July 12, 2018 7:41 pm
Updated: July 12, 2018 7:45 pm

Veteran chuckwagon driver joins University of Calgary study meant to improve safety for outriders, horses

WATCH ABOVE: Veteran chuckwagon driver Mark Sutherland is involved in a study that uses a device to test the strength of horses. Kevin Smith has more.

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Mark Sutherland has been driving chuckwagons for over 25 years.

The most important thing to him is safety for his outriders and his horses. That’s why he got involved in a new study with the University of Calgary.

“[The study’s] going to tell us how good the horse is running,” Sutherland said on Thursday, “how good he’s going to be, how good his levels are.”

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READ MORE: Horse euthanized after Calgary Stampede chuckwagon race

Researchers are looking to see if a device used in hospitals to test the blood of severely ill humans can also measure the physical fitness of animals.

The handheld analyzer is being tested on horses competing in this year’s Rangeland Derby at the Calgary Stampede. Renaud Léguillette, the chair of equine sports medicine at the University of Calgary, is heading up the study.

“[It’s a] simple test: you take a blood sample, put it on the strip [and it] takes three or four minutes. [Then], you have your results right away,” Léguillette said. “You get the results stall-side, that’s the benefit of it.”

Sutherland hopes the study leads to him being able to eventually use a device that gives him the information he needs before races.

“With my experience with Dr. Leguillette and U of C medicine, it’s gonna pan out,” Sutherland said.

The idea is to monitor the horses before they hit the track to see which ones are strongest and least likely to get tired and injured.

“Had the Calgary Flames known that Jaromir Jagr was where he was, they wouldn’t have signed him,” Sutherland said  “I’m not saying it’s going to be a miracle, that I can tell these horses are going to be my stars, but it’s gonna help.”

READ MORE: Chuckwagon driver in good spirits after injury in race at Calgary Stampede

Researchers are hoping to publish the results this winter and to have the device available for next year’s Stampede.

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