Dear Pam (content warning: extreme sarcasm)

Disclaimer: These words are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Stampede or its affiliates.

There has been a huge uproar in the media, of late, around the sport of chuckwagon racing. Most of this hullabaloo came as a result of the tragic accident that occurred on the track last week at the Calgary Stampede. Driver Chad Harden lost three of his valued team members; three horses – “members of the family” as he referred to them. It was a sad day for the Hardens and a sad day for the Stampede.

Before I go any further, I want to clear up some facts. Many sites are misrepresenting the details around the accident.

  • FACT: The left lead horse collapsed and died on the track due to natural causes (a ruptured aortic aneurysm, a pre-existing condition that couldn’t have been detected prior to the race)
  • FACT: The collapse of the left lead brought down the rest of the team and, subsequently, the horse and his outrider who were following behind
  • FACT: Two of the horses (right lead and outrider horse) had to be euthanized due to the extent of their injuries
  • FACT: One horse was to undergo surgery and is expected to survive. One is doing just fine.
  • FACT: Chad Harden’s close attention to his team and his expert driving prevented what could have been a much worse on-track disaster.
  • FACT: Yes, the loss of the animals was tragic but no human life was lost. For that, we are all grateful.

I had the opportunity to visit the chuckwagon barns at the Stampede last week and witnessed first-hand how well these magnificent horses are cared for. Chuckwagon drivers spend hours every day with their horses – feeding, grooming, washing and caring for them. They get to know their talents as well as their limitations. They take time to consider who should be positioned as leads or in wheel positions based upon their individual skills. They instinctively know which horses love each other best and, as a result, who would work well together as a team. These horses have incredibly distinct personalities, you can see it in how they relate to humans and to one another. A friend of mine refers to thoroughbreds as the “unruly teenagers”. They are high energy animals, they are athletes and they are always ready to run. That’s what they are born and bred for.

The sport of chuckwagon racing has an extensive history (with the Stampede and beyond) and there are incredibly strong familial links in the chuckwagon community. These people work together, play together and have developed working and sporting protocols that are dedicated to maintaining high standards in the sport and in animal care. And these protocols and standards are constantly improving and evolving. Horses are a chuckwagon driver’s life. I don’t know any cowboy (or cowgirl, for that matter) whose thoughts don’t often return to their horse(s) throughout the day. These people love their horses. They, like all people that bring their animals to the Stampede, care deeply about animal welfare and well-being.

What really burns my britches is when celebrities adopt a cause, push a political agenda (amplified by ego or other personal motivations) and see fit to misrepresent or malign good people and good practices (I see it in agriculture all the time). Flanking her friends at PETA and another Stampede-critic Bob Barker, Pamela Anderson has hit the headlines and airwaves of late, criticizing the sport of chuckwagons and petitioning the Premier of Alberta to ban the sport. This is my letter to her.

Dear Pam:

You stated that horses are “routinely killed” in chuckwagon races. What do you mean by “routinely”? Only 50 horses have died out of an estimated 75,000 at Stampedes in the past 26 years. This number represents ‘a percentage of a percentage of a percentage’ based upon total starts. This number is NOT statistically significant. Just so you know, Pam, more women died in the United States last year (2011) going under the knife for cosmetic surgery. This latter statistic, although relatively higher, is not significant either – so you can rest easy. The practice of cosmetic surgery will carry on.

So, you want the sport of chuckwagon racing banned? Let’s say, Pam – in all your infinite ‘equine wisdom’ – that you are able to somehow shut down the sport. Are you prepared to accept the consequences? Presumably, Pam, you wouldn’t want to see these animals euthanized. If you (and your friends at PETA and we can’t forget Bob Barker, of course) plan to move forward, you better be prepared to make some major investments. These thoroughbreds that are no longer working will require new homes. Yours, perhaps? If so, grab a pen and paper ‘cause this is what you will need:

  1. A minimum of two acres of pasture per animal so that you watch your magnificent creature frolic, prance and nibble grass in the setting sun (cue: elevator music)
  2. You will also have to seed this pasture acreage on occasion in order to sustain it
  3. You will need a truck and trailer to transport your new pet (plus other acreage maintenance equipment)
  4. Hay, on average, will cost ~500$ per horse per year (plus cost of supplements, etc, if you choose)
  5. Vet bills will run you $500-$800 per year at a minimum and that’s with NO accidents or significant health issues (good luck with that)
  6. Hoof trimming will run you at a minimum of $400 per year (if you are tempted to ride your new pet for “your amusement and entertainment” (God forbid), then add on another ~$1000 per year for shoeing)
  7. The horse will require some form of shelter which can cost anywhere from $1000 and up depending upon how extravagant you want to get (don’t forget maintenance costs)
  8. Then there’s fencing which will run you anywhere from $7000 to $10000 (you would want post-and-rail and not barb-wire, correct? Yeah, save the barb-wire for your tattoos).
  9. You will need tack (you will only require a halter and blanket or two but if you plan to ride for “your amusement and entertainment”, you will need a saddle, bridle and other tack) plus some grooming tools. This could easily cost $3000 or $4000.
  10. As this pastoral animal will no longer be a ‘working’ animal, it will not be in top physical condition and its life expectancy will be greatly reduced. It will also be vulnerable to more health issuses. This means higher vet bills (see #5).

Conservatively speaking, we are looking at variable costs of well over $2000 per animal per year and don’t forget your fixed / capital outlay costs for shelter, fencing, land, truck, trailer, equipment, etc (thousands and thousands of dollars). Multiply all this by the number of horses that would be ‘out of a job’ if the sport of chuckwagon racing was banned. Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Wow, either way, this is adding up. Perhaps not all will find homes, Pam (imagine that). Then you would have to factor in another $700+ to euthanize, remove and dispose of each horse. Whew. Where are we at now? *franticallytappingcalculator*

In short, political motivations, optics and actions today can carry some serious long term implications, Pam. Although those retired thoroughbreds would look magnificent grazing in your back 10 acres just outside of LA, all that they would end up being is mere ‘eye candy’. Oh wait, that might work for you. Bad argument. At any rate, ‘eye candy’ does not justify the perpetuation of a breed. If these animals don’t work, there is no incentive to breed or raise them. The breed, as we know it, would eventually disappear (AKA “extinction”).

What happened at the chuckwagon races the other day was a tragic accident, Pam. Nothing more. If those horses weren’t out running there, they could have been just as easily running in some pastoral setting somewhere and have broken a leg in a gopher hole. In 2007, my husband and I lost two horses when they got out and were hit by a car (ironically, it was a Mustang). It’s difficult to estimate how many horses (and other animals) die in vehicular mishaps alone. Much of these incidents go unreported. Should we ban cars and trucks as well?

One final note, Pam. Did you know that the sport of chuckwagon racing also operates as a pseudo rescue organization? They adopt ex-race horses. You know – those same horses that you used to watch race every year at the Kentucky Derby until you boycotted the event in 2006. The sport of chuckwagon racing saves literally thousands of thoroughbreds each year from the abattoirs, often extending their lives for ten years or more! …Think about it.

Pam, honey, you have no jurisdiction here. You can no more tell the Stampede – or the Premier, for that matter – to shut down the chucks than any of us can tell you to stop getting cosmetic surgery. Stick to what you know.


A meat-eating, leather-boot-shoe-wearing, horse-back-riding, rodeo and chuckwagon-supporting, agriculture enthusiast. :O)

– – – –


113 thoughts on “Dear Pam (content warning: extreme sarcasm)

    • We have a big clue about compassion that others havent got yet actually. 🙂 But thanks for being rude to people who are just trying to make sure those with no voice are treated fairly. We are soooo evil. 😛

    • I will have to agree with you Barry. It never ends with them. If it isn’t Pamela and the horses, then its Pamela and the seals. I believe that the public has become tired of her and this is the only way to get some press…ugh!

  1. Chuckwagon races were around in Canada and the states before she was born and they will always be apart of the Western fabric just like dog sledding is to Alaska and the Yukon so where does she get off at badmouthing our heritage!

      • Hahah, that’s really funny!
        Sorry I’m laughing at this, I don’t really condone this type of talk because we don’t accomplish anything by insulting each other back and forth. I just thought that was a funny, well placed argument.
        Once again, I know people here treat their horses so I’m not transferring this argument to chucks.
        For other things though, I see your point Sheena7337 – just because something came to be called “heritage” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t question it. We also came out of a heritage where it used to be customary to whip children for being bad but that was questioned and abolished. Some cultures have a heritage of stoning people to death for stealing but that was questioned too. Thank goodness for critical thinking.

