Three horses dead at Stampede

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CALGARY — Just hours after three horses died during the chuckwagon race at the Calgary Stampede, the Vancouver Humane Society was calling for an end to the popular event.

“Clearly, the Stampede’s much publicized safety improvements have failed to make the race any safer,” VHS spokesman Peter Fricker said in a release. “Horses continue to die needlessly. This has to stop.”

The crash happened when driver Chad Harden’s left leader horse suffered what officials called a “fatal event.”

Two other horses that were part of the team, the outriding horse and the right leader, had to be euthanized on the track after suffering serious injuries in the crash.

Harden did not suffer any major injury, but he was unable to contain his emotions after the crash.

“It’s devastating,” he said through tears. “We try our best to make sure they’re all healthy.

“The outriding horse was 18 years old, and I’ve had him for 13 years. He’s part of our family. He’s supposed to be our kids’ horse. This was his last year. He was going to be the kids’ horse, so they started riding him this year. He’s like our family pet,” Harden said.

“The right leader is the horse I won the 2009 Calgary Stampede with, so he’s another sentimental horse.”

Stampede head vet Greg Evans confirmed the horses involved were tested before the Stampede began and before Thursday night’s races.

Evans said vets were on the scene within 20 seconds to assess the injuries.

“They assessed the cases individually,” Evans said. “In this incident, the injuries were severe that two horses acquired euthanasia.”

The cause of death of the original horse may not be known for days.

Fricker called on the Stampede to suspend the races immediately and conduct a full safety review of the event using independent expertise.

“The Stampede has run out of excuses,” Fricker said.

On Friday, the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also issued a statement.

"Last night’s three deaths are yet more evidence of what PETA has said for years: The Calgary Stampede is synonymous with animal abuse. In recent years, dozens of horses have been killed in the Calgary Stampede, including six during 2010’s events alone. It’s long past time for this abusive spectacle to end," the statement sent to QMI Agency said.