Calgary Stampede say 2 chuckwagon horses, steer euthanized due to injury

Calgary Stampede says two Chuckwagon horses and a steer have been put down after sustaining injuries. Henna Saeed reports on the reaction of stampede-goers and animal rights activists.

By CityNews Staff

Animal rights organizations are slamming the Calgary Stampede after three animals had to be euthanized during the first four days of the event due to devastating injuries.

Stampede officials confirm two chuckwagon horses sustained injuries that led to them being put down over the first weekend.

The first animal to die during this year’s Calgary Stampede happened on, Friday, the first day of the 10-day rodeo event.

“A chuckwagon horse on Danny Ringuette’s team sustained an injury due to wagon interference during the sixth heat on Friday, July 5,” Stampede officials said in a statement. 

“Medical care was immediately dispatched. Following veterinary consultation, the humane decision was made to euthanize the horse.”

A similar situation happened on the second day of the rodeo.

“During the second heat of the chuckwagon races on Saturday, July 6, an outrider horse on Chance Thomson’s team sustained a medical injury,” the Stampede said in a statement to CityNews. “The nature and severity of the injury was not determined until the animal left the track, at which time medical care was immediately dispatched.

“Following a thorough examination, and in close consultation between the owner and the veterinary team, the humane decision was made to euthanize the horse.”

These are the second and third deaths of horses at the chuckwagon races since the Stampede changed the format to three-team heats in order to make them safer.

Changes were first proposed to the sport in 2020, after six horses died during the Calgary Stampede in 2019.

Apart from changes to heats, collapsible arms were also installed along the inside rail to try and create a buffer between wagons and the rail.

The Stampede has long been under pressure from activists to improve chuckwagon safety, with some even calling for the event to be completely scrapped.

‘Highly unusual and unfortunate incident

Stampede officials also confirm to CityNews a steer was euthanized on day four of the rodeo — Monday, July 8 — after being injured.

“Medical attention was immediately provided,” event representatives said in a statement. “Following assessment, the veterinarian made the humane decision to euthanize the steer.

“We do everything possible to evolve our programs to minimize risk. This was a highly unusual and unfortunate incident.”

Animal activists raise alarm

The Vancouver Human Society (VHS) is speaking out following the news of the animals’ deaths.

“We know that animals died almost every year at the Calgary Stampede, but this year, animals have died almost every day,” said VHS campaign director Emily Pickett.

The group claims 108 animals have died at the Stampede rodeo and chuckwagon races since it began tracking fatalities in 1986.

In a statement to CityNews, Lynn Kavanagh with World Animal Protection Canada, lashes out at the Stampede for “inflicting cruelty on animals in the name of tradition.”

“Animals are frightened and subjected to rough handling and abuse,” she said. “Every year, animals are injured and killed from being forced to perform risky and dangerous events against their will.”

UCalgary animal welfare study

This year, the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine is working on a project which researches the impact Stampede has on animal welfare.

Researchers took a deep dive into fear and stress in bucking bulls and bucking horses, with a focus on the animals just before they hit the big stage.

According to the university, the study found most of the animals were relatively calm.

UCalgary is also looking at the overall safety of the chuckwagon horses by developing a program that sees researchers take blood samples of the horses after their first race, which allows them to measure how the animal’s heart muscle reacts to the races.

In terms of fitness, preparation and cardiac stress, researchers say the first two years of this pilot study indicated the vast majority of the horses had no real issues racing.

The school is also in the process of developing a two-year animal welfare assessment program that takes into account both the negative and positive experiences of the rodeo animals at Stampede.  

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