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July 06, 2011

Pond Hill Pro Rodeo [230]

7/2/11: Cowboys and cowgirls competed in the Pond Hill Pro Rodeo Saturday night in Castleton. The Pond Hill Ranch is owned and operated by the O'Rourke family who have been producing rodeos for 45 years.

4th of July weekend is known as Cowboy Christmas and many cowboys travel from rodeo to rodeo competing for cash prizes. 

Music: Rick & the Ramblers Western Swing Band, I Rode the Ti, "Swing of the Range,""Hot Sauce"


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Lori Kettler, Burlington

I was disappointed to see the Pond Hill Pro Rodeo glorified by Stuck in Vermont as an honored family tradition.

Animals used in rodeos are subjected to abusive conditions in order to guarantee they’ll perform as expected by the paying public. Without the use of spurs, tail-twisting, and bucking straps cinched around their abdomens and groins, these frightened and often docile animals typically wouldn’t even buck. The rodeo experience for animals consists of electric prods, twisted necks, and being violently slammed into the ground. “Retirement” is a one way trip to the slaughterhouse.

Even when animals aren’t injured—and they often are—they still suffer from fear and pain during rodeo events. Often, the animals’ injuries are internal. Dr. C.G. Haber, a veterinarian who worked for 30 years as a meat inspector in slaughterhouses, saw scores of animals who had been discarded from rodeos and sent to slaughter. Toughened as he was when it came to animal suffering, the condition of animals from rodeos sickened him. He described them as so extensively bruised that the only areas in which the skin was attached to the flesh were the head, neck, leg, and belly and said that he had seen animals “with 6-8 ribs broken from the spine, and at times puncturing the lungs” and “as much as 2-3 gallons of free blood accumulated under the detached skin.”

What may be “Christmas” for the “cowboys” and their audience is nothing short of animal abuse.


Eva, I realize you are not a political commentator, but I was surprised that you'd feature a rodeo; as I thought you really cared for animals. Kitschy music and cool clothes do not cover the absolute fear and pain that these animals experience.

The vocalizations are of terrified animals that actively being hurt; yes, those are real expressions of pain and fear you can see and hear.

Next time you watch this, open your ears and eyes to the animals in it, watch how they react, listen to their vocalizations (they mean something) and look in their eyes. That blank Angus steer is petrified, and that small white calf is literally jerked off his feet by a very hard snap to his neck. How sporting is it to watch that calf on the ground being roped - he is terrified and already in pain. This is for fun? Amusement for humans? It isn't even Vermont tradition. This is a "sport" that involves causing animals (sometimes baby animals) distress, terror, pain, and lasting injuries; all for human amusement.


The production values of this piece are bad enough, but particulary appalling is the content. Seven days is known in town for being pompous and arrogant and desparate for attention, but I never thought they'd stoop so low as to show cruelty to animals as "entertainment." Miss Solberger, firstly take a film production course....or 4. Secondly, do not shoot your face in such a tight is not flattering. Finally, please truly think about who you are as a person before stooping to this kind of crap entertainment. Can't you see the look of pain on those animals' faces? Who are you people who can not only watch but promote this? Just because some hicks in Castleton or wherever partake in barbarism on a weekly basis does not mean you have to film it. Or promote it. Also appalling is the horrible music.....not only does it sound hoky and ridiculous,but it is also upbeat, in the midst or the pain and suffering all the whole thing a cheap carnival-like feel. Please go to, Ms. Solberger, and watch some of the videos on that site. After watching some, maybe you will grow a heart where your heart ought to be.

Eva Sollberger

Thanks for your feedback and sorry for my delayed reply. I am currently ill but will be responding to your concerns in an upcoming blog post. Please know that I take the issue of animal abuse very seriously. Sincerely - Eva


I am not a fan of the rodeo. I don't like what happens to the animals. Hovever, I feel that Eva does have a very good heart. That comes through in her "Stuck in Vermont's. I do enjoy the production value of Stuck in Vermont.

Eva Sollberger

Sorry for my delayed response. I was hoping to do a blog post about this but in the meantime, I wanted to write a longer reply.

I do not personally endorse every subject or event that I cover for Seven Days. My goal is to accurately represent the very different people and places I film to the best of my ability.

Personally, I feel very strongly about animal rights and proudly support my local humane society.

I did find it hard to watch some parts of the rodeo (calf roping especially) but that personal reaction did not have a place in the video.

If there had been animal rights protesters at the rodeo, they would have been featured and I would have explored this issue more.

Please know that I spent a great deal of time considering these complex issues when editing this piece.

Thanks again for your constructive feedback.


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