Cowboy Christmas in the books |

Cowboy Christmas in the books

As the results of “Cowboy Christmas” go into the books for another year, and cowboy fortunes and trips to the National Finals have been made and lost, the unrest in pro rodeo continues. We’ve spoken here in recent months of lawsuits and issues between James Warren; of the watchdog organization he formed called Cowboys Inc., and of their activities.

Warren’s been trying to get cowboys and cowgirls who are members of the PRCA qualified through proxy votes for a general membership meeting, in hopes of addressing and ironing out some of the major issues bothering a multitude of the PRCA membership. The issue eventually ended up in El Paso County District Court.

The Court has ruled, and now a special PRCA membership meeting is supposed to be held during the month of September, 2008. An amendment instituted by the PRCA in August of 2006, attempting to remove the rights of members to vote by proxy ballots, is not to apply to this September meeting. All the proxy ballots PRCA members previously signed and submitted to be used in an earlier general membership meeting are void. A majority will be necessary for business to be conducted and the quorum will be 625 members.

The court further ruled that Warren should draw up a specific agenda for the special membership meeting, “including any and all proposed bylaw changes” and that agenda must be presented to members prior to obtaining their proxy. The PRCA and any voting member of the PRCA will be allowed to solicit proxies.

In response to that ruling, the PRCA requested Warren to provide proposed by-law changes and agenda by May 15th. According to the PRCA’s outside general counsel Matt Barnett, this request was made “so that everyone who cares about the PRCA can finally see some definitive plan from him.” However, Barnett says, “Mr. Warren’s attorney has opposed that timing request.”

Cowboys Inc. representative Brian Wallace says Warren and his group hope to negotiate with the PRCA and accomplish their goals without the membership meeting. He explains their disinclination to disclose their specific agenda is “in order to negotiate in good faith.”

The PRCA says they are “confident that the membership of the PRCA, when finally presented with Mr. Warren’s specific bylaw changes, will carefully consider those changes and will vote in the best interest of the PRCA.”

We should hope so… and it will be interesting to see if negotiations actually take place and something positive for the sport of rodeo comes through it. It’s time… past time, for that to happen.

Whatever black clouds hang over the sport of rodeo, one thing cowboys will always do is have fun. Sometimes that bent for humor is costly, as in the case of reigning world champion bronc rider Taos Muncy. He’s now laid up with a broken leg, as a result of a goofy cowboy prank and chance for a laugh that was pulled at the Red Bluff, California Round Up. That rodeo, like our own Hulett Wyoming Rodeo, stages an annual Wild Ride. There’s a saddle and $1,000 purse waiting for the winner; and cowboys come up with some pretty outlandish costumes and schemes to compete for those prizes.

Muncy and friend Christopher Lappa hit on the bright idea of Lappa dressing up as Osama bin Laden and Muncy dressing up as an American soldier, then the two of them riding the bronc double! They put on quite a show, but Muncy is paying heavily for it by being off the rodeo trail while his leg heals up.

Rodeo often comes out as the “redheaded step-child” of the sports world, but some of that was changed at the 2008 Billie Awards put on by the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF). Honoring outstanding media coverage of female athletes, and named after sports legend and WSF founder Billie Jean King, the Billie Awards annually feature some of the most outstanding women in sports. Rodeo was royally represented this year by Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) member Dolli Lautaret, longtime top barrel racer and current reigning WPRA World Champion Heeler. Dolli took part in the Grand March of Champions at the event, joining other female sports notables including basketball star Tamika Catching and world-class figure skater Michelle Kwan. We tip our ol’ Tri-State Stetson to Dolli for puttin’ rodeo up there in lights, where it belongs!

Speaking of cowgirl champions, those who rope are delighted with developments regarding the National Finals of WPRA. This year, Finals berths will reach beyond the traditional top 15 in World Standings to also include five contestants in each roping event (heading, heeling, breakaway and tie-down) from every circuit. This means the WPRA’s efforts to increase purse money, prizes, number of events and interest among women ropers is resulting in a huge 300 roping positions at the WPRA Finals! Sounds like a very positive move to me – congratulations to the WPRA.

Equine health is always in the forefront of our interest. Dr. Jim MacLachlan, director of the Equine Viral Disease Laboratory at University of California, Davis, speaks of important diseases/syndromes in the latest Center of Equine Health Horse Report. He says “…outbreaks of infectious diseases in horses will continue to occur as surely as new diseases will appear. The challenge to the horse industry is to prepare for this reality and invest in the research needed to understand these diseases and the factors that lead to their emergence. By understanding the factors that influence the development, frequency and distribution of disease we can develop reliable diagnostic techniques, effective therapies and appropriate control strategies.”

Dr. MacLachlan’s article discusses the movements of insect-borne diseases, verifying that 2002 predictions by scientists that bluetongue virus could invade northern Europe and Britain have come true. Bluetongue is a virus first discovered in South Africa, but found since 2006 in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the north of France; and more recently in the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.

He continues, “It is conceivable that African horse sickness (AHS) might soon follow. AHS is a devastating insect-transmitted viral disease of horses that is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa and occurs extensively throughout much of South Africa.”

There are several forms of the disease, all horrible, some with mortality rates of up to 90 percent, others ranging around 50 percent mortality. MacLachlan says, “Because of its devastating effects, AHS is on the list of economically important equine diseases worldwide and is required to be reported to local and international officials…”

While AHS has been around southern Africa since horses were introduced there several centuries ago, it also hit north Africa, the Mediterranean Basin and the Middle East. MacLachlan notes, “The most notable recent incursion was into Spain in the late 1980’s, an outbreak that severely complicated planning for the equestrian events at the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona.” The blood-sucking midge Culicoides transmits this disease, and they’re abundant on all continents except Antarctica. However, MacLachlan says, “To date just two of the 1300+ species of these insects have proven to be competent vectors of AHS virus.”

Even so, Dr. MacLachlan notes the emergence and spread of bluetongue virus in Europe is associated with Culicoides species “that had not previously been incriminated as vectors of the virus. Thus, there is considerable concern that AHS virus might soon follow the path that has been blazed by bluetongue virus into Europe and beyond. An incursion of AHS similar to that caused by bluetongue virus would be catastrophic to the global horse industry.”

Thank goodness for wonderful equine research programs around the world! For more information on AHS or to help support the research on developing a vaccine for the disease contact Dr. MacLachlan at

That’s the end of this ol’ lariat rope for another week…

© 2008 Rhonda Stearns

Email Rhonda at


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