Horse euthanized after injury at Calgary Stampede chuckwagon race

A chuckwagon racehorse was euthanized Thursday night after sustaining a serious injury during the Calgary Stampede.

The horse, a member of Cody Ridsdale’s team, was injured during the fourth heat of the Rangeland Derby at Stampede Park.

Calgary Stampede officials say Ridsdale made the decision to euthanize the animal after a veterinary evaluation.

Ridsdale has turned down media requests according to Calgary Stampede officials, but CTV News is working to get in touch with his team.

The animal’s death was the first horse death in this year’s 10-day event.

The rules for Stampede chuckwagon racing have since been revised after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-10 pandemic.

The new rules include allowing only three chuckwagons to compete in each race instead of four and the addition of foam barriers near the outside rails to protect the horses.

A partnership with researchers from the University of Calgary has also been established with the Calgary Stampede to analyze track conditions and minimize the risk of injury.

Despite those changes, award-winning country music singer Jann Arden still calls out the Stampede for its long history of animal deaths.

“As long as people continue to go to rodeos, innocent animals will be injured and killed,” Arden said in a statement to CTV News.

“It’s about demand. People ultimately decide the fate of all animals with their willingness to pay.”

The death is now prompting the animal rights organization, Animal Justice, to call for an animal cruelty investigation.

Executive director Camille Labchuk says a complaint has been filed with the Calgary Humane Society, as the group is also demanding that the city ban wagon races altogether.

“It’s totally predictable and Stampede knows very well, as do the racers, that horses are very likely to die in this event,” Labchuk said.

“So when you have that kind of risk and danger that is foreseeable, we think it’s against the law and the stampede should be held accountable just like anyone else in the province of Alberta.”

The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) has also long called for an end to wagon racing, deeming the event dangerous to both horses and people.

“This is yet another incident that explains why we are asking that the Stampede remove the chuckwagon event,” said VHS campaign manager Emily Pickett.

“These races are run at high risk with the horses and carts in close proximity to each other, so there is a high probability of chain reactions when a horse is injured or falls or other horses and carts may be affected.”

Pickett adds that VHS also filed a complaint regarding another incident at the Stampede rodeo in which video appears to show a man repeatedly punching a horse in the face when the animal refused to leave the slide.

VHS has recorded more than 70 horse deaths in recent years, including six in the 2019 Stampede wagon races alone.

In fact, there have only been three years in the last two decades when the Stampede wagon races did not result in horse deaths: 2003, 2004 and 2016.

Calgary Stampede CEO Joel Cowley is expected to provide additional information and answer media questions later on Friday.

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