislators can
be swayed by misleading rhetoric as well as by pictures
and video that have absolutely nothing to do with the
alleged problem being addressed.
It was certainly no
accident that the proponents of SB 835 chose to target a
single event in the most remote corner of Oregon when
they selected the Big Loop Rodeo contest in Jordan
Valley. In that event, horses are first roped around the
neck, and then around the front legs, much as a steer is
roped around the head and hind legs. The purpose of the
competition is to stop and hold the horse, not to throw
the horse off its feet.
In fact, professional
animal handlers who have provided livestock to the
Jordan Valley Rodeo for more than a decade testified
before the House Judiciary Committee that no horse has
ever been injured in the Jordan Valley Big Loop contest.
My testimony to the House
Judiciary Committee in opposition to the bill follows:
“Mr. Chair, I wonder who in
this hearing room, other than the many folks who have
travelled here today from Jordan Valley, have ever roped
a horse? In fact, I wonder who in this hearing room has
personally ever even seen a horse being roped.
Mr. Chair, I wonder who in
this hearing room has ever travelled to Jordan Valley?
And, I wonder who in this hearing room has ever attended
a Big Loop rodeo event?
Yet Mr. Chair, here
we are today, to debate whether to make participation in
the Jordan Valley Big Loop rodeo event a violation of
Oregon law, a class B misdemeanor.
Make no mistake;
that is the precise purpose of SB 835!
It specifically targets the
one rodeo event that represents the primary reason why
folks travel to Jordan Valley to compete, and why people
come to Jordan Valley to attend the rodeo.
We have heard that Section
1 of this bill is designed to preserve rodeo in Oregon.
Yet, section 2 proposes to make the training for, or
participation in, the Jordan Valley Big Loop rodeo
contest a violation of Oregon law!
I submit Mr. Chair
that participation in most rodeo events would be made a
class B misdemeanor simply by changing the word “equine”
to the word “livestock” in section 2 of this bill that
relates to roping a horse around the legs. SB 835 is
just one word change away from not preserving rodeo, but
to outlawing most rodeo events in Oregon!
In my opinion, the primary
purpose of this bill is to establish statutory language
that can be altered or changed in the future to do just
that. Its ultimate purpose is to ban rodeo in Oregon. I
have reached that conclusion because the bill, as
currently written, is truly a solution in search of a
We have heard testimony
that horses have a high center of gravity and that
somehow they are more likely to tip over, to fall harder
than other animals. That would probably be the reason
why man has chosen the horse as his preferred animal to
ride for millennia; because, they have a high center of
gravity and they are likely to tip over and fall. Any
person who has ever attempted to intentionally throw a
horse off its feet will attest to the absurdity of that
As many of you
know, I am a veterinarian. I owned and operated a large
animal practice that employed as many as five
veterinarians in rural southern Oregon for nearly thirty
years. I am a past president of the Klamath County
Cattleman’s Association and of numerous horse breeding
associations, as well as past president of the Oregon
Veterinary Medical Association.
Rep. Whitsett and I have
bred and trained sport-horses for more than twenty
years. During that time we have sold more than 250
horses for competition purposes.
Roping a horse by
one or both front legs is an equine husbandry practice
that is used very frequently in horse training.
I prefer this practice over
roping the horse around the neck because I do not like
the alternative that chokes horses.
An unbroken horse that is
roped around the neck will usually pull back until it
chokes itself unconscious. Unfortunately, the horse will
often do so repeatedly. On the other hand, when roped
around one or both front legs, the horse will almost
always stop struggling, face the handler and allow him
In nearly thirty
years of veterinary practice, I have never seen a horse
injured by roping it by a front leg. In nearly thirty
years of veterinary practice, neither I nor my
associates have ever treated a horse injured by roping
it around a front leg.
To my knowledge,
not a single picture or video that has been circulated
by the proponents of this bill has any remote connection
to the Jordan Valley Big Loop contest. In fact, they
appear to be disingenuous attempts to encourage
legislators to vote on emotion rather than fact.
SB 835 creates a huge
financial problem for the rural town of Jordan Valley,
Oregon. Much of their critical small town services are
actually financed by revenue generated by the Jordan
Valley rodeo. The Big Loop contest is the single event
that causes most people to come to the rodeo in this
remote part of Oregon.
SB 865 is a classic
example of the urban-rural divide. A divide where one
segment of Oregon’s people have no idea why something is
being done, but have no hesitation whatsoever to
vote it out of existence.
Our Senate District does
not include the folks in Jordan Valley, which is located
in Malheur County in the far Southeast corner of Oregon.
It is so far away that you can’t get there without
starting to come back. For the folks here from Jordan
Valley today, it took one day to travel from Jordan
Valley, a second day to spend testifying and a third day
to return home.
Yet this event is so
important to the folks in Jordan Valley that they have
travelled to Salem twice. They have nearly filled this
hearing room today to tell you how important the Big
Loop contest is to their small town.
Dr. Doug Corey is
here today to testify in opposition to SB 835. Dr.
Corey is also a past president of the Oregon Veterinary
Medical Association, a past president of the American
Association of Equine Practitioners, and is currently in
charge of overseeing animal safety for the Professional
Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Please listen carefully
when Dr. Corey tells you that the folks in Jordan Valley
do not hurt horses in their signature Big Loop Roping
Mr. Chair and committee
members, I urge you to reject SB 835. In the
alternative, I ask that you adopt the dash five
amendments that will at least serve to help preserve the
Big Loop contest in Jordan Valley.”
I ended my testimony by
thanking the committee chair and members for the
opportunity to share my thoughts on this matter that is
so important to one rural community.
I often state that if we do
not stand up for rural Oregon, no one will. This was
truly an opportunity for me to stand up for one rural
Oregon community when few others would.
Please remember, if we do
not stand up for rural Oregon no one will.