  2. Excellent, thank you. The death stats for horses started in the stampede chucks is roughly 0.067%, California has a 0.214% death rate for horses racing in that state, and all states but Illinois and Colorado have a higher percentage than the Stampede, with Washington being the worst at 0.427%. I think Pam should worry a bit more about the +3 times worse death rate in her adoped state, and be asking what Alberta, Colorado, and Illinois are doing right, and what Cali, Washington, and New Mexico are doing wrong.

    • Thanks for the stats, Kelly. Pam’s (and PETAs) agenda is politically motivated. Thus, a practicable, in-depth review of numbers, policies, surface types and standardized protocols adopted by different jurisdictions is not likely to be part of their strategy. That means that its real important that we stand up for the sport – shed light on the inaccurate info that is being circulated and make sure folks know what the real story is! Thanks for contributing!

  3. You tell her Miss Cami!!! I get so tired of all of them out there thinking they have the right to do crap that is of no importance to them whatsoever, they do it just because they think it makes them look good. My hat is off to you, Miss Cami!!

    • What? we think it will make us “look good?” Are you serious?! Do you know how hard it is to stand up for what it right while ignorant red necks put you down? It is no cake walk. We do it because we feel compassion that you do not.

      • well young lady, you should stand on your principle, but we’re going to continue to stand on ours. Sure the horses get hurt, and they run hard, but they are animals. I haven’t put down an animal yet that I thought had any type of brain to understand who it was and what was happening. The bible says it best, dumb animals. That means they don’t understand.

  4. Well said. Thank you for doing this. I missed Ms A’s remarks as I’ve learned it’s much better for my blood pressure to not read or watch that sort of ‘news’. I loved the sarcasm and thought that your tone was spot on. Chances are she’ll never see it (one does wonder if those sort of celebs, the ones hanging onto their *fame* by their very fingernails do much reading… but I digress) but maybe someone who isn’t quite willing to be dazzled by the glitter and stunned into mindless action by the ‘smell of the BS* will and their opinion will actually be based on fact rather than ‘look at me, look how GOOD I am for sticking up for animals’ publicity seeking.

    BTW, first time reader here, and one who most definitely will be back. Kudos.

  5. Excellent article, I completely agree!!
    I wonder what sorts of materials Pam thinks her breast implants are made of? If she knew that they were polymers and oil by-products and most likely processed unedible animal parts, perhaps she would stop being one of those annoying self-righteous v*gans.

  6. Not sure your reply is as well thought out as you might think. First off, PETA, Bob Barker, Bridget Bardot, Pam Anderson and others like them, have done more to better humanity in one day than most cowboys in a lifetime. Now before you get your back up, I’m not advocating a ban, just pointing out some facts. PETA and their supporters are not politically motivated. Politicians who make decisions on whether they can get re-elected rather than what is right are political. PETA has changed the cosmetic industry so that animals are not being abused so that Pam Anderson can wear flashy eye make-up. PETA and Pam Anderson supported that. PETA and Bob Barker (Barker almost single handedly) support Sea Shephard society which on a yearly basis prevents the killing of approximately 1000 whales a year. This is not political. PETA has supported spay neuter programs in many under developed countries in the world, preventing disease and over populations which indirectly benefits the people.

    To say that because it takes a ton of land and money to keep a horse, it has to be worked…..pretty weak argument. They say that about dog and cock fighting in Latin America. I can name a hundred Alberta horse owners, some who ride their animals and some who don’t ever get on a saddle, that would disagree with you.

    The animal’s breed won’t disappear because you stop hitching’ it to a crappy wagon a terrorize it for 2 minutes a day. Again, lets allow dog fighting because that breed would disappear. Who cares. Worry about the polar bear that is on the extinction list, or the whales, or the cheetah or a hundred other animals that we have left behind.

    The analogy of the rate of deaths is just meaningless. Who cares that a human has made a rational decision with her doctor that the their cosmetic surgery could have fatal implications? I don’t. But can you be certain that same conversation and explicit agreement by the horse takes place before every chuck wagon race. Bit of a difference.

    Whether you support the rodeo or not, Pamela Anderson others have a legitimate right to protest. Animal rights is animals rights. As humans, we have differing opinions on what the fine line is between abuse and sport. PAmela Anderson has made that decision and should be congratulated for it. You have your opinion, and it is in others eyes, you are correct as well. And do you think any Albertan government is going to ever change the rodeo.

    I think the best is to let people protest. PETA and the Bob Barkers of the world have changed dozens of policies that benefit all of us. Unless of course your scared that they might be right, and that chuck wagon races are cruel and constitute abuse, just let them have their day and go about your business. Oh, and your horses, what were they doing loose on the roadway? You show cracks in your logic and that remark about horses getting killed by a car turned me off to you being a responsible animal owner. Should we ban cars? Because your horses weren’t corralled properly. Right, sane argument there Cami.

    • Thank you for contributing.

      I hate to tell you this, but politics is politics. It exists in every organization and facet of society – inside and outside the election arena. It is a great motivator for many. PETA is no different. Why do you think that they refer to their strategies as “campaigns”?

      Wow. Where do YOU live? No, not TONS of land. But some. It’s a bylaw out here that a minimum of 2 acres be allocated per horse. Period. They require that kind of room to maintain their health and welfare. You would have to agree that this falls into responsible animal management and animal care, yes? I’m sorry, but I am beginning to question YOUR capacity as a responsible animal owner.

      As for numbers, this IS a numbers game. It’s about probabilities. And the statistics show that risks to an animal in the sport of chuckwagon racing are miniscule relative to the values that are extracted by the equine athletes. They are saved from the cannery and they have a great quality of life. Every day we make decisions on the margin based upon limited time and resources and based on numbers. You do it too. Pushing for a ban on the chuckwagon racing sport is a slippery slope. And if it does occur, PETA better be prepared to take down thoroughbred racing as well. What’s next? Where does it end? Who pays?

      Agreed. PETA has a legitimate right to protest. But with these types of actions comes consequences which will include some very vocal responses. This formal protest that PETA/Anderson are spearheading WILL and HAS generated critical reactions. That’s a fact. So, I stand by my words in this blog. I think that they reflect the sentiments of the broader community.

      I have been studying PETA – as an organization – for several years. Their business and organization mandates have changed considerably over the past two decades. Where once the organization really did some terrific things, now PETA is primarily focused on building their arsenal of celebrity endorsers and less on caring for the animals. This might explain PETA’s 90%+ euthanization rates. I mean, who has time to find homes for stray animals when one is busy rubbing shoulders with the Hollywood blue bloods? And every celebrity is looking for a ‘political’ (yes, I said political) avenue to push a personal agenda and to remain relevant in the eyes of the fans. It’s not all about altruism. It rarely is. And, for the record, when I think historical humanitarians, Bob Barker, Brigitte Bardot and Pam Anderson are not the folks that come to mind for me.

      As for our two horses… it was a sad day in our house when we lost Rio and Trip. But it was an unfortunate accident. Horses are animals and sometimes they get out. I am no more an irresponsible animal owner because our horses got out than I am a bad parent because my son died in a car accident.

      It appears that BOTH you and I have opinions here and they are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Let’s agree to disagree and move onto lobbying for what we each see as the ‘right thing’. See you on the battlefield. I’ll be mounted on the very healthy, sorrel quarter horse – ready for action.

  7. Great Comments, Cami! The people that actually know the sport, and the animals, and understand what they are about; are the ones that will ultimately make the decisions on the sport. The Calgary Stampede has been leaders in the regard of safety and development of both Rodeo and Chuckwagons, and I suspect that they, or anyone else in the sport will NOT be held ransom by the comments of old, crickety celebrities with nothing else better to do than sit on their fanny all day, trying to figure out a way to grab the spotlight again! Their comments are just that…opinions. Western Canadians are the WEST, and our politicians will always be the WEST! Ignore the uneducated!

  8. One comment was not correct. They do not “save” ex racehorses, they buy them off the track. They want class horses, and they will pay for them. Horses that have back class that maybe have some soft tissues injurys that prevent them from running their best. Believe me they do not want the ones who can’t break their maiden or are still non/2/life. I know because I have sold more than one TB to wagon guys. They have cleaned up their act since the chip program was started a few years ago. Now the vets can track which horse is being hooked up any given night. Stampede has rules regarding how many nights the horses can be hooked up and they have to give them a break at some point during Stampede. They also do routine vet checks and because of the chip inplanted they cannot switch horses on the vet. I am not pro or con to either rodeo or chucks, but just want the keep the record straight.

