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Senator Doug Whitsett
R- Klamath Falls, District 28

Phone: 503-986-1728 900 Court St. NE, S-303, Salem, Oregon 97301
Email: sen.dougwhitsett@state.or.us
Website: http://www.leg.state.or.us/whitsett
State Seal
Horse Tripping Bill

E-Newsletter 5/13/13 


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 problem.


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 allegation.


        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 to approach.


        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 event.


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.


Best Regards,






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