61.8 F

Behind the Scenes: Animal Care at The Reno Rodeo (Subscriber Content)


I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Kristi Stone, a veterinarian with Comstock Equine, about her role as well as the role of animal welfare at the Reno Rodeo.

Two veterinarians are on premises during rodeo events assuring that any injured animal is quickly treated.

Stone has been working at Reno Rodeo since 2015. She has six years of veterinarian experience.

Stone discussed that the most usual treatment she sees is for competitors’ horses. Abrasions and small cuts she explained, are the most common injuries and have more to do with transporting the animals as opposed to injury from competing.

Horses are also checked for coughs, which can be caused by little more than dust. Stone said, however, that horses are checked to make sure the coughs are not transmittable diseases.

She explained that nine out of 10 times it’s the stock owners who come to them to check on an animal’s wellbeing, but vets do walk the pens to check on the animals. If there is any concern about the animal at all, it is not allowed to buck.

I asked Stone about bulls and Broncos in the chutes being pushed by rodeo participants.

She said that the Reno Rodeo has a strict no “hot-shot” rule. A hot shot is an electric prod used to shock livestock. This means when an animal is in the chutes and needs to be moved, it has to be lead by hand. In the case of Broncos, sometimes a small flag on a stick will be waved.

Stone added that the chutes can often sound worse than they are. A chute is constructed for the animal’s safety, but metal amplifies noise.

As I personally spend a great deal of time in the chutes at the Reno Rodeo, I would say this has been my experience: a great deal of noise and dust can be kicked up from very little motion of the animal.

I asked Stone about calf roping, an often-criticized aspect of the rodeo.

She said the calves are carefully selected for their size so they are as safe as they can be, adding that Reno seems to lean towards larger calves, which is harder on the cowboys but likely safer for the calves.

Stone added that calf roping originates from the practicality of cowboys roping the animals on the range often for medical treatment.

She emphasized that all the stock contractors, rodeo participants, and veterinarians put the rodeo on with animal wellbeing in mind.

There is an understanding that rodeo inherently has a level of risk, as with any physically demanding sport, but this risk is mitigated as much as possible.

On June 24th a steer was injured during the businessman’s steer decorating competition.

Stone was at the rodeo that night but was attending to a horse in the back of the rodeo grounds. From her knowledge, she said, not being there herself, the steer received a back injury while in the chutes.

Stone added that steer had likely broken its back and had to be euthanized. She said that the priority for treatment is what is the best course of action is for the animal and would receive the same procedure as any animal visiting the veterinary office.

While I do not pretend to have any veterinary skills, I personally observed this incident. A steer had become injured before it left the chute, and rodeo personal carefully restrained the animal, seemingly to prevent further injury.

A specialized horse trailer from the Flying U Rodeo company was brought in, and the cow was carefully loaded in after leaving the arena.

Ty O'Neil
Ty O'Neil
Ty O’Neil is a lifelong student of anthropology with two degrees in the arts. He is far more at home in the tear gas filled streets of war torn countries than he is relaxing at home. He has found a place at This Is Reno as a photojournalist. He hopes to someday be a conflict photojournalist covering wars and natural disasters abroad.