The 100th Calgary Stampede rodeo was marred by tragedy last night when three horses died in a wreck on the racetrack during one of the event's controversial chuckwagon races.
The races have been the focus of protests against the Stampede in the past, which has tried to improve conditions for the horses and provide pre-race veterinary inspections.
But something happened in the fourth heat, and a leader horse went down, taking the entire four-horse team with him and causing an outrider to collide with the team.
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This video is a glimpse into the adrenalin-pumping "sport" of chuckwagon racing.
The Calgary Stampede's official statement states:
"In the 4th heat of this evening's GMC Rangeland Derby, a serious mishap occurred involving 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. We are saddened to report that three horses have died.
"The horses ran well through first two turns but the left leader faltered in the backstretch 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 left lead horse, which was the horse that collapsed, experienced a fatal event, the nature of which is undetermined at this time. A post-mortem will be performed on this horse. The right lead horse and the outrider horse were humanely euthanized due to the severity of their injuries.
"The horse on the right wheel sustained non-life threatening injuries and is receiving veterinary attention. The injuries will require surgery but the horse will survive. The left wheeler and the other outrider horse were not injured."
All horses had been pre-event inspected and pre-race inspected as part of The Calgary Stampede's Fitness to Compete Program.
The Calgary Sun has a video interviewer with the chuckwagon driver, who had also lost a horse in the races previously.
If you have ever seen this event, you know that chuckwagon racing is probably the most dangerous event involving horses. It is dangerous for both humans and horses. It involves hitching four light Thoroughbred-type horses to a wagon, executing a figure-8 around barrels and then making a circuit of the racetrack--all at full "runaway" speed.
Horses have been killed before. Drivers have been killed before.
Chuckwagon racing is probably the most popular event at the Stampede.
Last year, animal welfare advocate Temple Grandin, PhD visited the Stampede and commented on animal welfare related to the chuckwagon races. Prince William and Kate were there, as well.