- Three horses were euthanized following injuries sustained during the final evening of chuckwagon races at the Calgary Stampede, doubling this year’s horse death tally and making this year’s event the deadliest in almost a decade.
The incident happened during the eighth heat of Sunday’s chuckwagon races, when a chuckwagon rig belonging to driver Evan Salmond went down in the northeast corner of the track.
The right lead horse of Evan Salmond’s wagon sustained a running injury. A veterinarian assessed the horse and determined it suffered a fractured left hind cannon bone.
Two other horses belonging to Salmond also sustained undisclosed “serious” injuries. The Stampede said they were cared for immediately on the track but a veterinary medical team determined there was no option for treatment.
All three horses were euthanized.
“This is as upsetting to us as it is to our community, and is challenging for us,” the Stampede said in a statement early Monday morning. “The Stampede’s commitment to the safety of animals and the conditions of their participation in our events is paramount to our values and brand integrity. We will continue to be open in our communication with our community.”
The incident capped off a grim week for Salmond’s outfit, after one of his animals died and three more sustained minor injuries in a collision on Thursday. Stampede officials determined that driver Chad Harden impeded the wagon of fellow driver Danny Ringuette, causing it to collide with Salmond’s outfit. His was the third chuckwagon horse to die over the course of the week.
The Stampede took Harden’s “driver error” seriously, disqualifying him from racing for the remainder of the 2019 Stampede and fining him $10,000. He is required to also pay an additional $10,000 to Salmond for the cost of his fallen horse.
Harden’s unprecedented disqualification means he also faces a potential lifetime ban. He will not be invited to compete in the future but has the option of applying for reinstatement in any given year.
Earlier in the week, a horse belonging to driver Obrey Motowylo was euthanized following an injury sustained during Wednesday’s chuckwagon races. The Stampede said the horse was assessed by a veterinarian, who determined a fractured left front radius left “no option for treatment.”
Another chuckwagon horse died of “a serious internal medical condition” in what’s considered a suspected heart attack after falling to the track during Monday’s races.
Sunday’s deadly race brought the total number of horse deaths at the 2019 Stampede to six, the most since six chuckwagon horses also died in 2010.
One chuckwagon horse died in each of the past two years at the Stampede, while 2016 went without a single animal death. Four horses died in 2015.
Stampede CEO Warren Connell addressed the first three deaths earlier on Sunday.
“We acknowledge that despite our best efforts to reduce risk, we are dealing with animals and there is an element of unpredictability. Injuries can occur even in the best and safest conditions,” he said.
“Animal care is a top priority for our team and is embedded in the culture of our organization. More than 5,000 animals are part of our community celebration and we, along with their owners, will continue to strive to create the best and safest conditions possible for them while they visit us at Stampede Park.”
The Stampede said it was “committed to initiating a thorough review process surrounding chuckwagon safety” in light of this year’s incidents.
“At this time we don’t know what form that process will take, and we ask for your patience and understanding,” it said.
— Files from Stephanie Babych, Alanna Smith and Todd Saelhof