ROCK SPRINGS — The National High School Finals Rodeo always puts on a great show for Sweetwater County and everyone who comes out to watch and support all of the cowboys and cowgirls throughout the week.

Of course, as with any sport, there is always the possibility of injury. When it comes to participating in the rodeo, not only are the contestants at risk, but so are the animals that are involved.

If an animal was to get injured or fall sick during the rodeo, Mountainaire Animal Clinic serves as the official on-call veterinary clinic for the NHSFR. Dr. Paul Zancanella and his team remained available 24 hours a day and could be reached at any time if there was an emergency.


Mountainaire Animal Clinic is located on Yellowstone Road across the street from the Sweetwater Events Complex where nationals was hosted. Having a veterinary clinic so close really helps the vets mobilize in a quick and reasonable time.

“The goal is to get to the animals within minutes,” Zancanella said.

Zancanella always attended the arena performances, so if an animal was injured, he could run down and tend to its needs within seconds. Depending on the degree of the injury, Zancanella would then decide if the animal needed to be taken to Mountainaire for further treatment. If transporting a patient was required, staff members were prepared to drive a truck and trailer into the arena, load the animal onto a big metal stretcher and then give it pain medication. Once an injured animal arrived at Mountainaire, it could not leave until Dr. Zancanella says it is well enough to return to the rodeo.

Though big plans were in place, the majority of their work remained simple.

“The chances of an animal getting hurt during the rodeo are very small. … So far within the week of the ro-deo, there has been only one horse injury,” Zancanella said Friday.

According to Zancanella, most of his calls were from people who want him to come and look at their horses and make sure they weren’t sick.

“Very minor stuff mostly,” Zancanella said.

This is the fifth year that Mountainaire Animal Clinic has been the official on-call clinic for the NHSFR, and Dr. Zancanella and his staff has enjoyed every moment of it.

“I think the rodeo does a great job in animal welfare and puts on a great show for everyone,” he said.

In addition to Dr. Zancanella, Dr. Malia Schmidt and Dr. Nikki Marincic from Mountainaire Animal Clinic are licensed to treat animals.


Along with the Mountainaire Animal Clinic staff, many more people at the Events Complex are willing to help. Rodeo participants from all over the country have been around animals all of their lives and are knowledgeable about treating injuries.

Kate Scott, the national director of North Carolina and a coach for the Animal Welfare Committee, has been a veterinarian for over 23 years and runs her own practice in North Carolina. This being her fifth year here as a national director, Scott said injuries to the animals are very uncommon. Nonetheless, Scott remained available throughout the week in case an animal was injured.

“How an animal will respond after being injured makes a big difference on how fast we can tend to it,” Scott said. “If you have a bucking horse that’s hurt, the bucking horse would be a lot more difficult to treat right away than a contestant horse would be.”

“Of course you want to get to the animal as fast as possible and tend to it and make sure the animal doesn’t injure itself further,” she added.

Even though Scott is a vet, if an animal was to get hurt, she would not be able to treat it because she is not licensed to practice in Wyoming. However, Scott was prepared to share her opinions and expertise on the best option for sick or injured animals.

“The NHSFR does a great job taking care of each and every animal. There are different people from the welfare committee assigned to specific areas out here at the rodeo, and those people go around their areas to check and make sure every animal is well taken care of and to make sure every incident, if there is one, gets written down,” Scott said.

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