A second horse has died after sustaining injuries during a chuckwagon race at the 2019 Calgary Stampede on Wednesday.
Witnesses reported that at around 8 p.m., the horse started to show problems halfway around the track during the second heat of GMC Rangeland Derby. It eventually went down as the wagon approached the final turn.
That’s when Stampede officials brought in a black tarp and loaded the animal onto a trailer pulled by a tractor.
Calgary Stampede officials confirmed that a horse on the wagon of Obrey Motowylo sustained a “running injury.”
The horse was assessed by a veterinarian on the track and found to have a fractured left-front radius.
“Unfortunately, it was found to have a fractured left-front radius, which is an injury where there wasn’t really any treatment options,” Calgary Stampede communications manager Kristina Barnes said. “So it unfortunately led to euthanization.”
Stampede officials told Global News that the horse underwent tests from veterinarians throughout the week, standard protocol under the Stampede’s Fitness to Compete program, and there were no warning signs ahead of Wednesday’s incident.
“This horse was fitness-tested when it arrived at Stampede Park when it first moved in, it was fitness tested prior to racing it had raced two other evenings through the first six days,” Barnes said. “So it had been through a series of fitness tests and wasn’t something that could have been identified by the vet.”
Wednesday’s incident was the second death involving a horse at this year’s Stampede.
The deaths are renewing calls for change from animal rights groups.
“What we have to do is stop looking at horses as objects that we can look at for our viewing entertainment,” said Trev Miller, the media relations co-ordinator for Calgary Animal Rights Effort. ” If we can’t take care of them, we shouldn’t put them in that situation.”
The Vancouver Humane Society is echoing those concerns, demanding chuckwagon races be suspended until the Stampede assembles a panel of independent equine experts to study how to make the races safer for horses.
“This is the second horse to die in the chuckwagon race this week — horses die in this event virtually every year,” Vancouver Humane Society communications director Peter Ficker said. “It really needs to stop.”
Ficker suggested reducing the number of teams on the track, or reducing the number of horses on each team.
“The problem is there are just too many horses and too many teams going at high speed, taking tight turns at close proximity,” Ficker said. “Those are all things that could be looked at and perhaps the race could be made safer.”
In 2016, Stampede officials implemented new rules and regulations for animal and rider safety, which saw changes to the placement of the barrels in the infield to reduce the protential for wagon contact.
The changes also include more stringent reviews of drivers’ safety records.
“We’re looking at the health of the horses, the safety of the wagons, we’re looking at those a lot more closely; the safety of the drivers and their safety record, not just at the Stampede, but throughout the season,” Barnes said.
“We’re very confident in the safety of the drivers, the safety of the riders, the safety of our track; again, there are things just beyond our control, and we wish we could control them because no one wants an animal to be injured out on that track.”
According to Stampede officials, the chuckwagon races have had a 0.025 per cent fatality rate per 1,000 starts over the last six years.
The animal rights groups believe the only way of ensuring the animals don’t get hurt is to shut down the races. Stampede officials told Global News they are consistently looking for ways to make the races as safe as possible for both riders and animals.
“Obviously we have some very fundamental disagreements in animals participating in sport,” Barnes said. “But I think the one thing we can agree on – us and them – is that we want these animals to be as safe as possible.”
GMC Rangeland Derby results can be found here.
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