Healthy as a chuckwagon horse

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jul 09, 2014 03:23 pm

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The greatest outdoor show on earth is once again upon us at the 2014 Calgary Stampede. While for some it’s about throwing on a cowboy hat and enjoying a few (too many) frosty beverages, for others it’s a chance to reconnect with our western roots.

It’s been a tradition for 102 years, and for 91 of those years, thousands of people have enjoyed the thundering of hooves during the chuckwagon races, a sport that’s rumoured to have been inspired by cowboys racing to the saloon after a days work.

Something else that has become commonplace at the Stampede is the presence of those who are opposed to it. Last week, two protestors from Vancouver chained themselves to the guardrail along the racetrack in objection to the races. They were promptly arrested and banned for life from the grounds.

And while I can appreciate anyone looking out for the wellbeing of animals, their efforts aren’t needed.

A lot has changed in the last 91 years of chuckwagon racing. As technology has evolved, so has the care of the animals who participate in the sport.

As part of the “Fitness to Compete” program, each chuckwagon horse is microchipped so that a team of veterinarians can track the horses activity. This means pre and post race inspections, as well as making sure the horses get their required days of rest after no more than four consecutive race days.

In addition, the horses wear an electrocardiogram monitor while they race so that veterinarians can keep an eye on heart rates and give feedback to the drivers should anything be out of the ordinary.

While there are risks with any sport, you can be sure everyone involved with the chuckwagon races throughout Alberta this summer have their horses best interests in mind - the saying “healthy as a horse” didn’t come from no where.

So as we slip on our boots and shine up our belt buckles this summer, be proud to celebrate Alberta’s heritage and cheer on the drivers as they partake in one of the most exciting traditions in the West, and keep an eye out as the wagons roll into High River next weekend for part one of Guy Weadick days.


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