Thoroughbred Injured, Euthanized at Calgary Stampede

On opening day (July 8) of the 2011 Calgary Stampede, a Thoroughbred was euthanized after suffering a catastrophic injury during a chuckwagon race. A spokesman for the Stampede said equine conformation had more do to with the injury and subsequent euthanasia of the horse than the risks associated with the event.

The annual Calgary Stampede features rodeo-style competitions and livestock exhibitions including the GMC Rangeland Derby Chuckwagon race. Some animal welfare advocates have criticized the races on grounds that the events put horses at risk for undue stress, injury, and death. Last year six horses died in separate Stampede events; of those, four Thoroughbred horses died in connection with the chuckwagon races.

In February, the Stampede adopted new rules intended to improve safety of chuckwagon race horses including pre- and post-race veterinary evaluations, mandatory days of rest, and the mandatory insertion of microchips to aid in monitoring horse health.

On July 8 a Thoroughbred was euthanized after sustaining a broken cannon bone during a chuckwagon race.

"The horse had a misstep and broke its cannon bone, which is a catastrophic injury," said Stampede spokesman Doug Fraser. "The veterinarian made the decision immediately to euthanize it."

There were no other animals involved in that incident.

Fraser said the injury is common among Thoroughbreds used in the racing industry and in his opinion, "this wasn't a chuckwagon race incident, it was a Thoroughbred incident. These horses are bred to have heavy muscles and fragile bones."

Calgary Humane Society Spokesperson Desiree Arsenault said the organization was saddened by the horse's death and maintains its position opposing the use of animals for entertainment purposes that put them at risk for undue stress or injury: "We will take a look at material connected to this incident, and we will continue to make recommendations based on evidence to improve animal safety at the Stampede."

The Vancouver Humane Society is calling for a halt to chuckwagon race events altogether; however, Fraser said the races will continue.

The Calgary Stampede runs through July 17.

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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