Calgary Stampede horse death; Selective breeding; Advices from Temple Grandin

July 16, 2011 update: “Second chuckwagon horse death: Does Calgary Stampede get it? – Will you let Calgary Deathpede bring you yearly horse death for the next 30-40 years?


The death of a horse on the opening night of Calgary Stampede was absolutely horrible. We must learn to do things better for the horses and for us proud Calgarians.

Here is an excerpt from “Stampede horse death due to ‘selective breeding’: Temple Grandin

“Renowned American animal welfare advocate Temple Grandin says the death of a horse at the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races Friday evening is related to genetic problems stemming from breeding, and not the workings of the Stampede.

The thoroughbred industry needs to address the issue of the legs being too weak,” Grandin told reporters just outside the Stampede grounds Saturday afternoon.

Too much selective breeding, she said, has made the racing animals more lean and muscular, but more susceptible to breaks.

“The Stampede has done everything they could do to prepare the track, to change the rules so the wagons are not smashing into each another.”

[…] Grandin, an animal science professor at Colorado State University, has spent her life working to improve the lives of animals at ranches, feedlots and slaughterhouses. Her mantra is that using animals for food is ethical, but animals should have a decent life. Fast food giants McDonald’s and Wendy’s have hired her for their animal welfare auditing programs.

[…] The first night of chuckwagon racing at the Calgary Stampede was marred when a horse broke its leg in the fifth race and had to be euthanized.

[…] The death comes during a year when the Stampede made a number of changes to the chuckwagon races and increased veterinary inspections to make the competition safer.

Grandin is visiting Calgary at the invitation of the University of Calgary and animal welfare professor Ed Pajor — who advises the Stampede through its Animal Care Advisory Panel. The university picked up the tab for her travel costs, but she’s not being paid by the Stampede.

She said while the Stampede is not directly responsible for the actions of the horse racing industry, it could “put pressure on the thoroughbred industry to do something about this.” No one from the horse racing breeding industry was immediately available for comment on Saturday.

She said she was generally pleased with the condition of both the bulls and horses she’s inspected while in Calgary.

What amazed me is most of these bulls did not have the whites of the eyes showing, and they also weren’t pooping. Animals that poop and the whole butt gets covered with poop, that’s an animal that’s stressed out.

She added she’s happy the Stampede has changed its rules regarding calf-roping, so the young animals are not as tightly jerked by riders.

I respect Temple Grandin a lot because of her excellent work done over the years in trying to improve the welfare of animals. And the fact that she is not paid by Stampede also added to her credibility. Remember, Temple isn’t saying there isn’t a problem. There is, and it is a basic problem with “selective breeding” and it should be fixed.

In my opinion, we may not be able to control others but we can dictate and demand what happen in Calgary Stampede. We can decide for 2012, all the horses that are going to race in Calgary Stampede have to meet whatever “new” standard re “selective breeding” we set! Period. Horses that don’t meet our “new” standard won’t be allowed to race here. Money talks. Yes, Stampede’s money talks. And ultimately, our money, yes the people who buy tickets to go to Stampede have important voices too! We can and should pressure Calgary Stampede to do the right thing (e.g. re “selective breeding“).

I am not an expert in all this and I don’t want to be one. So, in my humble opinion, I think it makes sense to create an independent way to fund Prof Temple Grandin to help find and craft solutions to our problem here. Make sense?

Also check out Calgary CTV News report “Chuckwagon horse euthanized on the first night of Stampede” (with video), (emphasis added)

“Animal welfare advocate Temple Grandin is in Calgary to meet with Stampede officials to discuss the care of it’s livestock. She maintains injuries like the one in Friday’s chuckwagon race are a result of selective breeding and not dangerous race conditions.

“The Stampede has done everything it can to prepare the track and change the rules,” says Grandin. “Wagons are not smashing into each other and they are not hitting the rail. It is a genetic problem and it needs to be corrected.“”


7 Responses to Calgary Stampede horse death; Selective breeding; Advices from Temple Grandin

  1. The majority of horses used in the Chuck wagon races are ex race horses purchased at auction after they have failed for whatever reason at the track. Selective breeding is something that will take many years to achieve and you are not going to convince the thoroughbred industry to reverse the breeding that they have been doing to produce the horses they currently breed so that their castoffs will fit into another sport. They are not breeding horses for the chuck wagon races, they are breeding them to carry jockeys and gear that usually adds up to no more than 125 pounds total!
    If the chuck wagon people want to start breeding horses specifically for their sport they also face a long time period before they can produce a team old enough to race safely. Temple Grandins suggestion really does nothing to change the fact that these horses are not physically meant for this sport and these injuries will continue to occur! They could be using more suitable horses starting today but I do not think that is going to happen.
    Use a sturdier horse and the time to reach the finish line goes down. Speed is what these people want and they are willing to risk the lives of the horses to get it.

  2. kempton says:

    Hi Theresa,

    Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts. I am not an expert in the area but I can follow your logic and reasoning and it seems sound. If what you wrote is true, then may be we can’t use “castoffs” and have to use “more suitable horses”, I don’t know yet. But we have to come up with workable solutions and improvements appearing starting in 2012.

    I think if we can use a fairer standard and all teams race under the same standard with healthier horses will be much more preferable for our future races.