    • Thanks,Wanda. Yes, technology, tracking and new standards have represented improvements in how things are managed. I took a bit of artistic license with the ‘rescue’ thing using the term “psuedo”. But is it totally wrong? I mean, when we rescue any animal we are required to pay some sort of fee.

  9. I get such a chuckle at these “animal lovers” who support PETA…Don’t they realize that in 2005 there was an aimal cruelty case (with 31 charges, I might add) brought against them? Humm….Yeah….Lets support an organization that routinly euthinizes up to 85% of the animals that they rescue because it is “not cost effective” to re-home but lets make the sport of chuckwagon/rodeo about a bunch of devils in cowboy hats. Well said Cami, well said.

    • Thanks Christine. It’s funny how economics and statistics are used arbitrarily when it serves PETA’s purpose but ignores numbers (death stats) when it contravenes their agenda. These days, PETA appears to be floating on the power of the celeb. In my response to a critic of my blog post, I said this:
      “…I have been studying PETA – as an organization – for several years. Their business and organization mandates have changed considerably over the past two decades. Where once the organization really did some terrific things, now PETA is primarily focused on building their arsenal of celebrity endorsers and less on caring for the animals. This might explain PETA’s 90%+ euthanization rates. I mean, who has time to find homes for stray animals when one is busy rubbing shoulders with the Hollywood blue bloods? And every celebrity is looking for a ‘political’ (yes, I said political) avenue to push a personal agenda and to remain relevant in the eyes of the fans. It’s not all about altruism. It rarely is. And when I think historical humanitarians, Bob Barker, Brigitte Bardot and Pam Anderson are not the folks that come to mind for me.”

    • OMG so out of context. The animals that were euthanized were suffering and in pain because of people who dont give a shit about animals. PETA saved them from tourment. They dont want to ever have to put an animal down. And they wouldnt have to if the asses who abused animals were stopped. And that is what they are trying to do so that they can get to the point where that never has to happen again. They use celebrities because they can reach more people with their message that way.

  10. Very similar liberal emotional drivel has influenced animal shows in my state. The animal rightists have stopped the draft horse pulls at the state fair. These are not the hitches with the old style wagons circling the arena. The pulls have the weights on sleds that the draft horses pull for competition.

    These people who have no clue about animals thought it was too hard on them. They obviously had never seen a pull. Those horses were excited to pull. It was amazing to watch them compete.

    But people in offices that wouldn’t know the first thing about caring for these large animals think they know what’s best for them.

  11. although I agree with some of the things PETA stands for and protests: i.e. the killing of dolphins as a “right of passage” I disagree with their views on the chucks. there is no logical reason to even say you want the chucks shut down. those horses, athletes, are treated like royalty and well cared for. they chucks have been altered and changed and are safer then ever! so there was a tragic accident and three horses died, it should really be said that the lead horse that “Caused the accident” was almost 20 years old and died of natural causes, thank you for posting this! I agree completely. this was a tragic accident and, although I wish it could have been, it was unpreventable. it was tragic and he lost members of his family. that horse was going to be his families horse, this was his last race and he had no idea this was going to happen. as horrible as it was all I can say is at least this happened when he was pulling a chuck with adults on board them when one of Chad’s children (or grandchildren) was on the horses back -heaven forbid!

    this accident was horrible, I was watching when it happened. it was a heartbreaking accident, have no doubt. but because one horse died of natural causes does that mean we ban the sport? no,

    as an aside comment to Cami: two years ago we also lost our mare, a quarter horse, in an accident. she was chased into the road with our other horse by a cougar or bare -we aren’t sure which. and she was hit and killed by an ambulance. so I am truly sorry for your loss, and for Chad’s loss. this was horrible. but unpreventable. so thank you Cami for writing this 🙂 you had excellent points and insight!

  12. it was very sad what happen, but no one knew that will happen but it is part of life, horses love to run I own horses and there are part my family as well, my sister had a horse that die from a heart attack while she was on him, she didn’t know that will happen that is part of life..

  13. Well said. I think if some of these celebs took the time to muck some stalls and feed some horses (and I’m talking a year or two, one day wouldn’t cut it) they’d change their mind. I stay on the English side of the riding fence, however I agree that these horses need a place to go. I’ve seen many ex-race horses turned into dressage horses and eventers, and yes, some become very successful, but the majority of them only like to run, and at the end of the day, why not let them do what they love?

    PETA, as well as many other organizations, are trying to have their cake and eat it too. Let’s shut down the slaughter houses, and take jobs away from these horses who obviously love what they do. It sure turned out well when millions of horses were released into the Nevada desert to fend for themselves because people just simply couldn’t afford to take care of their pleasure horses. You had it completely right: the chuck drivers take the best care possible of their horses, and there’s absolutely no reason to put both people and horses on the streets.

    Of course, this is just my opinion, but if we don’t speak up, who will?

  14. (Charlene Hoffman) I posted this comment to a friend on facebook recently.
    I think before the papers and animal activists get all up in arms about the recent death of the horse involved it was stated that the the horse died of an aneurysm, something that was not the fault of the driver or the horse it was a freak health issue that usually goes undetected even by the best doctors and vets. It happens so suddenly in humans and animals and death can occur in hours or minutes. The Calgary Stampede does every thing it can to prevent the unnecessary deaths of animals and people but freak accidents do occur and that does suck. I would hate to see a great tradition that evolved from the time of the Romans and chariot races that has gone on for centuries to chucks etc. stop. If this were the case we would have to make a lot of historical changes to our way of living and how do you erase the killing of Dinosaurs , cattle, chicken, pigs, etc. as food and the deaths that it took for them to die to feed people (part of the evalutional chain of life). Ban cars, cigarettes,booze and numerous other things we all enjoy and all of which cause death as a result of their use. Sorry Hun rambling here but every thing in life has a purpose no one said the purpose of those lives were going to be perfection we were created to live and die at some point in our lives, it is the true meaning of life. I think the majority of people have a great love of animals including the people who race them ,raise them etc. But this is the drivers choice of lively hood to provide for his family. So are we going to condemn him for this. Then we need to condemn GOD for creating stupid people with no compassion for doing the things that hurt other people and animals from the beginning of time LOL Just something to think about. But the only way to prevent accidents and deaths is more caution on every one’s part. Stricter regulations maybe I don’t really know. But don’t ban a sport that is tradition. I love animals to but I can’t be to judgmental at the risk of someone’s lively hood if they follow regulations and all proper procedures in the sport.

    Added comment: I applaud the actions of people who stand for protective rights of all living creatures but also at the same time where do we draw the line to take away countless lively hoods of some people. I think if guidelines are followed and regulations are in place and effective,then the Stampede is doing the best they can to provide a sport that is tradition and should remain tradition. Just my thoughts on the whole thing.

  15. Very well writen.
    Pam forgot a few things. She should also be trying to stop the Cagary Stamped Parade. Yes the Parade. There were a lot of horses pilling wagons in the pardae.
    She has to hit the Budwisser Horses. Pulling that wagon. That crule to those horses. They are in many parades in a year. They are famous horses. We all know Budwisser takes good care of those horses. Just like the chuck wagon people do.

    There are other people who have horse drawn wagons. They have to take care of their horses also.
    Those draw horses. Does that person who made that comment. Know. That was how feilds first got planted. By draw horses pulling that plow. That what they were good for. So when they had to pull a heavy object. Those horses were doing what they like.

    What people did in the 1800’s, 1900 was a part of life. Now it is more of a sport.
    So if you want to stop 1 sport that may hurt an animal. Then stop all sports. From grade school right up to and including Professional sports.
    People can get hurt in any sports. Some even die.

  16. This is certainly a fascinating and engaging topic that has produced passionate dialogue from both sides. I appreciate your point of view Ms. Ryan. Today is my first experience with your blog, and I will return. I am a horse lover and an advocate for the Western lifestyle and specifically a supporter of the sport of reining through the NRHA. Educated and gifted writers, like you, as well as orators need to speak out to promote sound agricultural practices that have been the cornerstone of American life. Yes, each man has his opinion, and I value healthy debate as long as it ends in positive action. Sometimes positive action is simply a greater understanding of the opposition and their points of view while we continue to support the Western way of life from the back of a horse. Happy trails!

