By Horse Journals
July 13, 2012
Three horses are dead and one more injured after a lead horse collapsed suddenly during a chuckwagon race at the Calgary Stampede on Thursday, July 12, 2012, dragging two other horses down with him. The driver, Chad Harden, was sent flying through the air, but neither Harden nor the outrider who collided with the crashed wagon was hurt.
According to Stampede spokesman Doug Fraser, “The left lead horse, which was the horse that collapsed, experienced a fatal event, the nature of which is undetermined at this time. The right lead horse and the outrider horse were humanely euthanized due to the severity of their injuries.”
The injured right wheel horse will require surgery, but his injuries are not life-threatening. The left wheel horse and the other outrider horse were not injured.
Following the crash, a distraught Harden expressed his grief at the loss of his horses, which he calls “part of our family.”
“We love those horses,” he said tearfully. “The outriding horse was 18 years old and I’ve had him for 13 years…he’s like our family pet.”
“The right leader is the horse I won the 2009 Calgary Stampede with, so he’s another sentimental horse,” Harden continued. “They’re just like humans…it’s just devastating for our whole family. It’s hard to take.”
The incident has many animal rights activists calling for the Stampede to put an end to the chuckwagon races, which over the past 26 years have claimed the lives of more than 50 horses.
After the deaths of six horses in 2010, the Stampede implemented new practices last year in an attempt to make the chuckwagon races safer for both horse and human participants. Veterinary inspections upon the horses’ arrival at the Stampede, and immediately before and after each race are now mandatory, as is a rest day for the horses following every four days of racing. In addition, the number of outriders accompanying each chuckwagon was decreased from four to two to reduce crowding on the track and try to minimize the number of collisions.
“We will continue to work with the Stampede (to make these events safer),” said Christy Thompson, spokeswoman for the Calgary Humane Society. But not all animal welfare organizations are satisfied with the Stampede’s new safety measures.
“Clearly, the Stampede’s much publicized safety improvements have failed to make the race any safer,” said Vancouver Humane Society spokesman Peter Fricker. “The Stampede has run out of excuses. Now is the time to take real action to stop these horses from dying.”
With files from www.CBC.ca and www.CalgaryHerald.com.