Bill Armstrong is standing by his decision to ignore the threat of a highly dangerous horse virus affecting livestock at the Gary Hardt Memorial Rodeo and continue the Spring Rodeo events as scheduled.
The longtime Payson Rodeo Boss made the gutsy call on the heels of a Thursday women’s rodeo which was called off due to fears of the virus spreading to horses, including prized barrel racing equines.
Armstrong admits he’s receiving some heat for going ahead with the rodeo, but was sure there was no danger.
“We researched the virus and got opinions from local, state and federal veterans as well as the PRCA and everyone said there was no danger.
“We did our homework and made the right decision.”
Armstrong said people are telling him, “I was trying to hurt their horses, but that’s not true.”
Armstrong was told the disease, known as herpes virus-1 or EHV-1, originated in an Ogden, Utah cutting competition and a horse from Canada could have been the source.
“We don’t think the virus has infected any rodeo livestock,” he said.
What stirred the concerns of horse owners was state veterinarian Dr. Robert Ehlenfeldt’s warning that animals should be isolated when they return from shows or competitions, and those outbreaks had occurred in 29 states.
Also, Enlenfeldt warned, there is no treatment and no vaccine for the virus that attacks the central nervous system and is usually fatal.
Although most rodeo officials believe the announcement of the outbreak adversely affected attendance and participation on opening night, Friday, May 20, it was rodeo as usual for the second day performance.
The total payoff of $33,623.25 seems to confirm the rodeo was at least a financial payoff for the cowpokes who participated.
Lane Siggins of Ruidoso, N.M. pocketed $1,315.51 of the prize money and was named the all-around cowboy.
Siggins finished first in the tie down roping in a very quick time of 8.8 second.
Rick Kieckhefer, a Prescott cowboy who has been participating in Payson for decades, earned $1,088.70 in tie down roping for his time of 9.1 second. He was second in the chase for all-around honors.
In the bull riding, which is most often the spectators’ favorite event, Wacey Barta of Phoenix rode Red Dog to a tally of 85 and a first-place finish. The win earned him $1,392.45.
Armstrong praised the bulls provided by stock contractor Salt River Rodeo as “some of the best I’ve seen; as good as ones in the PBRA.”
While there was a Payson cowboy competing in the memorial, he wasn’t from Arizona.
Jessey Davis of Payson, Utah finished fifth in the bareback riding with a score of 75.
Most importantly about the rodeo, Armstrong said, is there were no serious injuries to either the cowboys or animals.