    P.S. I think my high school English students will appreciate studying your use of argument – point and counterpoint – when school resumes in a few weeks. Thanks for quality writing!

    • Many thanks, Shannon, for your thoughtful comment. I agree – greater understanding of other points of view is key. We need to dialogue. Issues like this create polarization in the debate and that often leads to impasse. Which is sad. Anyway, you are right! We need to continue to support our Western lifestyle and sounds ag practices in any way we can and speak out. Opinion matters but facts are key!

      Enjoy your summer and best to you and your students this fall!

  17. Cami, you and I are similar in many ways. We both love horses and riding – we know that horses love to run! They’re treated well for the most part (much better than some other animals we know – sadly).

    We are not cruel people! We love our 4 legged friends and care for them greatly. We are not Nazies abusing animals for our own entertainment. We all need to learn the facts – critically and fully no matter who they’re coming from and no matter how passionately they express them. We need to investigate why somebody is truly saying what they’re saying – is there some truth to what they’re saying? What’s the motivation for saying so?

    The rest of the world views us as barbarians with our oil and “animal abuse”. They judge us and we judge them.

    But how different are we all really? Neither side are sadists, out to get the next live creature and inflict as much pain on them as we can. I’m sure there’s a very minute fraction of sick people that are capable of doing that but the vast majority of people are kind and compassionate to our fellow creatures (horses and other animals alike).

    I truly believe we are all on the same side of the fence! We love our animals and don’t want to see them suffer! This is very apparent when I read Cami’s comments of condolences for Kelsey’s mare dying. My condolences as well Kelsey. I can imagine how painful that must have been – my heart goes out to you.

    I don’t believe we need to get our backs up about what the world doesn’t understand – they need to know we’re not against them because they care about animals and we don’t!! It’s simply not true that we don’t care about animals!

    It’s NOT AN US-VS-THEM thing! We’re all trying to do the same thing – to ensure that our fellow creatures are not sufferring!

    What we should all be doing is direct our anger and sarcasm towards those true sadists that are causing really sufferring!

    Please watch the following video and let me know your thoughts (please be careful – anybody with a heart will cringe watching this; viewer discretion is advised): | A Film by Nation Earth

    Kindest regards,

    • Andrea: Thanks for taking the time to post this. Like you, I am an optimist. And, like you, I believe – as you say – the “vast majority of people are kind and compassionate to our fellow creatures”.

      Unfortunately, these types of issues often polarize people. I think that the important thing is that we put our thoughts, ideas and opinions out there and move towards some sort of useful debate.

      Thanks again for sharing.

  18. Cami, I was raised on a cattle and grain ranch and grew up on a horse. One of my best cattle horses was a thoroughbred. My mom’s family long time ago was connected with those in the chuckwagon sport. I like you am tired of the rhetoric. They make these horses pets in a city and they die of “non-use” when they are born to work – something like most city dwellers do to dogs. Well said, well put and well done

  19. I watched my dad die a slow, degrading death (thankfully he suffered only 6 months). A more honorable death for him would have been to die in the fishing boat, or while helping me build fences – something he loved doing. I watched my diabetic brother give every ounce of energy he had to continue his love affair with horses for as long as he was able (despite amputation of a leg and thumb, and clinical blindness). He died at the tender age of 44. Yes, he could have gone out to pasture so to speak, and possibly lived longer by laying miserably in his house but instead he embraced life and when he died we all knew he had enjoyed those last few years to the fullest. And so it goes with these horses, they died doing what they loved. Their owner provided them with all the necessities of life including fulfillment. Have the activists ever ridden a horse who wants nothing more than to be at the front of the herd? Felt the passion of a horse putting its’ nuzzle into your neck at the end of the ride?

    Personally, I don’t even like watching chuckwagons but what a rush it must for the horses and driver! I wish I had even an inkling of their passion, conviction, love and guts.

    And afterall is said and done, who do “they” think THEY ARE to infringe upon the happiness of a horse and its’ keeper?

  20. What amazes me is that it’s deaths that get the attention. What about the abuse that happens daily (over and over) abuse that continues. Rollkur in dressage, railing in jumpers, I could go on forever. Other equine events with WAY less rules for animal welfare would be a good place for some focus to go, sports where it’s needed. Chucks and rodeo already have a huge set of rules in place, animal welfare officers on site etc, how about focusing some attention somewhere else?

  21. I remember the day when I heard that my cousin Richard Cosgrave had been killed while driving his chuckwagon in a smaller stampede. But I also remember the times I spent at “the barns” as a youngster during the Calgary Stampede while he and Uncle Bob were racing. I helped a bit with the horses and always fondly remember how well cared for they were. These animals were as content and as happy as I imagine they could be. On the way out to the track, they were so thrilled and excited and I would presume, nervous, to be in front of so many people doing what they love … Run.
    Thanks for this thoughtful, well-written piece.

  22. These animals come before the drivers in the morning they get fed watered and cared for before most drivers even have that first cup of coffee I wish people would see how loved these animals are and how devastated the drivers and their families are when something like this happens. Having been involved in racing with the ponies for all those years. I know you make sure you have everything packed for your horses first then you worry about yourself. Our ponies got so excited when they seen the trailer come out they knew we where going to race they loved to race too in was in their blood after awhile they get annoyed if you haven’t gone so people just need to try and understand it is not just people pushing animals they could careless about to do something they hate doing.

    • Not rue, a horse on the move has to be feed very carefully or he’ll bolt from his feed. The average stampede horse does not eat before the cowboy. Also, because they are well fed and loved, does not make the race any more acceptable. I have seen dog owners in the Dominican Republic love their dogs to death, and then put them in to dog fights. Because we love the sport, doesn’t make it that the horse is well treated.

      • You make an interesting point sailincpl. People can love their animals and still put them in harms way. Whether that’s happening here I don’t know but interesting analogy none-the-less. Something to think about. I wonder how many people will actually stop to truly think about that…
        I love UFC but think dog fights are barbaric. The difference being that dogs don’t have a choice and people do.

  23. I love this, so well said. I grew up wagon racing and my dad has done it for 40 years. There is nothing cruel or wrong with this sport in anyway, these animals LOVE what they do, they can’t wait to get on the track and run. They are not terrorized or forced to do it, if a horse doesn’t want to run it wont. These animals are cared for and looked after better than most of our seniors in the nursing homes. More horses die in the pasture or barnyard from freak accidents or old age every year than have died on the track in 3 decades. These nay sayers really don’t know what they are spouting off about. I say go spend a day behind the scense at a race or a day with a family that races, you will have no choice but get your head out of your a$$. They are NOT just pets and they are NOT just entertainment, they ARE family.

  24. I totally agree with you; however, when it comes to certain other rodeo sports, such as calf roping, which I believe to be extremely cruel and unjustified.

    I was born and raised on my grandpas cattle ranch – I worked hard, I did things right. It is not an easy life, you must be committed 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

    When it came to checking and treating, if grandpa ever caught us roping a calf at those speeds in rodeo, he would literally cuff us one. When roping at those speeds you are jeopardizing the health and wellbeing of that calf, a calf which could possibly feed you the following week. My grandpa was no animal lover, apart from his dogs and his cow checking horse, but he drew a line when it came to his making a living. So when people say that calf roping in rodeo, and steer wrestling are part of our heritage, they are mistaken.

    Ranching, in my opinion, is a way of life. Those animals are your livelihood, both horses and cattle alike. Rodeo, however, is not a way of life; it’s a hobby. I know a lot of people will disagree, but both my brother and sister were in rodeo, they both had their fun, they both got university degrees and moved on. Much is the same for most. There are a very few cowboys and cowgirls who can make a life-long career out of rodeo.

    These are just my opinions, I am not looking to argue with anyone or start a fight. However, if you have time, I would enjoy to read your thoughts on calf roping.



  25. Outstanding! You really blistered her ass! As a former farm girl, I applaud you. While we all know there are some ag practices that leave much to be desired, they are few and far between. Good for you and thanks for making rural voices heard.

  26. Cami, thank you so much for your wonderful, and witty insights. Too many people to do not understand the desire a horse has to do what it was bread for, like running, or pulling. It’s like having a border-collie in a condo, it’s just cruel. Those horses deaths were sad, but they died doing what they loved to do the most.

  27. BEST BLOG I’ve read in a long time. Relevant, factual, informative and accurate. And your response to Pam will stick with me for a very long time. I’ll be sharing this all over the place. I support a ton of animal rescues and like many here, hate PETA, and am really frustrated with the publicity they get when their own practices are so questionable.

