ROTHENBURGER: Chuckwagon races should be abolished

(Image: Graham McKerrell, Calgary Stampede)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THE CALGARY STAMPEDE wrapped up Sunday night and three more horses died in the chuckwagon races. That makes a total of six at this year’s event.

The driver of the team that caused an accident involving three chuckwagons Thursday has been fined $10,000 and banned indefinitely. And now the entire event will be “reviewed.”

Is it enough? According to Stampede officials, improved safety measures have reduced horse fatalities in the chuckwagon races in recent years.

But one listing I found, compiled by a group called Tuesday Horse, says 61 horses have died in the Stampede chuckwagon races since 1986. Another source says 100 since the first year. The most common cause is a broken leg.

But a surprising number have died of heart attacks, no doubt from the extreme stress of the race. In fact, a horse died earlier in this year’s competition of a heart attack, and another from a broken leg during a preliminary race.

According to the study, there were four horse fatalities in 2015, one in each of 2016, 2017 and 2018. Tuesday Horse points out its tally doesn’t include horses injured or killed in practice.

Animal rights groups have been on the case of the chuckwagon races for years and many animal rights advocates challenge the whole concept of rodeos. Rodeos are, indeed, tough on a lot of animals but, then, the ranching life upon which rodeos are based is a tough one.

The last thing anyone involved in rodeos wants to see is an injured animal, and safety for both cowboys and livestock is paramount.

Continuing improvements to rodeo competitions is the way to go for the most part, but the toll on horses in the Stampede chuckwagon races can’t be ignored.

Controversy and rodeos seem to go together, and some rodeos have eliminated high-risk events. The Stampede and other rodeos should get rid of chuckwagon racing.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (7631 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on ROTHENBURGER: Chuckwagon races should be abolished

  1. R A George // July 15, 2019 at 9:07 PM // Reply

    As a young fellow,my fellow car enthusiasts and myself uses to go to Digney Speedway in Burnaby where many a nice old Ford met it,s demise.Those old flathead V8’s’ many with aluminum heads with one bank of spark plugs looking right at you’ were a little scary. What we really went for was to see a good accident on the track.A driver of a 36 Ford met his demise on one of those nights.Same thing only different for some of those attending the Calgary Stampede.

  2. John Noakes // July 15, 2019 at 7:46 PM // Reply

    In this day and age, it is a bit surprising that the Alberta SPCA has not stepped in to enforce animal cruelty legislation.
    Is it a matter of the almighty dollar and possible loss of income for the Stampede or is there something more?

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