My newest painting of a rodeo bucking horse called Wild Ride was accepted into a group exhibition in an amazing little studio in delightful Mount Dora, Florida. I was thrilled – the owners of Studio Art Farm are talented and driven and inspirational… I was super honored to be juried into this exhibition. I can’t wait to see everyone’s work at the reception Friday evening, June 29!
I found the reference image for this painting on a stock photography site, and I was captivated by the photographer’s capture . Something about this horse and its powerful effort to shake off the rider really struck a cord with me. I knew this painting needed gold flakes mixed in the background and blending in with the mane of the horse, but I didn’t realize why until now. Gold can represent divinity, and here is this divine and wild being doing its best to live according to its own natural laws while being held in the egoic environment of man. I think a lot of us can relate to a determined, powerful animal that’s being used for something it doesn’t want to do. Fighting against some thing that won’t yield, having freedom taken away and being told it’s for the best because being in your full power and glory and shining bright with divine purpose is too threatening to those who are too weak to be wild.
I did a Google search on “bronc horse industry” before I sat down to write this content because growing up as a horse crazy girl in a small cowboy town in South Florida, I’ve heard that bucking horses are treated well and they know it’s their job. “Not to worry little lady. Put that smile back on your face so it’s more pleasing for The Male to gaze upon.” Seriously though, I’m sure it’s true in a lot of cases. I don’t know everything, that’s for sure. And that’s why there’s the Google.
I stumbled upon an article from American Cowboy written in February, 2017 called, “The Business of Bucking Horse.” It talked about a famous yearly four-day event in Miles City, Montana called Bucking Horse Sale featuring wild horse races, bronc riding, rodeos, dancing and a stock sale. The article shares that, “in years past, 400 head of horses were at this sale, this year, there were 80.” It goes on to say that in recent years, the success of Bucking Horse as been crippled after a change in “legislation that took federal money away from the slaughter industry, effectively shutting it down… In years past, ranchers could sell bucking horses onto the rodeo circuit. If the horses couldn’t buck, there was always a check waiting for them at the slaughterhouse.” This article goes on to talk about how Bucking Horse has gone from a big earning event to a costly venture that has more risk than reward these days. To compensate for the lack of horses going to the slaughterhouse, Miles City has brought in a variety of Wild West entertainment to please the crowds. The town’s population of 8,000 doubles for this event, despite ranchers no longer profiting from horses going to slaughter, and “still provides an essential economic boost to the town’s economy.” The article ends with, “For ranchers, there is a vague hope that American horse slaughter will start up again, after a 2011 bill re-granted the industry federal funding. In the meantime, locals say, it’s still the best party the west has known.”
I don’t know if the ranchers selling horses who won’t buck at Bucking Horse are back in the horse slaughter business, but it was mind blowing to read about the lament coming from a group of people whose income from a side-hustle of selling horses for slaughter has been greatly reduced. Another question I have that’s currently unanswered is, “How does federal funding support this – our tax dollars fund horse slaughter so some ranchers can profit?” What the heck? “Little lady, you should smile – you’d look prettier if you did. That wild look in your eye is mighty unbecoming.”
It’s not just ranchers that sell their “excess” horses to slaughter, some breeders of the American Quarter Horse do the same. Many Thoroughbreds, Amish cart horses, and more know this fate. It’s apparently a very lucrative side-hustle, indeed. This out-dated operating procedure of exploit for profit is tired and short-sighted. But what’s the solution for all the excess horse flesh out there? I personally believe the problem with a lot of our modern issues is over-consumption and over-production for greed. We can do better.
This painting honors the struggle of every horse, one who bucks or not, that ends up exploited and discarded. His beauty and divine light is powerful. He teaches us to be wild and true to our divine nature, even if that makes some people uncomfortable.