  28. OMG a bunch of “Billy Bob’s” giving this article a thumbs up!!!?? All of these “problems” that she writes Pam about could be solved in other ways than running these horses to death. All these horses that would need homes that you are adding up the costs for….I’m sorry, they are no good if they are not running chucks. You tell me a cowboy loves his horse yet he will get rid of it if he cant enslave it for his entertainment? I’m confused. Here is a solution. How about you just dont allow any more horses to start in chucks and let the ones already there continue so they have a home still? That gets rid of your problem and the problem of red necks using horses for their entertainment.

    It seems like adults need guidance from the younger generations an awful lot. Maybe they are stuck in habits. Maybe it is hard to unlearn what you were taught is ok.

    I am not sure how so many people can see a rodeo as entertainment. If a “superior” life form came from outer space and forced us to take part in “games” and races that terrified and hurt us while spectators watched we would look at them as barbaric and vile. Yet that is what we do to non human life at the Calgary Stampede.

    3 lives were taken at the Stampede last night. As they are every year.

    I think that as we evolve we come to understand the plight of those outside our egocentric bubble. How is it at one time we didnt want women to be considered equals? How is it at one time we enslaved another human being because of their skin colour? How is it that now we use non-humans as entertainment? Dismissing a life because we are somehow “superior.” Well if we were truly superior we would be using that which makes us so, our intelligence and compassion, to stop this needless suffering and killing.

    Gandhi told us that the progress of a nation can be judged by how it treats its animals. Einstein told us to expand our circle of compassion to all the living.

    The great minds already saw what we will soon see. That the human race will grow to understand yet another type of oppression and free the animals from slavery as we grow and progress in our comprehension of life. This compassion is inevitable. This evolution will happen. It is already happening. We can not much longer look at the suffering of animals as a paycheque.

    These cowboys and girls that love their animals, well they dont know what true love is just yet.

    And Cami’s comment about the horses being out of work…. That is hilarious. Because that is the same thing the whites said about the black slaves. They were doing them a favour, housing and feeding them. They slaves liked it, they had a better life than in their African village. The economy will colaspe if we end slavery as they will take the white man’s jobs. Seriously people. We’ve heard all these excuses before. It is NEVER ok to decide for another living being what it wants and doesnt want.

    • Sorry Cami, but I have to respond to this rant.

      ” races that terrified and hurt …” Sheena obviously has read nothing in the comments here. She hasn’t shown a modicum of knowledge needed to comment intelligently on this topic.
      Outer space, alien beings? Horse lovers = Red Necks?

      I will say thanks for the info that there are Vegan breast implants, I did not know that.

      Comparing keeping horses to enslavement and slavery? Well, how could we be so blind? I feel so ashamed of myself (I have trouble with sarcasm I’m afraid).
      Well, I guess it takes all kinds to make the world go round, hmmm? Hats off to Sheena7337 for speaking her (mind).

      • Sheena7337, kudos for standing up for animals. It’s damn hard to do that in this forum. I admire you for it. Most of us in here are really just preaching to the choir (ie. we all believe the same thing: that our horses are well treated and that they love to run; it’s actually very hard to make a horse do something that it doesn’t want to do as most people that have spent any time around them know). It’s easy for us to make comments like this in here (some of them quite nasty – but we seem to be able to get away with that in this forum).
        But I believe the truth is somewhere in the middle.
        We all love animals (like I mentioned in my other post, there’s a very tiny percentage of true sadists in the world but most people are truly compassionate). We are all on the same side of the fence: we love animals and don’t want to see them suffer.
        What most people in favor of chucks are saying is that they love their horses as they see that first hand. I do believe they love their horses too. On the other hand, I can see your concern about the inevitable casualties – I can see the sport can be seen as “exploiting animals for sport”. However, I do believe there are worse things done to animals (and I cringe and that). These horses are treated well for the most part and an occasional accident is not the most horrible thing (apart from the humans that suffer after for losing their beloved animals and maybe the other horses that have considered it family too). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning deaths. All I’m saying is there are worse ways to die than doing something you love to do – that love is running for horses.
        I think this is all Cami was trying to say. However, if she expressed it the way I do, she wouldn’t create an onslaught of comments either. Her sarcasm creates “ratings” so to speak.
        On another hand (and I’m sorry for being totally honest on this Cami), sarcasm is not doing us any favors in the eyes of the rest of the world. We’re all animal lovers but reading the nasty comments in here by otherwise wonderful, smart and compassionate people is making us look pretty bad in the eyes of the rest of the world.
        We are not against people that love animals!! Organizations that stand up for animal welfare are not bad people just like we are not bad people!
        We are all on the same side! Like I said before, this is not an us-vs-them thing.
        The insults and sarcasm are NOT a productive way to start an intelligent, reasonable conversation. It’s not a way to prove a point (other than to yourself). It’s only a way to impress immature minds (kids for example, are easily impressed by strong opinions and will rarely question them in depth).
        If we’re all posting comments just to “hear” ourselves talk, then we’re only becoming dumber by the minute and not accomplishing anything productive (no opposing opinions are actually changed; only ones own opinion is subjectively confirmed by hearing only ourselves talk). It’s hard to truly listen to somebody that’s offending you. It takes a very big man (or woman) to truly hear what the other person is trying to say under all the insults. It can be done but all I’m saying is that it takes an incredibly strong person not to get defensive and truly hear the other persons point of view.
        I’m not pointing a finger at you Sheena7337 (everybody else in here is doing the same thing). I can imagine how frustrating it must be to have a bunch of people preaching to the choir without seemingly much consideration for the cruelty they’re condoning by hanging the very people that speak for those that don’t have a voice.
        But the people posting in this blog are not bad people. Their comments are driven by mass mentality in this blog because of the type of audience in it (if you’re ever curious about “mass mentality” please read up on it – we’re all vulnerable to it).
        If the purpose of this was to achieve a productive debate, then we have failed.
        The only way we can achieve any kind of progress is to truly try to understand one another.

  29. Well I have been on a horse only three times in my 58 years, each time not outlasting any bronco ride(amazing how 8 seconds can be so long),but have been around ranches,farms and reservations enough to appreciate the passion and values these folks hold for their animals.I have never been around any studio proclaimed star or stylized entertainer for any length of time actually it would total into the negative.I also am mature enough to know that serval celebrities are country and music folks as well yet these folks seem a little different to me.For me the Bridgette Bardoes, Pam Anderson, and Bob Barker people just do not come across as folks with humanitarian values.Spay and neuter great idea,but no pet store should be allowed to sell anything but a spay and neutered animal.Then there would be no cute little kitties,puppies,bunnies and Guinea pigs, they would have to be a little more mature.Catch and release of feral cats devasting still to songbirds,house cats ( well fed) the ultimate torture machine.Stop them in their paw marks.Have not heard a word from any of the named three on that topic.
    If the three people mentioned by name and their associates have done more for humanity than any cowboy/ aboriginal/farmer/rancher and legal hunters I must not be 58 because I missed it.The author of the response to your blog does have a right to speak his mind,but atleast load your keyboard with the right ammo.
    Charles Goodnight,Roy and Dale Rogers, General Douglas McArthur,Sam Livingston,Archie Belany, Crazy Horse and thousands of first and second world war soldiers now mostly all gone were of the character required for humanitarian effort spent in any day.That comment made to devalue the efforts of any of these folks efforts for the sake of humanity by comparing them to his three made me cringe.Ed Albert of green acres fame a true environmentalist,a conservationist and a war hero the only entertainer I am of aware of that went about his business of watching over the real helpless creatures of California without notoriety.In my humble language the down to earth way like all the folks who go about minding their store and respecting Gods gifts to us all.( There is no greed in the Stampede,it’s folks earning a living the best way they know how)
    I could go on and on but like Cami stated so well that on this issue an awful lot of us would and will agree to disagree.
    One last note Mr.Gore an Academy award winner from Tennessee has an inconvenient truth he is covering up,while he spelled the perils for the polar bear( population growth is up over the last 50 years/ a study done in 2008), he never stood up for The Tennesse Walking horse that is forced by members of Mr.Gores elitist friends to walk unnaturally.He was a governor or senator of that state still lives in his mansion. Please take the time to check out the info on that, but I do not think any of the PETA humanitarians wrote him!

