We have a tremendous victory to celebrate with you, our supporters! The Jordan Valley Big Loop Rodeo in Oregon did NOT trip horses last weekend! The new law that went into effect at the beginning of the year worked!
We had great concerns that the rodeo people would simply ignore the law, since the Malheur County Sheriff is a known rodeo supporter who tried to block the tripping ban, and whose deputies are actively involved in the rodeo - one is even on the rodeo board. Nevertheless, there was no horse tripping at the 2014 Jordan Valley Big Loop Rodeo.
The 2014 SHARK Operation
A team of six investigators made the 1,800 mile trek from Illinois to Oregon. In the weeks that preceded the rodeo, we told no one that we were going. We needed the element of surprise.
We arrived at the rodeo grounds on Thursday night, even though the rodeo didn’t start until Friday afternoon. The purpose for arriving early was to position our Sprinter, a rented RV and other rented vehicles in just the right spot outside the rodeo. Then we raised our three Hi-Pods, which are devices that can raise a video camera thirty feet into the air, over the rodeo stands.
LEFT: Wide view of Hi-Pod set up outside of the rodeo arena. RIGHT: Close up view of SHARK investigator Janet Enoch operating a Hi-Pod.
Our Hi-Pods rendered the rodeo’s camera ban completely useless. From public property we could see everything. The downside was that, once in position, neither the vehicles or Hi-Pods could move. That meant that someone had to be on-site with the vehicles and equipment 24 hours a day for the next three days - in a town full of drunk and untrustworthy rodeo people.
We divided into two teams of three for guard duty. Three people aren’t enough to guard three Hi-Pods and vehicles spread out, but we did the best we could.
The plan didn’t work perfectly. Vandals bent license plates on our vehicles, breaking the plate holder on our Sprinter and kicking in a mud flap. They cut a line on one of our Hi-Pods.
During the rodeo performances, people threw water balloons at our investigators. In one case a bottle of beer with sand it in was thrown. There was of course a never-ending deluge of obscene, racist, sexist, and homophobic comments and threats. Regardless, we endured.
The good news was that the Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe decided to send real police officers this year, instead of the corrupt thugs of 2013. This year the deputies did everything they could to preserve our rights and keep order. In one case, we caught a thug who vandalized our vehicles, and the thug was cited on the spot by the deputies.
LEFT: Malheur County sheriff’s deputies question a group of rodeo thugs to identify which was responsible for damaging the license plate and license plate holder on SHARK’s equipment hauler. RIGHT: Closeup of the vandal.
These deputies were NOT pawns for rodeo thugs this year, and we never saw the bad deputies from last year. We expressed our appreciate to the police, and will laud them in an upcoming video. The Oregon State Police were also present to ensure the horse tripping ban was enforced, and to keep law and order.
Ignoring all the filth and cowardice from rodeo thugs, we documented every minute of every one of the three performances. Once rodeo organizers saw how our Hi-Pods utterly defeated their camera ban, they rescinded it, now claiming they had “nothing to hide.” We never even needed to use our secondary equipment - our Angel aircraft or our long-range camera lenses. Our Hi-Pods got the job done wonderfully - horses weren’t tripped, and the reverberations of this victory has shaken the rodeo mafia to its core.
How Did it Come to be?
In the wake of this great victory, I want to tell you the story of how it developed, because there are lessons to be learned so that animal protectors can gain other badly needed advancements for animals.
In 2012, SHARK sent a lone investigator to the Big Loop Rodeo in Jordan Valley, Oregon, to document an outrageous event wherein horses were intentionally tripped. Two contestants on horseback chased a lone horse around the arena until one contestant roped the horse around the neck. Then the second contestant roped the horse’s front legs and pulled the rope tight, sending the terrified victim crashing hard to the ground - often on his face or head.
A horse being “tripped” and brutalized at the Big Loop Rodeo in 2012
We posted the video documentation on the internet, and people were incensed. The investigator’s video footage prompted a drive to make horse tripping illegal in Oregon. Others had protested horse tripping in the state, but SHARK’s graphic documentation of horses slamming head first into the arena floor ignited the kind of public outrage that would cause the Oregon State Legislature to initiate a bill to ban horse tripping - but not just yet.
In 2013, SHARK sent two investigators to the Big Loop Rodeo, and the rodeo thugs were waiting for us. On the first day of the three-day event, the thugs tried to intimidate our investigators, but that didn’t work. On the second day, Saturday, the thugs initiated a ban on video cameras, but announced that the ban only applied to “outsiders.” Then the thugs, which included Malheur County sheriff’s deputies, arrested one of our investigators, and threw the other off the property. The thugs thought that would surely stop SHARK.
Robert Wroten, a deputy and a member of the rodeo board, participated in the violent arrest of one of our investigators. He was caught on video twisting our investigator's leg.
Instead, the news prompted me to be on a series of planes within a few hours, to fly over one thousand seven hundred miles through the night in order to land in Boise, and then make the eighty mile drive to Jordan Valley.
I entered the rodeo for the Sunday performance with just a small camera and took only a few still photos before I was accosted by a group of rodeo thugs and sheriff’s deputies. When they accused me of taking video, I challenged them to look at the camera for video. They refused. They told me to take the camera back to my car or leave. I chose to leave, but demanded my money back. To my surprise they gave it to me. That’s how badly they wanted me out of their animal abuse festival.
After I left the rodeo, I was followed by Malheur County Sheriff’s deputies for some ten miles. I guess it took them that long to get up the guts to make an illegal traffic stop to try to intimidate me. They quickly found out that wasn’t going to work either. In fact, that stop turned out to be the worst mistake they made all weekend.
Malheur County Sheriff Deputy Brian Beck, after realizing his dashboard camera was still recording.
We made a public records request to obtain the deputy’s body video camera footage and dashboard video camera footage. The dashboard video camera documented the police admitting that they were acting on behalf of the rodeo board, and their fear of being sued for making an illegal stop. We released that footage to the Internet and it went viral.
Today our videos exposing the Jordan Valley Big Loop Rodeo and Malheur County Sheriff’s Department have logged millions of views. We sued the sheriff’s department. Both the Big Loop Rodeo and the Malheur County Sheriff’s Department took an enormous amount of heat for their corruption and cruelty.
Just one month after our efforts at the 2013 Big Loop Rodeo, the Oregon Legislature passed the horse tripping ban. A week after that, Governor John Kitzhaber signed it into law.