The Triple S Fair and Rodeo in Selkirk, Man., is amending its rule book after a horse broke a hind leg and was euthanized by a vet who was not officially on call.
The incident is now being investigated by the province’s Animal Health and Welfare Branch.
The horse was out of the gate for a few seconds before falling backwards during a bronco riding event, where a rider has to stay on top of a horse that is trying to bring him down, as seen in a video Shared with CBC.
In the video, audience members can be heard gasping as the horse writhes on the ground, its leg appearing injured, as it tries to get up.
“I didn’t see what happened after the horse broke its leg,” said Ilona Borovlova, a Ukrainian newcomer who recorded the video on her phone. She said that she had never been to a rodeo before, and the accident made her run away crying.
A member of the rodeo’s board of directors said crew members sprang into action immediately.
“I tried to help because you don’t want a horse to get hurt anymore,” said Tim Airth, who also competes in cattle roping events.
He said the horse was placed on a platform and sedated in the arena, then the animal was driven behind the stands with a skid steer, out of sight of the crowd, where it was evaluated and ultimately euthanized.
Vet was a competitor
However, the veterinarian involved was at the rodeo as a competitor, Airth said, and did not have a medical kit or Euthasol, a barbiturate formula commonly used for slaughtering animals.
“Only a licensed vet can carry that,” said Airth, who said he could not comment on how the horse was euthanized.
The Manitoba Office of the Chief Veterinarian said it would not comment on the incident until it completes its investigation.
Airth said organizers asked the race vet for help, as the official vet on call would have taken at least an hour to arrive.
“We were all very upset,” said Airth, who said most of his crew are experienced cattle handlers.
“I have had horses for over 45 years and the loss of a horse is terrible for us.”
Airth said the accident prompted the Triple S Fair & Rodeo to change its rules to require a qualified veterinarian to be on site during the entire competition.
“The decision is made, we will have a vet available next year,” Airth said, after a meeting Monday with the rodeo board.
He said the committee is already in contact with two large animal clinics that are considering sponsoring the event. Airth said other small herds in Manitoba have also reached out and are contemplating following her lead.
Vet not legally required at rodeos
But Triple S’s decision is voluntary, as herds are not legally required to have a vet present and are largely unregulated by governments.
A provincial spokesperson told the CBC that while federal authorities and provincial animal welfare laws they describe standards of care and prohibit deliberate mistreatment, they do not specifically mention roundups.
The City of Selkirk said Triple S has a 99-year lease on its fairgrounds in Selkirk Park and does not have to obtain any municipal permits. As an independent amateur event, Triple S is also not required to follow the rules of a rodeo association.
The Manitoba Stampede in Morris is the province’s only professional rodeo. He belongs to the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association, whose office said a veterinarian is always present during his competitions.
The semi-professional Canadian Cowboys Association and the Heartland Rodeo Association require events to have a veterinarian on call, but not necessarily present.
A difficult prognosis
Former president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Chris Bell, said horses that break a long leg bone are euthanized more often than not.
“Larger bone fractures tend to have a higher complication rate,” said the veterinarian, who practices at the Elders Equine Clinic, west of Winnipeg.
Bell declined to comment on the recent incident in Selkirk as it is under investigation, but noted famous Barbaro racehorsewho was euthanized in 2007 after extensive treatments to repair three fractured leg bones.
“Even with endless technical and monetary skills,” Bell said, “Barbaro ended up succumbing to that injury.”
He said that while an injection of barbiturates is the preferred method of euthanasia, death by gunshot or exsanguination (draining blood) are also quick and humane techniques when drugs are not available.
“Unfortunately, in those emergency situations, we try to have conversations with owners in a relatively short period of time,” Bell said, adding that these injuries cause immense suffering to horses.
Unclear number of deaths
Airth said it’s been more than 15 years since a horse died at a rodeo in Selkirk, following an injury during a cart accident, a contest Triple S no longer includes.
The CPRA told the CBC that it tracks animal deaths in herds across Canada, but would not share that data for this story.
Animal rights activists say the lack of public reporting on animal deaths at rodeos highlights a lack of oversight.
“The only way we tend to find out about events like this is when someone present reports to us or shares video footage,” said Kaitlyn Mitchell, director of legal advocacy for Animal Justice.
The attorney said her group filed a complaint with the Manitoba Animal Health and Welfare branch and the chief veterinarian.
“Anyone who has seen the footage knows that this horse suffered tremendously in his final moments,” Mitchell said.
She said that while section 3(1) of Manitoba’s Animal Care Act prohibits inflicting “acute suffering, serious injury or damage, or extreme anxiety or distress” on an animal, the province does little to monitor the treatment of the animal. rodeo cattle.
“Manitoba is basically the Wild West when it comes to rodeos,” Mitchell said.
“If we’re going to use animals for entertainment, in high-risk environments, someone should take care of them.”
Airth said the rodeo horses “are well cared for and loved,” saying they can twist and injure their legs even during low-risk activities.
He said updating the rodeo’s policies should help make it a better experience.
“I don’t wish this on anyone: the owner of the animal, the bystanders or ourselves,” Airth said.