    • Stephen, you offer up some great points of discussion for this online debate. I especially appreciate your comments around the motivations of celebrity endorsers: What about the folks (i.e. Eddy Albert) that go about their “…business of watching over the real helpless creatures …without notoriety. In my humble language the down to earth way like all the folks who go about minding their store and respecting Gods gifts to us all.”

      Thanks for weighing in on the debate, Stephen!

  30. Lets say we bann the sport, what the hell we gonna do with all that glue. I don’t know “Jack” about these horses, but I have worked with them enough to know that if they cant run, they are better off dead! Don’t take my word for it, take one on the track, start with a short run and then try to stop the horse.

  31. Pingback: Bella Spur Innovative Media Inc.- » Life with purpose » Bella Spur Innovative Media Inc.

    • Yes, because he was relocating an elephant to his backyard. The elephants enclosure was inadequate to meet an elephants needs. I fail to see any compassion whatsoever in this tread towards another being, apart from horses. Bob Barker has helped sustain biodiversity with his generosity and his profile the world over. It’s not about one specific species, it’s about showing empathy and compassion towards nonhuman species.

      When you consider science, it’s biodiversity that has helped sustain life on this planet. The same biodiversity we humans are hellbent on destroying. So more compassion should be placed toward these various ecosystems to help ensure the continuance of life, nonhuman and human alike.

      • Thanks for standing up for animals Channing. I happen to believe that the rest of the people in here treat horses well and truly love them. I’m not against chucks – as i mentioned before, I do think there are worse ways to die and these horses love to run.
        The writers in this blog are good people and perhaps a little misguided in blaming other animal lovers when they are, in fact, animal lovers themselves. The reason they’re doing that is that they’re being defensive because they feel that the world wants to ban what they truly love and that’s horses and horse sports. It’s human nature to be defensive and we all do it from time to time. It takes a big person to truly listen to others and not be defensive.

        I do want to give you support too for standing up for animals. In my humble opinion, choosing a different approach might be more effective than being defensive and frustrated yourself. I understand why you would get frustrated when standing up for those that don’t have a voice. Just like the people that treat their horses well get frustrated when they’re called abusive (which I believe they’re not).
        I appreciate your passion to protect animals. I have the same passion. And so do the other people in this blog. They’re just expressing it in a bit of a frustrated way (and hence a little less effective than ideal) because they don’t understand why the world doesn’t see how much they love their animals.

  32. I would like to add one little comment I don’t know if you covered or not. I am not a huge rodeo fan and as a past Calgarian I have been to the Stampede many times and never witnessed cruelty of any kind to any animals. But also know this , 1.4 million people spent well over 100 million doolars at the 2012 Stampede……that is a significant boost of the City and Provincial economy. Think about it.

    • By the way Cami, you’ll love this! As I noticed that your blog description says: “musings on the science, technology and agriculture” I have to share with you the excellent book I literally just finished reading called “Food Revolution”, author John Robbins. (I’m reading about 2-3 books per week right now as I’m training for Ironman – audiobooks that is).
      This book is an amazing example on how Big Business is squeezing out the common farmer and cowboy and making the world just a little more (or a lot) profitable for them while the average farmer is starving more and more. The book touches on all three of those topics you’re interested in: science, thechnology and agriculture!!
      And here we are all arguing about the same thing while Big Business is raking in the profits and exploiting people and animals in the most horrific ways!! For example, even though legislation is requiring that 100% of the cows be stunned before being skinned, as with most technologies, there’s a margin of error (as a matter of fact my dad has several patents on decreasing error rates with technology and the error rates are still killing people at too high of a rate). Given that error rates are so hard to bring down, McDonalds allows a 5% error rate. That means up to 5 in 100 cows get skinned alive while they’re still conscious and suffering through unimaginable horror! The reason why this happens is that there’s really no penalties for the errors and very limited way to police this (only random checks that uncover these error rates).
      If this was an average farmer and cowboy – they would never allow this to happen! The farmers depended on their cows for livelihood but they never wanted to cause horrific suffering to the very creatures that “feed” them (pun intended).
      Please let me know if you’d like to read that book!

  33. Cami, I can only aspire to being so eloquent. This is so well written. The only thing I have to add … she said something about being ashamed to say she was Canadian because we let the Rodeo and Chuckwagons take place? I don’t think there would be too many Canadians upset if she decided to relinquish her Canadian Citizenship as she has been an embarassment to us for years!!

    • Why’s it a rant. She makes good points, open you mind, support your position with fact and don’t call names. You come on this blog like everyone else, unknown. If you give opinion, fine, then you’re no different than anyone, if you bring facts, show them. And I would suspect that this blog is being restricted in it’s tolerance of differing views.

  34. Definitely a passionate piece, Cami. More people need to exercise their right to free speech and make themselves heard. I may not agree with everything you have said, but I certainly defend your right to say it.

    I feel the rodeo community needs to put forth a greater effort to show the general public that rodeo (chucks in specific)isn’t the root of all evil. I attended the chucks this year and had the opportunity to meet Kelly Sutherland, who took us on a tour of the barn to meet his horses. It was only because of the education he gave us behind the scenes that I was able to deduct it is a harmless activity that the horses actually enjoyed. They lead a magnificent life and it is clear that their well-being is his team’s top priority.

    Had I been a general attendee in the grandstand, I would not have had access to this information “from the horses mouth” – (pun fully intended); and in all honestly, as an educated white collar worker there is a good chance I would have sided with Miss Anderson after this latest incident. Not because of a distaste for rodeo, but rather because of the compelling information they utilize to justify their stance.

    I have been following this controversy online and the only prevalent information I see is a “war of words” between blog posts like this, and rebuttals from activists. No actual public education is taking place coming from the rodeo community other than a few articles scattered about which are quickly buried underneath the general media fodder.

    I feel as though the Calgary Stampede along with other rodeo venues (and pro-rodeo individuals such as yourself), need to put more effort into education for the general public. The more educated we are, the better decisions we make. People are all-too-likely to jump on a bandwagon or join a lynch-mob given the opportunity. (We don’t know how good those horses are cared for; most of us did not grow up on a farm or rural setting. This does not make us bad people, it simply makes us more susceptible to the information that is most conveniently obtained. We do not know any better because we have not been shown otherwise).

    Rodeo has become a very commercial and increasingly popular event therefore public opinion will form one way or another. I cannot tell you the last time I saw a “pro-rodeo” commercial on television, or a “pro-rodeo” advertising campaign anywhere online or in print. I have, however, been witness to the multitude of ad campaigns put forth by PETA who clearly spends a great deal of resources to get their message out. Not only PETA, but how many of us know the “Arms of an Angel” Sarah McLaughlin campaign featuring mistreated dogs. The ads are unpleasant, but they are well thought out and extremely effective. Rodeo needs to do this to get their side out to the masses. Sure, there are “like if you love rodeo” campaigns on Facebook, but we aren’t actually seeing how the animals are treated behind the scenes, the effort it takes to ensure they remain healthy and happy.

    Where there is large revenue generated there will always be controversy (the athletes themselves may not be making a killing, but the corporate side certainly is). The key is to put some of this revenue back into sending out a positive message on behalf of the rodeo community. It’s going to cost some cash however it will benefit the sport exponentially in the future.

    Just my two cents as an outsider looking in 🙂

    • Thanks for weighing in. I deal with controversy every day in my work. ‘Controversy’ meaning politically divided and polarized opinions on agriculture production (in particular). “Education” often pops up as a solution. But often what we are dealing with is the clashing of cultures: one being science/fact-based and the other being value/faith-based. Often that is an impenetrable impasse and the words “more information” and “education” only serve to ‘insult’ the masses thereby creating a greater divide.

      That being said, I agree with you. More and better communication can never hurt.

    • Bryhelix, I feel your comments are the most reasonable of all in this blog. There’s no name calling, insulting and sarcasm. I don’t believe that anybody needed to get defensive about what your wrote. It’s constructive, impartial (you give kudos to both “sides” – I would still just like to add that I think we’re all on the same side of the fence and it’s not an us-vs-them thing; we all love animals, period).

      There’s no need to argue, we just need to come up with constructive way to communicate which is what I believe you’ve shown here.

      Thank you for your thoughts Bryhelix. I respect you for how reasonable you are. If you’re up for it, I’d like to suggest that we keep in touch.

      Kindest regards,

  35. My only comment for Ms. Anderson is you do not, nor will you ever, speak on my behalf. I’m a 55 yr old, 2nd generation Calgarian and figure it’s safe to say I’ve attended about 50 years of parades, rodeos and ground performances.