    I will give the experts some time to come up with something but, as I said, I do expect workable solutions and improvements appearing starting in 2012.

  3. Kempton may I ask what your interest in seeing the chuck wagon races continue is. I read your background info and it doesn’t seem like you are linked to the rodeo circuit.

  4. kempton says:


    You are right that I am not linked to the rodeo circuit at all. What I will call myself is a proud Calgarian as I’ve lived in the city for many years and love Calgary.

    I know that rodeo activities (chuck wagon racing being one of them) are very important to the livelihood of many people and families and it is a wonderful Calgary Stampede tradition. Which is why I am hoping there is a way to keep that tradition going so that the skills and that certain way of life will continue.

    So, for a city guy like myself, I respect western activities, up to a point. Up to the point where human or animal participants continue to suffer or get hurt when we are smart enough to find ways to improve things.

    P.S, If you’ve read my other article, you will know I am disappointed with Calgary Stampede’s customer services and I’ve got a few more things to do on that. I hope my open dispute with Stampede will let you see my “qualified & time-limited support” on this issue isn’t some blind & unexamined support.

    P.P.S. Let me go on a slight tangent. If you put the incentives in the right place, you can get people to do amazing things. (see Warren Buffett’s “suggestion” to eliminate the deficit in 5 minutes! It is all about the incentives and alignment of people’s self-interest.)

  5. [Kempton’s note: See brief editor’s note in the next comment]

    Kempton I appreciate your candor. As you may have gathered I am not a Calgarian and I am not a supporter of the chuck wagon races nor the rodeo. I am not against using horses in sport activities and I can appreciate that accidents happen in life. However having said that, once you put money, especially the kind of money that is at stake at the Calgary Stampede, into the equation it is difficult to maintain the respect for the animal.
    I like to think that I am trying to educate people not alienate them and I hope you will take the time to read what I have to share. I believe that all creatures on this planet deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. I encourage you to learn about the races first hand, talking to people both for and against and then drawing your own conclusions. I would suggest you find out what happens to the horses and animals when their “careers” are over. I think you will find that most are sent off to slaughter. They will call it “humane harvesting” as that is the new language to try and pretty it up. Are you aware that horse slaughter is Canada’s 4th largest export, and it is anything but humane. Horses can be shipped for up to 36 hours straight without food or water or rest.Cattle for 52 hours. And of course no one is monitoring this to see if they would even get rest if those times are exceeded. For animals coming from the US the clock is set back to zero no matter how long they have already been traveling. This is just the tip of the iceberg with how horses going to slaughter are treated.
    If you are truly interested in helping Calgary maintain jobs try to get some of these activities stopped and replaced with ones that do not exploit animals.People are learning more and more about the cruelty and the rodeo is not going to be able to survive. The things they do, require that the animals suffer.A bull or horse will not buck unless it is being physically abused. Oh they might buck once or twice but not with the continuity that is required for the Rodeo events.
    Temple Grandin can say all she wants about a soft eye, but it is discomfort, pain and fear that makes these animals race around the enclosure bucking. If they are trained to do it then why don’t they stop tail twisting, flank stap tightening and electric prodding and see what kind of bucking you get.
    People at one time said a circus could not survive without animals. Well Cirque Du Soleil has proved that theory wrong. Restaurants and bars claimed they would go bankrupt with out allowing their patrons to smoke inside. We still have LOTS of restaurants and bars. Life is not static and it is only those who refuse to change that fall by the wayside. People who are flexible and learn to adapt usually become even wealthier than that which is being replaced. I would like to end by saying I do have horses and live on a small acreage. I add that because so many of the Pro Rodeo people always say that people who want the rodeo to stop events like the Chuck Wagon races are so far removed from knowing what animals are like, etc. That also is a false statement, many of the people who I know oppose these races because they do have horses and know what happens when you push them beyond their physical capabilities.I am happy to share any of the information that I have regarding animal welfare if you would be interested in learning more. Thank you for allowing me to share just this small fraction of information regarding animal welfare. Respectfully Theresa Nolet

  6. kempton says:

    Dear Theresa,

    Firstly I want to thank you for taking time to share your thoughts. At the same time, you probably know (from my background and articles) that I am not an expert in rodeo or animal welfare, etc and can’t verify many of your claims. And along with the many other obligations and interest in life, I don’t have time to dig further than my own concern re rodeo as described in my original article. But I believe and respect we all have our passion in life and respect your determination to share what you believe (again, unverified by me).

    Given your last lengthy comment, probably longer than my original post excluding the excerpted text (which is a sign for me that the discussion has gone on to more complex than what I originally might have anticipated), I hope you will be ok to leave the discussion on this at your last comment.

    Finally, I respect Dr. Temple Grandin’s work and her measurable and scientific based approach to animal welfare. Anecdotal observations and our feelings, while important to us and may even be true (I don’t know) is not the same as measurable observations after applying a more scientific approach.

    Now you have a great day and I will get on with other articles and obligations.


  7. kempton says:


    Unfortunately, we had a second chuckwagon horse death. And after reading some more comments from Calgary Stampede’s spokesperson Doug Fraser, I have changed my mind. Please see my new article here,

    As you see, I am willing to change my mind if there are evidences that shows why I should. Mr. Fraser’s clear indication that he saw no urgent changes will come for 2012 lead me to change my position.


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