CHEYENNE – Thousands of animals come through town each year for Cheyenne Frontier Days.
CFD Public Relations Committee chairman Bob Budd said every one of those animals has access to the same health and safety precautions, regardless of who they belong to or what event they are in.
“We, I think, have been somewhat of a pioneer in the development of animal care – the physical animal care. We have a stretcher that we use for animals. If they’re injured, they’re taken out on a motorized carrier,” Budd said.
He added that CFD has an ambulance that was designed specifically to be used for rodeo animals.
“We hopefully don’t use it very often, and we’re happy not to use it at all,” he said.
Tom Hirsig, Frontier Days Chief Executive Officer, said, “As the world evolves, so does animal care and some of the things available for us to use. It’s a continual process, something we talk about year-round on how we can make it better.”
And that applies to any kind of animal involved in CFD, including bulls, horses, calves, steers, mules, donkeys, dogs or any other animal that shows up.
“A rodeo clown could wander in with a kangaroo. One had a chicken one time,” Budd said.
He said CFD also is serious about providing a safe environment for competing rodeo animals.
“That starts, honestly, with the ground we stand on,” he said, adding that CFD bought new equipment to improve the ground in the arena.
“It will enable us to have a smoother, less uneven ground. It will enable us to better dry it out when it’s wet. We’ve been working that arena now for months, getting it to where it’s not soft, but it’s not hard. It’s a tiny little window you try to hit to be the safest and the best for the animals,” he said.
He added that they inspect the animals’ pens daily to watch for sharp objects, loose wires or anything that could harm the animals. And they keep those pens in the shade. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a calf or a $100,000 barrel horse.”
They also leveled out the ground in recent years to prevent areas from catching water or mud.
Additionally, Budd said veterinarians come in to inspect the animals twice a day.
“They do a walk-through of every pen, every group of animals every day. What they’re looking for there is maybe (the animal has) their head down a little or their ears are droopy, or they’re kicking at their belly, or they just don’t look like they feel good.”
Any animal that seems to not be feeling well will be immediately separated from other animals and inspected, Budd said. Any animal with a fever will be removed from the performance, and immediate care is provided for injuries.
“They get the same kind of medical care that a lot of people do. (If) they don’t feel good, they go to the doc, and the doc takes care of them,” he said.
CFD also is using the opportunity to train new veterinarians. Budd said CFD recently began a partnership with the Colorado State University Equine Center. The center is sending third- and fourth-year veterinary medical students to do clinical work at Frontier Park.
“That gives us just another set of eyes and expertise on taking care of animals,” he said.
Hirsig said they also built a new loading chute to unload bucking horses.
“We used to have to take the trucks clear around the track to do that, and so those animals would have to stand in those trailers that make sharp turns. This is an easier way to get them in and out of the park, so it’s easier on the animals,” he said.
Budd said they take suggestions on how to improve animal safety from veterinarians, owners, the CFD Rodeo Committee, viewers or anyone who has a suggestion.
“If we have the ability to do it, we do it,” he said.
Hirsig said, “I think sometimes the rodeo contestants and the people who put on rodeos get branded as the thugs of rodeo.”
He said those same people go out in blizzards to save newborn calves, and sometimes bring those calves in their homes and put them in their bathtubs to keep the calves warm.
“It’s amazing what these people do for animals, and sometimes I think that gets lost,” Hirsig said.