Monday, December 8, 2014

Horse Tripping -- It's Cruel & Uncivilized


What is "Horse Tripping"?

Well, imagine that that you and your family are on vacation. Then imagine what would be the unthinkable to most of us who have animals to look after.

Imagine for a moment that you found someone to feed and care for your horses and other critters while you and your entire family take a long awaited trip to discover America for a few weeks. You decide that you are going to fulfill a dream and take your children to visit Yellowstone, go see Mount Rushmore, and maybe just explore the West's back roads.

Imagine that you find yourselves in a town that has a rodeo coming up that weekend. One of the events is called "Horse Roping." And no, although you've been around horses most of your life, did some team roping in the past, you have no idea what this event is all about.

Curiosity gets to you, but you remember the first time you visited a rodeo that you hadn't been to and watched "wild cow milking." You remember how much fun that was to watch Cowboys trying to milk a cow on the fly, and you recall that you laughed so hard you almost cried.

You talk to your wife and both of you decide to stay because you are fans of rodeo. You love rodeo for the skill, the guts, the great horsemanship. And yes, you love the idea of keeping the traditions of the Old West alive and well through rodeo events.

So on Saturday, you and your wife and children, are in the stands when a chute opens and a mustang comes running out into the arena. You say to yourself, this must be the Horse Roping event.

Soon there are three men on horseback dressed in Mexican garb chasing the mustang. The riders chase her with twirling ropes, ready to rope. Soon the mustang is galloping at almost full tilt, but one of the Mexican dressed riders ropes here neck.

But no, for some reason the event doesn't stop.

You watch with peaked curiosity because you've never seen anything like it in the West. And frankly, you can't remember reading about anything like this in the Old West.

Each time the mustang races round the arena, a fourth man on the ground readies a loop. He let's out a lot of rope and the loop belongs huge and you watch as he actually hops through the loop twice as the horse approaches. Then as the small horse comes in range, he tosses his loop at the mustang's forelegs. He snags the mustang and she topples end of over onto the ground.

Yes, his goal was to trip the mustang -- to topple her to the ground for points.

When the mustang's front legs were snagged and the mustang crashes head over heels, she breaks a leg and it dangles limb as the horse tries to walk. You look over at your children and your wife, you see the shock on their faces.

Soon the Mexican riders rope the horse again, this time they hold her while a vet comes out and injects the horse to kill her because the wound was so great that there was no way for the break to heal.

You watch as a tow-truck comes out into the arena and takes the horse away. The mustang is used up and they announce the time for the event.

After a minute or so, another horse comes out and the event starts all over again. Luckily for this horse, it was not put down in front of the audience even though it limped off.

Well, that's not "Horse Roping." That is in fact the Mexican sport of "Horse Tripping".

"Horse-tripping" is done to make the horse hit the ground on purpose. In contrast, there is an event done in the Northwest and Canada called "horse-roping" where the roper who ropes the forelegs does not dally and lets it go as soon as it goes taunt.

"Horse Roping" events are similar to "horse tripping" but in "horse-roping" events, ropers who intentionally trip or injure a horse will be immediately disqualified. This is not the same as what is intentionally done in Mexican "horse-tripping" events. At least, that's what I've been told when doing my research.

There are many different events in rodeos besides the basic events, some have wild cow milking, some have wagon races, and so on, throughout the United States and Canada. "Horse Tripping," called "Mangana," originated in Mexico.

Charreadas (or Charreria) are Mexican-style rodeos and a national sport in its home country. Competing cowboys are called charros. Mangana is defined as a throw with a lariat designed to catch a horse by the forefeet.

The competing charro -- either on horseback or on the ground -- rope the front or hind legs of the horse, causing the animal to come crashing down to the ground. Charros prefer small, lightweight horses because they are easier to bring down. There are no statistics available on the number of horses used in charro rodeos.

The horses used do not normally survive.

One source of horses for leasing to charro rodeos are feedlots. Killer buyers employed by slaughterhouses lease out horses for the charreada circuit to make extra money from them before selling the horses to horse slaughter plants.

Before horse tripping was banned in California, a source at a Riverside feedlot reported they leased 25 horses per weekend to two different charro rodeos. Upon their return, many of the horses had displayed injuries serious enough that the animals were sent to slaughter. For each horse that went to slaughter, another from the feedlot replaced her on the charro circuit.

During that particular season, it is said that 85 to 120 horses were leased from that particular lot to the two charro rodeos. Surprisingly, it was reported that only 4 of the original horses survived until the season's end.

The charreada is a competitive event similar to rodeo, but the act of "horse tripping" is said to have been developed from animal husbandry practices used on the haciendas of old Mexico.

Of course, those who allow it say that the sport is "living history" and an art form drawn from the demands of working life on the haciendas.


When the Spanish first settled in Colonial Mexico, they were under orders to raise horses, but not to allow Native Americans to ride them. However, by 1528 the Spanish had very large estates where they raised cattle, these were called haciendas. They found it necessary to employ indigenous people as Vaqueros or herdsman, who soon became excellent horsemen. Smaller landholders, known as rancheros or ranchers, were the first genuine charros and they are credited as the inventors of the charreada.

