Lawmakers consider banning 'horse tripping'

Lawmakers consider banning 'horse tripping'
Advocates working to ban "horse tripping" in Oregon provided this image from an event in Harney County. (Photo courtesy horsetripping.org)

SALEM, Ore. - Some people call 'horse roping' or 'horse tripping' a skill, but others are calling it animal abuse and they want it banned in Oregon.

Lawmakers in Salem are considering a bill that would outlaw the practice, which is similar to a cowboy throwing a lasso around a calf to catch it and knock it down. The difference is, when done correctly, two cowboys rope the horse by its neck and front or hind legs.

Animal advocates believe horse tripping is a cruel and unnecessary practice that can cause broken bones or even kill a horse and they want it to stop.

"We've banned dog fighting and we've banned cock fighting and it's time we ban horse tripping too, said Kendra Kimbirauskas, who trains and raises horses in Colton, Ore. This is a cruel and unnecessary sport and we don't need it in Oregon."

Kimbirauskas told a House committee on Monday that there are other ways to saddle equine strength. "If you were to trip a frightened creature, it would only intensify the fear that the animal is feeling," she said. "It wouldn't make anything better."

Portland retiree David Akins, 70, sees things differently. While he admits he has never 'tripped' a horse himself, he has seen it done. Akins started volunteering at a ranch near Burns about 15 years ago after he retired from Portland Public Schools.

"When I retired, I wanted to take part in something that was intellectually challenging and physically demanding," he said. "Most people don't realize the demands that are on somebody who is responsible for livestock. It's like having grown children and babies all at the same time."

Akins helps work the land near Burns with his horse, Cracker, about once a month and said he has seen the ranch owner use the skill of horse tripping to get horses to work.

"How are you going to get the horse in? If you say 'here horsey' he isn't going to come," Akins explained. "The horse knows when he has to go to work, and if he has an off day, he may not want to come in and you may have to rope him."

Akins told lawmakers last week he feels it's a needed skill and the folks who do it have no desire to hurt a horse.

"Why would anybody who's involved with horses set about with some sadistic intent to harm them? It flies in the face of reason," he said.

For horse lovers on both sides, the issue is either about saving animals or saving culture.

If the law passes, it would also mean that all cities and counties would have to treat rodeo events equally to other sports. But many people who participate in rodeos say that assurance isn't needed. It's unclear where the law is headed next.