The Calgary Stampede says a chuckwagon driver has been fined and disqualified following the death of a third horse at the 2019 GMC Rangeland Derby.
The death happened during the seventh heat of the chuckwagon races on Thursday evening.
According to the Chuckwagons Safety Commission, driver Chad Harden impeded the wagon of another driver, Danny Ringuette, causing his wagon to collide with a third wagon belonging to Evan Salmond.
Salmond’s wagon then collided with the inner rail of the track. The collision resulted in the death of one of Salmond’s horses, and minor injuries to three others.
The Chuckwagons Safety Commission reviewed the incident and determined Harden would be disqualified from racing for the remainder of the 2019 Calgary Stampede and fined $10,000. A disqualification also means he will not be invited to compete in the future.
“The rulebook does outline a process for a disqualified driver to apply for reinstatement at a future date,” Chuckwagon Safety Commission chairman Mike Whittle said at a Friday news conference. “He could apply by Sept. 1 in any given year.”
“At this point there is no further appeal,” he added. “Our decision has been rendered and he provided us his thoughts last night … He is processing what we have told him.”
Calgary Stampede ‘deeply saddened’ by horse deaths
Calgary Stampede CEO Warren Connell said Friday says the organization as a whole is “deeply saddened” by the incident.
“We live and work as a family committed to the well-being of our beloved animals, and this type of incident impacts us deeply to the core,” Connell said. “As part of our commitment to keeping Stampede as safe as possible for animals and humans alike, our organization has a stringent zero-tolerance policy … for preventable injuries.”
WATCH: There was a big crash involving horses Thursday night at a Calgary Stampede chuckwagon race.
Two other horses have died during the course of the 2019 Rangeland Derby; a horse belonging to Troy Dorchester died on Monday after falling during the second heat, while a horse on Obrey Motowylo’s wagon sustained a running injury on Wednesday and had to be euthanized.
The communications manager for the Calgary Stampede said the previous race fatalities were unpredictable equine injuries — and that both horses received thorough veterinary inspections upon arrival here at the Stampede, and each night prior to racing.
“Last night was very different,” Barnes said. “Due to interference and contact from another wagon, a horse sustained severe injuries. This was the result of driver error and has been determined a fatality that could have been avoided.”
Connell added that “this has been a difficult time for us and the greater chuckwagon community.”
“Seeing injuries, despite the best and safest conditions possible, is hard,” Connell said. “Knowing an injury was avoidable is much harder.”
LISTEN BELOW: Ian Tripton with Tripton Horsemanship weighs in on the debate over chuckwagon races on the 630 CHED Afternoon News
Deaths prompt strong words from animal rights activists
Speaking to Global News on Friday, a spokesperson for the local group Calgary Animal Rights Effort (CARE) said they’re outraged by the deaths.
“The Calgary Stampede considers the animals to be disposable and they have a long track record of this — over 100 animals since ’86. then three more this year — really demonstrating they’re not taking this seriously,” Trev Miller said.
“My impression of people with the Stampede when they say ‘they love these animals’ — it’s fairly difficult to use the word ‘love’ when you’re risking that individual’s body and life for profit, or entertainment, or prizes.”
According to Stampede officials, the chuckwagon races have had a 0.025 per cent fatality rate per 1,000 starts over the last six years.
In 2016, Stampede officials implemented new rules and regulations for animal and rider safety, which saw changes to the placement of the barrels in the infield to reduce the potential for wagon contact.
WATCH: Following a crash that left one horse dead on Thursday night, online reaction toward the Calgary Stampede and the driver fined and disqualified has been critical. As Adam MacVicar reports, the other drivers want to clear misconceptions around the sport.