Prior to the Mexican Revolution, ranch work competitions were generally between haciendas. Before World War I, there was little difference between rodeo and charreada. Since rodeo competitors from the United States, Mexico and Canada, all competed in rodeos in all three countries, charreada became an amateur team sport and the international competitions ceased.

Following the breakup of the haciendas by the Mexican Revolution, the charros saw their traditions slipping away. They met in 1921 and formed the Asociación Nacional de Charros to keep the charrería tradition alive.

The advent of the Mexican film industry brought greater popularity, especially musicals which combined rancheras with the charro image. Yes, they were the Mexican version of the "Singing Cowboy" genre in the United States.

Mexican Americans in the United States also held various charreadas during the same period. But in the 1970s, the Federación Mexicana de Charrería (FMCH) began assisting them in establishing official charreadas north of the border. They are now quite common. At times, US champion teams compete in the national competition of Mexico.

In 1994, California Governor Pete Wilson signed a bill into law banning the intentional tripping of horses, "horse tripping" for sport or entertainment in the state of California.

The bill was supported by numerous groups including the California Veterinary Medical Association, the American Horse Protection Association, the California Council of Police and Sheriffs, the California District Attorney's Association, the Great American Cowboy Association, and breeding and racing associations. And yes, even Hispanic organizations endorsed the California legislation -- including an endorsement from the Mexican American Chamber of Commerce.


Since 1994, "Horse Tripping has been banned in the following U.S. states: Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island and Texas. Enforcement, however, is difficult as many charro rodeos are conducted in remote areas. In some States reports are the law is not being enforced, such as Oregon. 

Reports state that "Horse Tripping" is still done in Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and in Colorado where it has actually become a part of their State Fair rodeo program there.

Make no mistake about it, "horse tripping" might be a cultural event, but it is also illegal in most states. Because it is illegal, among other resources trying to locate charro rodeos and stop the this from taking place, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is trying to deprive the charro rodeos of mustangs. But remember, the BLM conducts helicopter round-ups of America's wild horses in those states. And yes, wild horses have been spotted in charro rodeos.

The practice of "horse tripping" has also been banned in film and TV production; by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA).

Outlawing horse slaughter would not only protect horses from entering the slaughter pipeline, but also remove them as a major source of horses for the charreada event.

Let's be frank, rodeo events are not cruel. "Horse Tripping" is a cruel and barbaric event that is outlawed for a reason. 

There are no greater horse advocates, people concerned with how horses should be cared for, treated, adopted, or rescued, than those of us who own horses. 

Doing the research on this, I watched a lot of film and listened to a lot of narration both for and against the practice. One narrator attempted to point to equine sports where horses do have the chance of being injured after accidentally tumbling. He pointed out where those were just as bad, yet people are only picking on :horse tripping. He also made it sound as if the desire to ban the practice in racist somehow against Mexicans. 

Problem with his argument is that in other sports riders also tumble and get hurt and worse along with the horse, in "horse tripping" only the horse feels the pain -- and the act is not an accident but done on purpose. That in itself is the biggest difference between actual equine sports and "horse tripping". 

"Horse tripping" is not a sport. It is a sad act of cruelty on behalf of people who want to revise an act that there is no need for. And yes, even Mexican American groups say that there is no reason to re-enact something such as "Horse Tripping" which was used very seldom in Old Mexico.

"Horse Tripping" is not a cultural tradition that needs to be accepted in the United States in the same way that stoning someone should not be considered an acceptable cultural tradition. We must have standards as a society. And yes, there is a good reason that "Horse Tripping" has been banned in so many states. It is inhumane and those who do it know that.

Someone wrote to tell me that I didn't know what I was talking about. He said that I must be some bleeding-heart "Liberal" or someone from "PETA." He said this because I'm against horse-tripping and I think it's wrong.

Of course if he knew me, he would know how much of a Conservative and Right leaning I am. But frankly, I expect such crap now and then when I write an article that someone sees are screwing with their enjoyment. And really, I presume he participates in Horse Tripping. The guy might even be some Mexican roper who likes to hurt horses, who knows?

I've gotten a lot of mail about this article, mostly from horse people who can't believe this crap is done for fun at the expense of this animals. I've gotten a lot of mail from quite a few old timers who are "real working Cowboys". All agree that this is not a "Sport." All agree that this Mexican event should be banned.

And yes, I agreed with them because that's just the way I see it as well.

Tom Correa







5 comments:

  1. You are wrong about the difference between horse roping and horse tipping, In Oregon and Idaho and Nevada there is an event called horse roping, where the horse is roped around the neck and front feet. But the team is disqualified if the horse hits the ground. Do your research and find out the difference before branding this all the same. I am a horse roper not a horse tripper and proud of the fact that I can still show my roping skills on a horse and a steer.

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    1. Do you participate in an event where horse-tripping is done on purpose? Are you in the Mexican event of horse-tripping? If you are not, then you're obviously not doing this crap. In horse-roping, the roper who ropes the forelegs does not dally and lets it go as soon as it goes taut. Then time is called. In "horse-roping" events, ropers who intentionally trip or injure a horse will be disqualified. This is not the same as intentionally horse-tripping as done in Mexican events.

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  2. And no, although you've been around horses most of your life, did some team roping in the past, you have no idea what this event is all about.
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