Arizona recently became the ninth state to ban horse tripping, a rodeo event in which galloping horses are roped by the legs and pulled to the ground
The new law, which was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer July 13 and goes into effect September 30, makes it a misdemeanor to "knowingly or intentionally [trip] an equine for entertainment or sport." A conviction carries the potential penalty of two days in jail and a $1,000 fine, with punishment increasing with repeated violations. The law also contains other animal-welfare provisions.
Last year, an ordinance banning horse tripping was enacted in the city of Phoenix, but statewide legislation failed to pass. This spring the state Senate and House of Representatives approved the prohibition.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman recently signed into law a measure that bans horse tripping--competitions that entail roping galloping horses by the legs and pulling them down. The Cornhusker State is now the eighth to prohibit the practice.
Horse tripping is featured in events called manganas, which are held in Mexican-style rodeos (charreadas). In the traditional mangana, a charro (cowboy) ropes a galloping mare by the front legs and causes her to fall to the ground. Although supporters claim that expert charros can drop the horses without doing harm, reports of injuries are common. "I saw horses die and suffer broken necks, broken legs, head contusions, rope burns and bruising. It was horrific," says Cathleen Doyle, who in the early 1990s sponsored legislation to prohibit the practice in California.
Since 1994, it has been illegal to "intentionally trip or fell an equine by the legs by any means whatsoever for the purpose of entertainment or sport" in California. Six other states--New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Illinois and Maine--subsequently passed similar legislation.
In response, the American Charro Association (ACA), which sanctions Mexican rodeos in the United States, revised the rules of traditional manganas 14 years ago. "Horses are not knocked down anymore," says ACA president Ramiro Rodriguez. Instead, he says, the charros rope one or both front legs, without tightening the ropes or causing the animals to fall. "If any of our members knock down a horse, they are suspended for one year," Rodriguez adds. "There are five charro groups and they follow the same rule."
However, Nebraska State Sen. Abbie Cornett (D-Bellevue) believes these practices still put horses at risk. "They can get tangled up in the ropes and fall," she says.
What's more, Cornett says, traditional manganas, in which horses are pulled to the ground, are still held in unsanctioned "backyard" charreadas--a fact that came to light in Nebraska last year when the Omaha Humane Society took custody of horses who had been used in manganas. "They had rope burns to their legs and torn tendons, and they were also malnourished and in poor condition," says Cornett.
Nebraska's new law, which goes into effect in mid-July, makes it illegal to "intentionally trip or cause to fall, or lasso or rope the legs of, any equine by any means for the purpose of entertainment, sport, practice or contest." The ban also extends to piales en el lienzo, a charreada event that calls for roping galloping mares by the hind legs and pulling them to a stop. "This will completely eliminate these events from charreadas held in this state," Cornett says.