A fourth horse has died as a result of injuries sustained during chuckwagon racing at the Calgary Stampede.
The Vancouver Humane Society tweeted “This is an outrage” after news of the latest death emerged.
Stampede officials confirmed that Sunday night’s chuckwagon racing resulted in one of the outrider horses on the team of Dave Galloway pulling up injured at the end of the first heat.
There was no contact made with another horse or wagon, officials said.
The horse, named Ezzy, was taken for examination by on-scene veterinarians, but the injury was deemed to be an unrepairable breakdown in the left front leg. Ezzy was euthanized as a result.
Ezzy, a 16-year-old thoroughbred, had been owned by Galloway for about four years, since acquiring him from another driver.
“It’s really upsetting to lose Ezzy,” Galloway said. “I try to keep my barn calm, but Ezzy was exceptionally calm. He was my fastest outriding horse and racing, for him, was effortless.”
The suspensory ligament rupture suffered by Ezzy was virtually identical to that suffered by an outrider horse named Russian during Saturday night’s racing. The 13-year-old thoroughbred in Layne Bremner’s outfit also suffered a suspensory ligament rupture in the left front leg, resulting in him being put down.
Stampede officials said Russian’s injury also occurred without any contact being made with another horse or wagon.
Both Ezzy and Russian had undergone veterinary inspections to confirm their fitness to compete when they first arrived at the Stampede, and had been inspected again prior to their respective races.
A post-mortem on Ezzy would not be performed, as the official Stampede veterinarian determined that the injury was self-evident and did not require further investigation.
The first death occurred a week ago, during Saturday night’s racing, after a 10-year-old thoroughbred named Duke suffered a broken cannon bone in his right hind leg during the sixth heat.
Duke, who was also competing in Bremner’s team, was euthanized as a result. The injury appeared to have been sustained in contact with another wagon.
Bremner, who was driving, received a “no-time” sanction, a $C2500 penalty, and a five-second penalty for interference.
The second death occurred during last Monday’s racing during the second heat, when Shane Nolin’s wagon made contact with the lead horse of BJ Carey’s team on the third corner of the racetrack.
The collision resulted in a severe injury to one of Carey’s horses. The horse was euthanized the next day.
The Chuckwagon Safety Commission determined that both drivers were responsible for creating the circumstances that led to the incident.
Under the Stampede’s chuckwagon racing rulebook, a $C10,000 fine is assessed against a driver whose actions cause the death of a horse, payable to the owner of that horse.
Nolin was fined $C5000 and Carey was assessed a $5000 deduction from the compensation he was to receive for his lost horse. In effect, both drivers equally shared the financial burden of the $C10,000 fine, Stampede officials said. The 10-second time penalty levied yesterday against Nolin would stand.
It was the first time the safety commission had found dual culpability in relation to driver error in a hearing since its inception in 2008.
Organizers of the Stampede have increased efforts in recent years to improve safety in chuckwagon racing, in response to public concern over horse deaths.
They brought in changes in 2011. All horses are now inspected by veterinarians on arrival at the Stampede, and before and after races. Horses are given mandatory rest days during the competition.
Officials also reduced the number of outriders in each chuckwagon.
However, the changes have failed to placate several major animal advocacy groups, including the Vancouver Humane Society.