Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo officials should review horse’s death

Originally published in the Wyoming Tribune on July 27, 2011

For the casual rodeo fan sitting in the Frontier Park Arena, the collapse and later death of the saddle bronc Check Mate on Sunday brought back memories from two years ago when another horse, Strawberry Fudge, died in a similar way.

Nothing could be worse for the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo than to have two horses lose their lives in three years in horrible fashion, shaking on the floor of the arena.

Yes, it is true that such deaths are rare, given the large number of horses that are ridden during a single CFD Rodeo, much less over three years. But none of that takes away from the stomach-churning reaction or the impact that this death will have on those casual fans, many of whom will not be back to the rodeo for a long time, if ever.

Making matters worse was the prattle from rodeo announcer Justin McKee, who chose at that very moment to launch into a rant about how well CFD tends to its animals – while one was lying on the arena floor with a broken back. How much better it would have been to remain silent out of respect for the animal and for those who saw Check Mate as more than “just a horse,” as some cowboys told their crying girlfriends in the stands.

It is true that CFD and rodeo officials across the nation work hard to care for their animals. And they have taken steps over the years to reduce injuries, if only to meet valid objections from various animal rights groups.

But there is something going on here, and CFD officials should spend some time after this year’s big event looking into what is now a trend. Simply dismissing it – as Mr. McKee would have had those in the stands do – would be unwise, given that images of Check Mate’s death will be used to gather anti-rodeo steam and chase casual fans away.

We are not rodeo experts, but it seems to us that the rookie saddle bronc competition ought to be re-evaluated. Yes, it provides some of the most spectacular crashes outside of bull riding, but is that really enough motivation to keep it around? The combination of inexperienced horses and rookie riders seems a volatile mixture, and officials should consider greater protections for the animals, if not ending this event altogether.

No doubt, some rodeo fans will see this editorial as anti-rodeo or pro-PETA or pro-SHARK. But this is not that. We are big supporters of Frontier Days and the rodeo – our full coverage of the event is more than proof of that.

But we do have a valid concern for these horses and, more importantly, for the long-term health of the CFD Rodeo. Just as we spoke out a few years ago against the improper electric prodding of bulls here, so it is important to point out something that could damage this rodeo’s image in the eyes of an ever-growing pro-animal segment in this nation.

The deaths of Strawberry Fudge and Check Mate should not simply be written off as “a part of the sport.” Other questionable rodeo activities have been eliminated or moderated. The same should occur with rookie saddle broncs at CFD.

Link to article.

For anyone who thinks this is wholesome, family “entertainment,” watch the video of Check Mate fatally injured and how he is “handled,” and if you have the stomach for it, the death in 2009 of Strawberry Fudge. Footage taken by SHARK.





8 thoughts on “Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo officials should review horse’s death”

  1. Thank you for this. It is truly a shameful display of mindless, unnecessary cruelty. It encapsulates everything that is wrong in the need for improved animal welfare laws. Of course, there aren’t any, at the rodeo! The more crashing and thrashing, the better. If this is an example of “old-style horse-handling” to be emulated by children, heaven help the animals.
    They jump on the horses’ neck to prevent the horse from getting up. That is a common method of restraint, for an injured large animal. In the kind world, of course, the injury wasn’t intentionally caused.. In rodeo, every crash is another thrill for the audience. Sick.


  2. Rodeos are as barbaric as jousting, and should be banned altogether. Men need to go back to playing with balls and leave animals alone.


  3. Rodeos should be banned altogether. I can’t believe that these ‘macho’ cowboys still have to prove themselves by the killing, injuring and maiming of these innocent animals. It’s disgusting the way they pounce on the them when they are injured and frightened. Imagine having someone jump on your head when you are crippled and can’t move, it’s all very traumatic for everyone except the people involved. AND ALL THIS IS CLASSED AS FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT how misguided and shameful it all is.


  4. I couldn’t watch the videos. Something definitely does need to be done. NO event is worth risking the life of a horse.


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