Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
| Courtesy Robyn Van Valkenburg In this screenshot from a video by Utah State University journalism student Robyn Van Valkenburg, a rider has suceeded in lassoing a young horse during a horse roping event at the Box Elder County Fairgrounds on Nov. 23. Van Valkenburg was kicked out of the event. Her video, posted to YouTube, receive thousands of hits and organizers have been criticized for the event.
Editorial: Not every Old West tradition is worth saving

Recreation event put animals at risk

First Published Jan 23 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Jan 23 2014 01:35 pm

Some people yearn for what they perceive as better days in the American West — including in rural Utah — when cowboys roamed the range and were respected for their hard work and independent spirit. They believe the traditional cowboy skills — roping, herding, riding — should be preserved as part of the Western legacy.

And most should.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

But not all cowboys are worthy of respect. Not when they ignore what we now understand about the effects of those skills on the animals that horsemen and women ride and rope.

A "horsemanship" event last fall at the Box Elder County Fairgrounds in Tremonton displayed a misguided effort to keep alive particular traditions that were inhumane when they were common and that should be abandoned. Repeated roping of very young horses, organized as recreation for cowboys, is not, and should not be, part of the old West legacy we hope to preserve.

Recreational horse roping, especially when it involves not just throwing a loop around the horse’s neck but also roping the front or back legs, or both, and bringing the struggling animal to the ground — hard — is unnecessarily dangerous for the animal and simply inhumane.

Horses, unlike cattle, have relatively fragile bones and leg joints and thinner hide than a steer’s that can be injured during this type of repeated recreational roping.

While horse roping can be traced back centuries, today’s horse riders should have a better knowledge of the animals’ strengths and vulnerabilities and, we would hope, more regard for the pain and terror animals feel.

After a Utah State University student shot a video of the horse-roping event held last November and posted it last week on her blog, another such event was canceled and Box Elder County officials say they might change the county’s policy on what type of events are allowed in the arena.

It’s clear from the outcry following the video posting that Tremonton’s image as a bastion of Western values has suffered. County officials would be doing the right thing to prohibit any future such events.

What occurred there might or might not qualify as "horse tripping," a brutal practice in which a rider ropes the front or back legs and sends the horse to the ground. That is illegal in at least eight states, but not in Utah.

story continues below
story continues below

What is clear is that what these riders were doing caused the animals to suffer and put them in danger of serious injury simply to entertain themselves. That’s a type of Old West fun we should not continue replicating.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.