THE FACTS ABOUT FLANK STRAPS
- The flank strap is a sheepskin-lined or padded leather strap.
- It is adjustable to fit each individual horse.
- It is done up and released by a quick-release catch.
- It is not possible to make an animal buck simply by adding a flank strap. If this were the case, then any horse could be a bucking horse. In actual fact, a good bucking horse is very hard to find. It will buck only if it wants to and the flank strap merely enhances that motion.
- It is an aid, just like any other equestrian aid (eg. the whip used by jockeys, spurs used by pony club riders) to enhance or encourage a particular desired outcome. In the case of the flank strap the desired outcome is to enhance the bucking action, to have the animal kick outwards and upwards.
- On a new bucking horse, the strap around its flank causes a tickle, or at most an irritation (but so does any new piece of equipment on a new horse - even a saddle). On a practised bucking horse, the flank strap acts as a conditioning tool. ie. the animal learns to associate the flank strap with performing.
- The flank is not pulled tight to cause bucking. It is pre-set so that it can only be pulled up to a certain point and no further. (If you look closely at a photo of a bucking horse kicking out you may notice daylight between the strap and the animal's body).
- In the past it was common practice on farms and stations for stockmen and vets to use a rope pulled tightly around the flank area of large animals in order to disable their back legs and bring them to the ground. (This method is still employed where anaesthetic is not available). This is in complete opposition to the aims of the rodeo competitor, who wants full, unrestricted movement.
- The flank strap is fitted loosely while the animal stands in the chute. As the gate is opened and it leaves the chute, the strap is pulled up to its limit (snug to medium, depending on the preference of the horse). To do so earlier would risk injury to horse and rider as the pulling up of the strap is a cue for the animal to kick up and out.
- Flank straps are not laced with spikes and other irritants as some people have falsely claimed. A rider is seeking as high a score as possible and to harm his horse will have the opposite effect. Since half of a competitor's score is taken on the horse's performance, it is in his interests to treat it well.
- The flank strap is not tied around an animal's genitals. This is a physical impossibility and those who claim this need an anatomy lesson. It is more akin to us wearing a snug belt around the waist. Furthermore, if genitalia were the aim then you would see flank straps fitted under the tails of bucking mares!
- The flank strap is a simple, sheepskin-covered rope.
- It is tied snugly around the bull’s flank area using a simple quick-release knot, prior to release from the chute.
- It does not interfere with the bull’s genitals.
- It does not injure the animal in any way (including rubbing, abrasions etc.)
- Many bulls are especially bred to buck and they know when, and when not, to perform. Often they will cease bucking as soon as their rider leaves their back, even though the flank strap is still attached.
These photos clearly indicate the position of the flank strap, between the bull's scrotum and penis bit in no way interfering with them. (Photos courtesy Mike Best)
What are rodeo spurs really like?
It is claimed by some that rodeo spurs are cruel, sharp pointed "weapons", designed to gouge and hurt the animal in order to make it buck. In reality the rodeo spur is perhaps the most gentle of all spurs used in equestrian events.
The spurs purpose is two-fold
(a) To assist the rider to maintain grip and balance. In saddle bronc and bareback events the rider's feet, at the beginning of the ride, must be positioned in the break of the horse's neck in order to score. During the ride the spurring action assists the rider to maintain balance.
(b) For show. A "classy" looking ride will score better.
The rowel of the spur is small, blunt and free moving. During the spurring motion the spur is rolled along the animal's hide, causing at most a tickle. Its intention is not to jab, prod or hurt in any way. As the animal provides 50% of a rider's score, it is not in the competitor's interest to hurt that animal.