Vancouver Humane Society calls on Calgary Stampede to end chuckwagon races
A Calgary Stampede autopsy has been completed on the horse that collapsed during a chuckwagon race Thursday, leading to a crash that injured two other horses, which had to be euthanized.
“The left lead horse experienced a ruptured aortic aneurism, leading to sudden internal bleeding and explains why the horse faltered, weakened and then collapsed,” said Dr. Greg Evans, chief veterinarian for the Calgary Stampede.
Dr. Evans says “The pre-existing condition is undetectable in animals and could have ruptured at any time of exercise.
“The condition is a weakening in the wall of the aorta–the major vessel leading from the heart. This area of weakened wall can rupture and the horse then bleeds out internally. The rupture occurred in the abdomen, which explains the hind limb weakness noted in the horse prior to the collapse,” he said.
The crash occurred in the fourth heat of the GMC Rangeland Derby and involved the outfit of Chad Harden. It took place on the backstretch, when one of Harden’s lead horses went down, causing an accident involving all four wagon horses and one outrider horse. The left leader faltered, bringing the right leader and the rest of the team down. One of Harden’s outrider horses subsequently collided with the wagon and sustained serious injuries.
The condition suffered by the lead horse was quickly diagnosed upon autopsy, and the result has been communicated to Harden.
“I would like to thank the pathologist for the expedient nature of the examination,” adds Dr. Evans.
Toxicology and drug testing will be conducted to determine if any other factors were present in the horse. The Stampede will use the results of the autopsy to determine possible improvements to our Fitness to Compete program, which screens all horses by giving them a thorough inspection by a team of veterinarians upon arrival at Stampede Park and prior to competition.
Under the program, drivers must submit an inventory of horses for competition and the inventory of horses will be subject to ongoing veterinarian inspections. If a horse is found not fit to compete, it will not be permitted to race that evening.
In 2011, about four percent of some 550 horses were not allowed to race due to various injuries or conditions.
The Calgary Stampede says that the people who bring their animals to the Stampede care deeply about the welfare and well-being of the animals. The Calgary Stampede works collaboratively to mitigate risks to human and animal competitors.
The Vancouver Humane Society is calling for the suspension of the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races following the death the three horses.
“Clearly, the Stampede’s much publicized safety improvements have failed to make the race any safer,” said VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker. “Horses continue to die needlessly. This has to stop.”
Fricker said the Calgary Stampede should suspend the races immediately and conduct a full safety review of the event using independent expertise.
“The Stampede has run out of excuses,” said Fricker. “Now is the time to take real action to stop these horses from dying.”
More than 50 horses have died in the chuckwagon event since 1986.
Beacon News readers are split on ending the chuckwagon races.
Bob Knight of Calgary defends the event and says, “the people that participate in this sport do it as much because they love horses as anything else. So easy to be judgemental, but perhaps people should just live and let live.”
“Risk may be part of it for people but animals don’t have the choice. And it’s hard to “live and let live” when animals are dying for entertainment,” said Brad Fraser of Toronto.