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The Current State Of Professional Rodeo

Though the imagery evoked by professional rodeo is often filled with friendly competitiveness and mutual encouragement, that's far from the reality of recent events. Sadly, the rodeo industry has been mired in contention between genders, organizations and even different ethnicities. Many of the tensions that exist between various parties have led those parties to court. But, all is not dismal. Below, you'll learn about recent disputes, the leading organizations that spearhead professional rodeo as well as the industry's biggest challenges for the 21st century.

Continuing Organizational Disputes

One of the biggest disputes in the latter part of the 20th century centered on the fact that cowgirls were paid less than cowboys for the same events. In 1980, the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) finally issued a statement to rodeo committees across the nation. They said that if prize money distributions amongst men and women weren't equal within 5 years, the WPRA would refuse to participate in events sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).

Though nearly all of the rodeo event organizers and committees agreed with the WPRA's ultimatum, the the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) refused. That set the stage for a long-term dispute between the WPRA and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), the organization that crowns the victors at the NFR. In 2007, this decision would come back to haunt the PRCA.

After several negotiations, the PRCA decided to walk away and sever ties with the WPRA. Rather than relenting to the WPRA's demands for inclusion, they created the Professional Women's Barrel Racing (PWBR). The WPRA sued the PRCA and at the end of 2007, a jury dealt the PRCA a devastating blow: they would have to pay the WPRA $6.8 million.

At the beginning of 2008, all parties involved reached an historic agreement. The PWBR would be enveloped within the WPRA and the WPRA would be recognized as the sanctioning organization for barrel racing during the NFR.

2 Powerful Ruling Bodies

Today, the WPRA and the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) are the two reigning organizations in professional rodeo. Though the PRCA once wielded its power unchallenged, the PBR has become a contender for influence within the industry. In response, the PRCA has launched its own bull riding competition. But, it's still unclear whether the PRCA can regain the position of influence it once enjoyed.

Biggest Challenges For Rodeo's Future

Though professional rodeo has a huge following in the United States, the next few decade may prove its undoing. There are 2 main challenges that the organizations which promote the sport will need to navigate. First, rodeo events have annoyed and aggravated animal rights activists for decades. The rodeo's treatment of animals during the various events have caused some to lobby charges of animal cruelty. Though the PRCA and other organizations maintain rules that encourage the safety of the animals and require that a veterinarian be on hand, activists still object.

The second challenge may be even more worrisome for the sport. Professional rodeo has always seemed a vestige of the Old West. That nostalgia is gradually losing its effect on new generations. The PBR has devoted attention to evolving with the times by adding new events that cater to new audiences. Though the future of professional rodeo is uncertain, it's likely that these new events and continued creativity guide the sport through the 21st century.