Yet another horse has lost its life to the Omak Stampede Suicide Race in Washington, which is taking place this year from August 9-12, marking the twenty-third death in the past three decades.
The race includes a run down a 225-foot slope at a 62-degree angle, otherwise known as ‘Suicide Hill,’ which is followed by a swim across the Okanogan River, which is about the length of a football field.
The horse, Little Big Man, fractured a foreleg going down the hill during his third and final qualifying race. When he hit the water, he couldn’t swim and drowned before rescue boats reached him.
“The horse had difficulty keeping his feet in the river current making it difficult for the boat crew to retrieve the horse,” said Pete Palmer, president of the Owner’s and Jockey’s Association, which sanctions the race.. “Ultimately, the horse went under water and surfaced downstream near the Omak Bridge.”
Four riders also suffered from broken bones and several other water rescues were performed over the weekend. Of the 27 horses that passed a veterinary check, only seven have fully qualified to compete in the races this weekend.
Everybody feels bad …so bad they’ll keep doing it and will continue trying to ‘improve safety measures,’ even though nothing they do will ever make this safe.
“When we lose a horse it impacts the entire racing community. We are saddened by the loss of Little Big Man and extend our prayers to the Jerry Ford Racing Family,” the horse’s owner, said Palmer.
Animal advocates are protesting and calling the race animal exploitation.
“What it is, is animal abuse, pure and simple. For some reason, there’s an exception against rodeos. So if you have a rodeo, you can have all the animal abuse that you want,” said Mark Coleman, spokesman for PAWS of Lynnwood.
The horses, some of who have been borrowed for the event, have suffered heart attacks from over exertion, broken bones from shocking collisions and tumbles, and more horrifying deaths by drowning, according to PAWS.
The race is allegedly run to continue American Indian traditions, but PAWS argues that it was created as a publicity stunt to draw people to the rodeo long ago. PAWS hs counted 22 other deaths in more recent years, but no one is sure how many have died in the previous 50 years the race has been going on.
Photo credit: snjr22