Editorial, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
July 26, 2008
A decision made earlier this year by the Cheyenne Frontier Days General Committee to outlaw Hot Shots at this year's "Daddy of 'em All" has proven to be a wise one.
It avoids all sorts of controversy that the rodeo quite simply does not need.
The hullabaloo over Hot Shots at CFD unfolded in 2006 when a photographer for the Wyoming Tribune Eagle caught their illegal use. Indiscriminate Hot Shots use is banned under the rules of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, and there are questions whether they also violate city code. Frontier Park is leased to CFD, but it is owned by the people of Cheyenne.
In connection to that incident, the PRCA fined main stock contractor Harry Vold $500 for the action of his subcontractor, Chad Burch of Rozet, who was using the device on horses.
Hot Shots are electrical prods that are used on animals to get them to move if they stall. But it appeared they were being used for more than that, such as trying to create better rides for cowboys. Such abuse damages rodeo's image.
That doesn't mean the devices can't be used. If the animal's or the cowboy's health is in danger, a Hot Shot can be employed. That makes sense.
But there's no reason why stock from Harry Vold needs to be prodded. These animals are the best, and they have no desire for cowboys to be on their backs for eight seconds.
The announcement not to use Hot Shots at CFD had some interesting timing to it. Not only had it been taking heat from animal-rights groups, but the band Matchbox Twenty announced it was pulling out of the opening-night of CFD this year over concerns of mistreatment of animals.
Besides these two factors, CFD was facing a public relations nightmare. People won't attend rodeos if they know - or even perceive - that animals are being mistreated. Since the stories broke about Michael Vick's dogfighting, more people are concerned about animal welfare than ever.
This year SHARK, or Showing Respect for Animals, is taping CFD rodeos to make sure Hot Shots are not being used. That keeps CFD honest. So far, this is not an issue.
Indeed, the bucking, twisting and turning at this year's rodeo hasn't dropped to a lower level because of the loss of Hot Shots. The cowboys say the stock is as good as ever.
That's what CFD needs to focus on: getting the best stock available. Without a good bucking horse or bull, a cowboy isn't going to score very high at the world's largest outdoor rodeo.
The decision by CFD officials not to use Hot Shots might have been difficult, especially with the perception that their decision was forced on them by animal-rights group.
But CFD made the right decision, and it is living up to that promise. Its future success depends on that.