What is a Flank Strap?
The flank strap is a fleece-lined strip of leather placed behind the horse’s rib cage in the flank area. PRCA rules strictly regulate the use of the strap, which must have a quick-release buckle. Sharp or cutting objects are never placed in the strap. Veterinarians have testified that the flank strap causes no harm to the animals.
“I’ve never seen or heard of any damage caused by a flank strap, and as for the argument that it covers the genitals, that’s impossible,” said Dr. Susan McCartney, a Reno, Nev., veterinarian who specializes in large animal care. Also, the horse’s kidneys are protected by its ribs, and the flank strap does not injure internal organs.
So, if not for the flank strap, why do horses buck? The answer is simple: instinct. It has to be in a horse’s nature to buck, and a horse that is not inclined to buck cannot be forced to do so with the use of a flank strap.
“These are not animals that are forced to buck and perform out in the arena,” said Dr. Eddie Taylor, the attending veterinarian for La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, a PRCA-sanctioned rodeo in Tucson, Ariz. “They thoroughly enjoy what they are doing.”
Do rodeo cowboys use spurs during arena competition?
Dull spurs are used in professional rodeo’s three riding events (bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding). Spurs that meet PRCA guidelines have blunt rowels (the star-shaped wheel on spurs) that are about one-eighth of an inch thick, so they can’t cut the animals.
The rowels must be loose so they will roll over the horse’s hide. Bull riding spurs have dull, loosely locked rowels to provide more grip on the animals’ thick loose hide.
Sources, including Sisson’s “Anatomy of the Domestic Animal” and Maximow and Bloom’s “Textbook of Histology,” indicate that the hides of horses and bulls are much thicker than human skin. A person’s skin is one to two millimeters thick, while a horse’s hide is about five millimeters thick and bull hide is about seven millimeters thick. The animals’ thick hides resist cutting or bruising, and the spurs used at PRCA rodeos usually only ruffle the animals’ hair.
What is a cattle prod?
The cattle prod is a device developed by the cattle industry to move livestock. Use of the prod has become one of the most universally accepted and humane methods of herding animals on ranches, in veterinary clinics, and, on occasion, at professional rodeos. The PRCA also regulates the use of prods. PRCA rules require that the prod be used as little as possible and that the animal be touched only on the hip or shoulder area.
Powered solely by flashlight batteries, the prod produces 5,000 to 6,000 volts of electricity, but virtually no amperage. And because amperage — not voltage — causes burns, the prod causes a mild shock, but no injury.
“There are two distinct types of cattle prods," said Dr. Jeffrey O. Hall, DVM, Logan, Utah. "The first is basically a stick or a pole-type device that is used to prompt movement by nudging animals with this device. This type of prod is not harmful to animals, as it is basically to get the animal's attention in order to provoke movement.”
“The second type of prod is electric. An electric prod provides a low current shock to induce the movement of the animals. This type of prod does not harm the animals, as it provides a mild electrical shock sensation that leaves no prolonged effects.”