I find the news of six horse deaths that resulted from chuck wagon races at the Calgary Stampede distressing on many levels: intentional risk of beautiful animals that have served us in war and peace, sacrifice of animals for profit, danger to the drivers, and the mob mentality that feeds our desire to “be there” when tragedy happens.
In history, chuck wagons served as food stores for herders moving stock a distance to market towns. Cowboys relied on the know-how of their mounts to keep the herd moving in a direction. There was no racing.
Land was ploughed behind a team of big farm horses, often percherons, after trees and stones had been cleared with the power of those same animals pulling a stone boat. There was no racing, just the relationship between man and animal that provided food for the country.
Resourceful ranchers sometimes tamed wild horses for work on their large acreage. There were no metal burrs placed under saddles to make a horse buck as is the case at the Calgary Stampede. The goal was to build trust between human and animal.
If we need to sacrifice our historic links with the horse to amuse and titillate crowds of thrill seekers, maybe our enthusiasm is misplaced.