    I attended the Stampede Parade this year – corner of 10th St & 6 Ave – watching some deputized ‘animal safety’ types whipping around in golf carts presumably to ensure the well being of the four legged variety as they progressed along the route.

    I was stunned to watch as 3 of them harassed a spanish dressed rider from his mount (horse was marginally restless at the delay – but completely under control). Once dismounted, one actually grabbed the bridle at the bit, one thoughtfully put her hand on on the horses ass to coax it forward and the 3rd is keeping the rider away. The horse rears, backing up, knocks the woman to the ground – clearly not co-operating and finally ends up on his side about 5 feet from the kids scrambling to get clear. Once the horse is up – the agile rider vaults into the saddle hightales it down the road to catch up to his group. Two of these ‘idiots’ give chase in their golf cart.

    It was more than apparent who spends time working with horses!

    Lord save the riders horses from these well meaning but uneducated individuals.

    Great article!

  36. Some of this is namby-pamby. Why are we apologizing for what we do. A horse has to be worked and no one should have to make excuses for it. They are not humans, so to try to apply human standards to its care, is bosh.

    Pappy and I have heard all this before. He started as a waddy in Colorado just before the war. Just before I came along as well. He wasn’t a tenderfoot but the bit of outlaw in him got him a solid spot on the ranch. Pappy was a man that could ride, lasso and had skills in cutting. He tried to pass those skills onto me, but I never had the same skills he possessed. All through our careers you encounter those with a mind to humanize the rodeo or our handling of the horses. Sure, we burned the breeze at times and baked the odd horse, but it was what the horse was bred for. We rode and worked them hard. We had more incidents of tendonitis back then I guess, but the horse was always put down without making her work further. There’s no cruelty in that. A lot of the horses we used were just crowbait. They tried to ban gut lancers for some time. If a horse don’t move, you have to scratch it. It was routine to put a horse down for broken wind, now, they try antibiotics to clear it up. That don’t work no how, a horses slow circulation prevents most of the drug from being effective. But people, they are horses. They should be treated like horses.

    In Wyoming one year they wanted to shut down the racing of 2 year olds because, “their skeletons were still soft and not developed.” Crazy thought, not using a horse for what it’s built for. These protests are like those in Spain trying to get Bull fights banned. That gets me balled up. No bull suffers any pain in any of those fights, and if it did, like someone said here, it’s a centuries old tradition that should be protected. Whether they go to slaughter or into the ring, they end up dead. To call it any different is just corral dust. If it makes you money, it needs to be protected.

    Up to now, have attended my fair share of Stampede’s. Why apologize for the deaths of a horse. The rider goes in knowing that at breakneck speeds, something can go wrong, someone will chew gravel and a few horses will go down. There’s croakers that will call you on it. But it’s what we’ve been doing for years. The horses certainly aren’t abused, they are driven hard, they are in tight quarters and a lot can go wrong, and to tell it different is stretching the blanket, but it’s certainly what the animal is used for. Some here have certainly never been in a crumb castle and although they support the races, they make it harder to defend by trying to make horse ownership like owning a house cat. In the last 20 years of the ‘chucks, I have seen 35 – 40 horses put down. I have seen horses foam at the mouth, sustain fractured legs, break their backs, roll their eyes back into their heads and suffered heart attacks. If you’re a bull nurse you know this is part of what we do. We can’t humanize it and we shouldn’t have to apologize for it. It’s a rough and tumble sport, and we need to stand up to that. That Anderson woman might be right, but we are using horses, not kids fer cryin’ out loud. And just to set the record straight, the Chuckwagon horse has long had the breed bred out of it. It’s bred constantly for only short bursts of speed and stamina. It’s not a breed, it’s a chuck wagon horse so get over it folks. So long, don’t get caught squeezing the biscuit.

  37. Your blog was very well written. I read it along with my boyfriend who is a retired bareback rider and past novice competitor at the Calgary Stampede. He is also a rancher in Alberta and knows many of these riders, and wagon drivers. These animals are treated like gold and wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t love it. I don’t know about you or other riders, but when I tried to get my horse to perform something he isn’t too keen on doing, it wasn’t easy to convince him. But when he was on and in show mode, it also wasn’t easy to defeat him in the ring.

    I visited the Calgary Stampede Ranch (just the outskirts) this past weekend, where they have a “graveyard” with all the names of the horses and bulls that have worked for them. They honor them with headstones that say their names. This just tells me that they have respect for the animals and treat them like they treat family, with dignity and respect.

    I know what it is like to deal with animal activists first hand. I have competed internationally with my horses in dressage and dealt with them at my competitions in the US. They are brutal and misinformed a lot of the time. My own horse who I competed at these competitions, died two years ago at the age of 34 from the same ruptured aortic aneurysm. Was running in the field. Having a good buck and kick as his buddy had left the field. Was I cruel?? NO!! I gave that horse the best life he could have. For over 24 yrs. I babied him, wrapped him, groomed him, fed him. So he could enjoy his retirement. And when he passed, he was buried in the same field he enjoyed for the past four years of his life.

    PETA and the Humane Society Organizations are up against fraud charges, animal cruelty charges, tax evasion. Not to mentions the horrible amount of deaths they have allowed. Over 90% in deaths??

    Im a firm believer of what goes around, comes around. Karma bites back eventually.

  38. For the person that asked to check out, I did view the two minute trailer, and I will not need to watch more.Unfortunately there is evil in the world and all us good folks know that.Based on the two minutes that I watched I must presume it tries to show the slanted point of view placing Canadians and Americans in the same light as the nations that still view animals as beasts of burden.Thank God that we have that freedom to display that forum without censorship.
    In the two minutes I believe I counted four maybe five scenes of hunters, and maybe one of sport fisher,the other a horse race with a crash.Hunters of North America do more for preserving wildlife than any animal rights group.Ranchers have actually brought species back from near extinction,animal rights groups want the practice halted, the beasts shipped to Africa (the native homeland of most saved species).Well let’s be honest about this, any area of conservation in Africa is basically a large holding cage for poachers that slaughter animals so some Asian and African presumes they will get an erection from the beasts power.Plus the prized ivory for knife handles or some ornament.I could go on and on but would have some group judge me as racist or something ludicrous.
    Personally just one off topic,I would rather see the people that ignore signs with bear warnings jailed.( I want to say shot) but again not PC.Thanks to the unrealistic views portrayed by some animal filmakers children today think bears are cute and drink cola with penguins.The truth being the only bears and penguins that share cokes are human sports fans.(slanted)
    I have to close,the judging and placing of good people that practice valued animal care with sanctioned rules needs to stop.Yes rodeo is entertainment and legit rodeos show folks the realty of a what a way of life was and the symbiotic relationship earthlings have with beasts.
    Yes there are evil forces out there, those are valid causes and any redneck,hick,billy bob from where I come from will and does what they can do to stop that abuse.I champion the grouse no fan fair,but hikers,bikers,kids on scooters,dog owners that let their dogs roam off leash all are a danger to that species.Natural areas in cities are that natural not places for convenient short cuts or training.Ask any North American child under say the age of 18 if they know about local conservation the short answer no.Ask them if they know about polar bears,well polar bears drink cola!

    • Thank you for checking out the Earhlings video. You’re a kind hearted person recognizing that only evil could have done horrific things happening around the world that the camera was able to capture.
      Just to clarify, I have no affiliation with that video nor is the filmmaker an animal activist (he’s an artist; perhaps he will become an activist now after witnessing what he was able to capture with his camera). Earthlings was just a video I saw and found incredibly disturbing.

      I can’t get the scene out of my head of a Chinese fur farm where a sweet little furry creature is hanging upside down by it’s legs and being skinned alive and then you see her pretty little eyes blinking and staring at the camera after all it’s skin has been ripped off of her body and head as if to say: “why… why must I endure this excruciating pain… why must I die this way… for what?”. I do ask as well – for what?
      It’s absolutely horrible.

  39. Thank you, all, for participating in the dialogue generated by this blog. My intent with this was to exercise a bit of ‘free speech’ on something that (quite obviously) I feel very strongly about. It is my belief that putting a strong (yes, perhaps ‘sarcastic’) ‘fact-based foot’ forward on this and other debates where opinions may be polarized often generates a passionate dialogue. I think that that was accomplished here. Obviously, opinions are divided. It is clear, however, that the health and welfare of horses (and other critters) is at the forefront of everyone’s mind – no matter which side of the debate you feel you are firmly planted.

