An animal rights group posted a video on YouTube on Thursday showing three scenes of a man covertly shocking what appears to be two different horses to force them to buck during Thursday's performance of the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper.
"They claim [horses] are born to buck," said Steve Hindi, president of Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, or SHARK.
"They are not," Hindi said.
The video appears to show a young man wearing blue jeans, a long-sleeve tan shirt and black hat with his hands on the horses' necks and pulling them quickly away.
In all scenes, he immediately tucks a device under his unbuttoned sleeve.
In the first and second scenes, the slow-motion versions show the man holding in his left hand what Hindi says is a Miller Manufacturing Hot-Shot Power-mite electric prod.
In the third scene, he is shown stuffing the prod in his left front pocket.
In all scenes, the gate is open only a few inches.
"If they didn't think what they were doing was wrong, why are they hiding it?" Hindi said.
Two years ago, Hindi and SHARK applauded Cheyenne Frontier Days for tightening its rules on the use of hand-held electric shock devices on horses by posting similar videos on YouTube.
CNFR spokeswoman Susan Kanode responded Friday with a press release stating: "Safety and the welfare of animal and human athletes is of the highest concern to the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.
"The use of prods is acceptable where the animal’s safety is a concern as in the case of a horse stalling in the bucking chute," Kanode said.
Contacted later, she said neither she nor NIRA Commissioner Roger Walters would have any further comment on the matter.
"We have much more important things to do here," Kanode said.
NIRA rules forbid the use of prods and similar devices with two exceptions:
* "A known chute-stalling animal (horse events only), only with contestants, contractors and judges approval, and should be administered by a qualified member"
* "A prod may be used to move livestock in pens and alleys, with prod use ceasing completely when the animal enters the competition chute."
These words are just excuses, Hindi said.
"These 'humane' rules are a public relations scam," he said.
If a horse is a "known chute-staller," it should not be permitted at a finals rodeo event in the first place, he said.
When Hindi has seen horses stall in a chute, they just stand there, he said. "When a horse stalls, it doesn't explode -- it doesn't do anything."
Hindi has been following rodeo for 16 years, although he's never competed, he said, adding this is SHARK's first visit to the CNFR.
But the practice of using electric prods on horses runs throughout rodeo, and the sport's associations don't want to own up to the pain they can cause, Hindi said.
Miller Manufacturing's website says its "Hot-Shot" prods are for use on cattle and hogs. Hindi added company officials have told him that the device should not be used on horses or at rodeos, although that could not be determined from Miller Manufacturing's website.
However, Hindi misunderstands the power and use of the prods, said Cindy Schonholtz, who handles animal welfare issues for the Colorado Springs-based Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
The prods produce about as much kick as an electric fence, she added.
Contestants must agree to allow the use of the prod, and if they don't want it used they can ask for a reride, Schonholtz said.
They also reserve the right to question whether its use on a competitor's horse is giving another contestant an unfair advantage, she said.
Horses sometimes have so much adrenaline pumping that they need the prod, and not because they are unfit for rodeo events, she said.
"They're using it to get [the horse] out of the chute, not to make it buck," Schonholtz said. "When you open the gate, you want the horse to get out cleanly."
Reach Tom Morton at (307) 266-0592, or at email@example.com.