(The Denver Post)

Small electric prods won't be used to get balky broncos to bolt and buck at the National Western rodeo after an anti-animal-abuse group complained last year about their use.

The contractor that provides rodeo stock at the National Western — which begins Saturday and runs through Jan. 25 — has been told not to bring horses to the rodeo that have been known to stall in chutes.

The electric devices "were used appropriately last year," said state veterinarian Dr. Keith Roehr. The National Western's animal care and use committee decided to limit the prods' use, Roehr said, to allay public concern.

"That's outstanding. It's a step in the right direction," said Steve Hindi, president of SHARK — Showing Animals Respect & Kindness.

The Geneva, Ill.-based group recorded video last year at three National Western rodeos that shows several saddle broncs being jolted out of the chute.

"We'll probably never be rodeo supporters, but I have to hand it to them. They have taken a significant step," Hindi said.

Denver Animal Control's investigation of last year's allegations found no evidence the horses suffered.

About the size of a cellphone, the prods are powered with 9-volt batteries and deliver a shock that is about what a horse would receive from an electric fence.

The prod may be used only if a horse stalls in the chute, a situation that can pose a risk to horse and rider, said the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association.

"They encourage the horses to move, but it doesn't hurt them," said Cindy Schonholtz, a PRCA spokeswoman.

Schonholtz said the PRCA works with local committees, such as the National Western's, to determine what works best for their communities.

Other rodeos, including Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Greeley Stampede, recently imposed the same no-shock policy.

Pat Grant, president and chief executive of the National Western, said in a statement: "We remain committed to continue as industry leaders in animal welfare with new policies in place at the 2009 National Western Rodeo that will focus on much restricted use of electric prods and stronger fines for jerk-downs in the tie-down roping."

Jerk-downs are when a contestant jerks a calf backward when it's being roped.

For safety reasons, one electric prod will be available to one authorized person in case of emergency.

Binion Cervi, whose Cervi Championship Rodeo outfit supplies the National Western's bucking stock, said he has no issue with the new policy.

"Everything looks good," Cervi said. "We have plenty of horses, and it shouldn't have any impact."

Ann Schrader: 303-278-3217 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.