Hemorrhage Blamed for Calgary Stampede Horse Death

Pulmonary hemorrhage is being blamed for the death of an outrider horse used in the GMC Rangeland Derby chuckwagon race during the final days of this year's Calgary Stampede, which takes place in Alberta, Canada.

The Stampede's GMC Rangeland Derby chuckwagon race pits four teams of horse-drawn wagons against each other in a series of elimination races over several days. Traditionally, each team consists of four wagon horses and four horses carrying outriders.

In recent years several horses have died in separate Calgary Stampede events, including the chuckwagon races. In 2011, Stampede management announced new rules intended to increase safety for both equine and human chuckwagon race participants, including veterinary inspections to determine whether horses are fit to compete in the race. Those deemed unfit are scratched from the event, while those deemed fit to compete undergo post-race veterinary inspections. The rules also mandate that no horse can run in the event more than three consecutive days, and all horses used in the chuckwagon races must rest at least one day in every four.

Calgary Stampede communications advisor Bonni Clark said that on July 10 a 10-year-old Thoroughbred named Huey collapsed and died just after Heat 4 of the chuckwagon race, during which he was used as an outrider horse. The incident took place after the race had been concluded and while the horse and rider were returning to the infield, Clark said.

Greg Evans, DVM, chief veterinarian for the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon race, said that a subsequent necropsy revealed that the horse had suffered a pulmonary hemorrhage.

“Basically a huge blood vessel in the lungs ruptured into the airway,” Evans said. “The situation is not common but no unheard of and could not be predicted.”

The chuckwagon races have long been targeted by some equine welfare advocates who maintain the event is too dangerous and should be abandoned. Peter Fricker, spokesman for the Vancouver Humane Society, said 50 horses have died taking part in the race since 1986.

“There is something inherently unsafe about the race,” Fricker said. “The Vancouver Humane Society is reiterating its call for the stampede to suspend the chuckwagon race and have an independent panel of experts review the event to determine if anything can be done to make it safe.”

The Calgary Humane Society had worked in the past to create and implement ways to make the race safer for the animals. Spokeswoman Christy Thompson was unavailable to comment on the incident.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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