In the sport of professional rodeo, cowboys share the limelight with the rodeo livestock. For a cowboy to compete at the highest level, the livestock also must be in peak condition. Both are athletes in their own right.
Colorado Pro Rodeo Association (CPRA) athletes value their animals, as do the CPRA stock contractors that provide the livestock for the rodeos. The CPRA and its members value their animals and staunchly protect them with specifically created rules. Consistent proper treatment of animals by CPRA members – in and out of the arena – has been well documented by veterinarians who have witnessed the health and condition of the animals first hand.
Like a well-conditioned athlete, an animal can perform well only if it is healthy. Any cowboy will tell you he takes home a paycheck only when the animal is in top form.
Stock contractors, the ranchers who raise and provide livestock to rodeos, also have an obvious financial interest in keeping the animals healthy. Many – if not most – of the CPRA members have more than an economic tie to animals; have lived and worked around animals for most of their lives, and they possess a high degree of respect and fondness for the livestock.
Hundreds of veterinarians compete in professional rodeo. "I think they participate because they have a deep interest in animals," said Doug Corey, a Pendleton, Ore., veterinarian. "If there was any mistreatment going on, they wouldn't participate." Anyone who attends a CPRA rodeo can be assured that the greatest care has been taken to prevent injury to animals or contestants. CPRA members are bound by the associations bylaws and rules, which include a section that deals exclusively with the humane treatment of animals.
The association's rules and regulations include more than 60 rules dealing with the care and treatment of animals. Anyone who violates these rules may be disqualified and face heavy fines. Professional rodeo judges, who are responsible for the enforcement of all CPRA rules, believe in these humane regulations and do not hesitate to report violations. Becoming a CPRA judge involves extensive training in the skills needed to evaluate livestock and testing of that knowledge and of the rodeo. CPRA rodeo judges undergo constant training and evaluation to ensure their skills are sharp and that they are enforcing CPRA rules, especially those regarding the care and handling of rodeo livestock.