Former rodeo organizer objects to proposed ‘steer tripping’ event in Las Vegas

A prominent former rodeo organizer is blowing the whistle on a proposed steer roping — or “steer tripping” — event that is potentially scheduled at Orleans Arena when the National Finals Rodeo comes to Las Vegas in December, describing steer tripping as “awful.”

Bob Thain, of Reno, a former Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association board member and a ProRodeo Hall of Famer, wrote to Boyd Gaming Corp., which owns Orleans Arena, to express his opposition to the potential steer tripping event.

The PRCA and Boyd are discussing the proposed steer tripping event, so it’s not a done deal. But Thain said the PRCA, Boyd and Las Vegas would be better off without the steer tripping event.

Thain said he contacted Boyd because steer roping, or steer tripping as it’s called, is not a standard rodeo event. It involves a cowboy roping a grown steer from behind and tripping the animal. Thain said the steer could flip and cartwheel, sometimes landing on its head.

“Steer tripping is not like team roping. It’s not an event that belongs in conjunction with the National Finals,” Thain told the Review-Journal on Wednesday. “In Mexico, they used to have a big barbecue afterward. It’s not a good humane event, in my opinion. PETA would become unglued.”

Thain’s letter dated Feb. 25 to Boyd Gaming said, in part: “The PRCA has never been able to find a permanent home for the Steer Roping National Finals because it definitely does not attract spectators, only problems. There is a reason it has never been held in conjunction with the NFR – the humane issue. PETA and other animal rights activists will have a field day with this event in Las Vegas.”

Veteran Californian rodeo organizer Cotton Rosser said steer tripping is limited to states such as Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico and accepted in only about 10 percent of the PRCA-sanctioned rodeos. He said the event grew from ranch activities more than a century ago when a lone cowboy had to catch wild cattle.

Rosser, general manager of the Flying U Rodeo Company in Marysville, Calif., said none of the 40 rodeo events that he puts on includes steer tripping.

“The rodeo committees don’t want the event. They feel sorry for the animal,” Rosser said.

Rosser also noted Wednesday from his office that, “The steers are not hurt, but once in a while you have an accident. (Steer tripping) is not acceptable by some people.”

A Boyd Gaming spokesman stressed the proposed steer tripping event is at the discussion phase.

“We’ve had preliminary discussions with the PRCA about hosting it. It would be premature to comment further because we have not entered into a contract to host this. It has not progressed any further than discussions with the PRCA,” spokesman David Strow said.

Strow said Boyd has received Thain’s letter.

“We’ll take it into consideration,” Strow said.

The Review-Journal left a message on PRCA Commissioner Karl Stressman’s cell phone and is awaiting comment.

PRCA spokesman Jim Bainbridge explained that Stressman is out of the office, but a copy of Thain’s letter has been scanned to him and he was unsure when Stressman will receive it.

PETA plans to contact the PRCA regarding the steer tripping proposal, said Gemma Vaughan, a PETA animal cruelty case worker.

“It’s absolutely, plan and simple, animal abuse,” Vaughan said. “We will be contacting the organizer and sharing our concerns.”

Vaughan said the tripping event causes steers to suffer injuries to their spines and legs. It can lead to dislocations, broken legs and torn ligaments and tendons, she said.

Contact reporter Alan Snel at asnel@review-journal.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @BicycleManSnel on Twitter.