Animal-human relationships are the core ingredients in the settlement of the West. That relationship continues in the form of arena events - rodeo, team penning, cutting dressage, etc., and ranch work - gathering, branding and shipping livestock.
I have been in the business of ranching and raising kids and grandkids for over 40 years and I can guarantee that the responsibility, ethics and sense of fair play those young people gain from competing in rodeo and other animal-oriented events are not found in video arcades and shopping malls. The young men and women that I know, raised in a rural environment, are compassionate leaders with exceptional common sense and decision-making ability. Rodeo plays an important role in developing that kind of character. To get down in the chute on the back of a 2,000-pound bull or a 1,500-pound horse requires a 170-pound cowboy to be alert and definitely drug-free, and by the way, who is practicing violence in that picture?
I have often wondered why people who are so concerned about the well-being of exhibited livestock aren't concerned about the feral horses in the West that are allowed to multiply to the point that both they and the land suffer.
Rodeo livestock are well-fed and cared for. Bulls and horses are bred for their bucking ability and during rodeo season, usually work about 50 to 60 seconds a week. They are usually turned out with all they can eat during the off-season.
The National High School Rodeo Finals will be held in Farmington, N.M., next summer. I hope Ms. Baxter can find time to talk to some of the contestants, parents and producers and hear the real story from the "horse's mouth."
Capitan, New Mexico