    So, as you can see, the response to “Dear Pam” has been overwhelming. Between work and family obligations, I am having difficulty keeping up.and I can’t possibly respond to each and every comment. My apologies for that. I would also like to make it clear that while, yes, I do moderate the comments as they come in – every comment that has been submitted has been ‘approved’! The only ones that haven’t been approved are those where inappropriate/offensive language or derogatory ‘name calling’ has been used. And, believe me, there was a little of that coming from all sides of the debate. Also, I removed links to other sites that some of you provided and I think that I did so without affecting the integrity of your comment(s).

    I plan to keep the blog open for further comments. Thanks again for your continued participation and your insights. This truly has been an enlightening experience for me.

    Cami Ryan

    • Cami, thank you for your last comment. I totally understand how busy your work and family obligations make you. I have no idea how you kept up with all this!
      Though I don’t like sarcasm as a means of a productive debate, unfortunately this is sometimes the only way to get people’s attention. And I definitely respect your right (or anybody’s for that matter) to free speech.
      Lastly, I’m more than happy that you say: “It is clear, however, that the health and welfare of horses (and other critters) is at the forefront of everyone’s mind – no matter which side of the debate you feel you are firmly planted”. It clearly shows that we are all animal lovers and that our only true enemy are those that cause suffering to our fellow creatures. Those sadists we are all firmly against!

  40. I am fortunate and proud to be part of the Chuckwagon family. My brother in law is a Chuckwagon driver and yes I will confirm as everyone says that they LOVE their horses and the life they live. Through out this overwhelming media frenzy the two sides are fighting over who is right, who loves the horses more, the owners who care for them everyday and take care of all their need or those who “stand up for them”, (their words not mine). Well I have one thought to this and it is….. Lets ask the horses! What… you may say… how do we ask them? Let me tell you how. We have all heard the saying “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. EXACTLY!! Believe it or not…. you can not make a horse run. There is a reason that only one breed of horse is used in racing, because they love it. They were designed by nature to run and they live and breath it. I wish I had a tV crew following me this year at the Stampede one hour before race time because it is truly an amazing heart warming sight to see these animal before they race. When the wagon crew go to the tack room and bring out the harness and the clang of the hames echo down the barn the electricity put off by these animals indescribable. These totally at rest animals poke their heads from their box stalls and they start swaying their heads back and forth while their front feet start to march in one spot, they are SOOOOO excited! Believe me if a horse is not ready to run or is feeling “off”, you know!! He will pull his head away from the opening and turn his head to the corner, he is saying to the driver “not tonight” and the driver knows not to run him that night. If you do hook him, you can bet he will not work 100% for you, and you in return, without a doubt, loose the race. Sometimes if you want to hook a horse and he does not want to run you have to decide on a whole new team. Some of these horses will only run with certain other horses and only in one position in the set of four.These animals are truly the ones “in the drivers seat”. When a driver considers who to hook that night he goes into the barn and sees what horses are the most willing to run and those who are well rested and sound. You will often hear a drive say “he just quit on me”, when he says this statement he means the horse has lost his will to run either in one race, or sometimes forever, and that is ok. They will be turned to pasture or at this time in their lives they will make a good saddle horses because they have felt the need to slow down. A horse that still feels the need to race will not make a good pet or saddle horse because all they want to do is run. The horses decide when they are done, as i have said before you can not make it do something it does not want to do. All Chuckwagon horses come off the individual race track, as a wagon driver you only select the horses that still feel the need to run and truly love it. The drivers pay good money for these horses and a happy horse will run. Because a horse’s career on the individual track is usually a short one with very little time to prove your self, The sport of chuckwagon gives these horses a second chance at life. As i said If the horse still feels the need to run they are not good pets or saddle horses so they would then be slaughtered. So for anyone who TRULY cares about these animals spend a hour, day, week with them and their owners and you will see that every time the driver walks by these wonderful animals they give him a nuzzle and the love and admiration they both feel for each other is overwhelming.

      • Believe me I do still get upset when activists are critical of others choice and livelihood when they have never “walked” in their shoes. But I agree if the truth is not with in their eyesight it is up to those who know the facts to paint the picture. The accident that occurred that terrible night at the Stampede is exactly that, an accident. If you walked through the barns that night (all the barns, not just barn of the driver that lost the horses) it was a somber tone. Every man, woman and child mourned the loss of those horses, it is unthinkable to imagine that these wagon drivers are able to abuse a animal that they consider a friend and partner. My brother in law Troy that i mentioned in the previous post lost his father in a truck crass. He also was a chuckwagon driver and while on is way to another Chuckwagon Race event he was forced off the road by another driver and not only killed him but all of his horses with the exception of one. This too was an unforeseen accident where more horses were killed that day then 10 years of Stampedes put together. What we must remind our selves is that god calls us all at different times, times that never seem to make sense or we are able to understand and I believe that it goes for animals too. When my brother in law arrived at the scene of the crash ( he was two hours behind him with his own liner of horses and on route to the same show) he asked “why did it have to be so horrific” my response, He needed a good team of horses to do what he loved to do in heaven, Chuckwagon Race. The one remaining horse who survived the crash “Ace” was taken into Troys barn. Ace as you could imagine was resistant to load in a liner again let alone race. Clearly Ace would not be ready for anything for a long while and was brought back to the farm and out to pasture to heal physically as well as mentally. The next spring during training Troy was still hesitant to give Ace a try but after Ace’s persistence running frantically along side the track while other horses were hooked, Troy gave him a chance. I am proud to say that “Ace” ran again that whole next summer as part of Troys team. Ace is now retired from wagon racing but is out on pasture at Troys farm and will forever live out his days there. I guess Troys dad decided to leave him with “Ace” who was obviously not ready to stop running. The moral to this story is that in every aspect of our lives we loose things, accidents happen and it is no ones fault. There are people, terrible people” who abuse animals, but Chuckwagon drivers are not among them. The deaths of these horses are horrible and that goes for the drivers and outriders who have also lost their lives. But… at least they died doing something that they loved, not many people can say that!

  41. My horse growing up was an OTTB, he ran at the track until he was 8, then moved on to being an outrider’s horse until he was 18. He was retired at 18, not because he was too slow, but because there is an unwritten understanding that these horses get retired around 18-20 to avoid things like heart attacks and aneurysms, (horses, like people, age, and since these horses will always want to run sometimes precautions like retirement are necessary). He was still fit, passed the vet checks with flying colours but was retired because his driver cared about what was best. These drivers love their horses, they too, are ultimately concerned about the well being of the horses, physically and emotionally, they understand that these horses are born to run.

    We lived on a farm with Belgians, who pulled a wagon. When those horses came by in their harnesses, he just about jumped the fence to go along with them! He held his head up high, his eyes shining, nostrils flaring, and his hole body alive and vibrating as he paced the fence line, this reaction was not fear, he LOVED it when I saddled him up and when ran along with and past the wagon. He was in his glory when he was running. We tried dressage, but halting at X was of no interest to him, so cross country was more our thing 😉 There’s an energy that these horses have, a deep down fire and you can feel it in the air when it’s coming time to run. This excitement, this passion to run is what the drivers and people who work with these horses get to see everyday. The satisfaction the horses have after a race well run, and yes, they know when it was a good one.

    Perhaps people who object to the chuckwagons should take some time to go to the races, see the horses before and after, perhaps then they’ll understand that these beautiful creatures are very willing participants, and the people who care for them really love them, that like it has been said so many times in this blog, that we’re all on the same team, and that maybe chuckwagons and letting the horses run isn’t such a bad thing after all.

    My big guy lived until he was 28, when he had a stroke and had to be put down. But he lived every moment until then, and he never stopped running.

  42. If these animals are so abused, why when there was an auction selling off Grant Profit’s team because of his retirement, the first two horses both sold for over ninety thousand dollars each. I know if I was buying a horse for that kind of money, I would look after it like it was gold as the new owners will. These horses are bred to run and need to run, so unless you are going to start eating a lot of horse meat, zip it as that is in all likely hood of where they would end up. Yes, some can be trained for other uses, as dressage or english/western riding horses, they are still high strung animals that take special care that not every person can get along with. Many years ago, we owned a former TB mare who hadn’t been near a track for years, our neighbour played the trumpet and played the call to the post and that mare perked right up and was looking to see where she might be going. She was ready to race even though she had been a broodmare for many years.

  43. I have read over the comments that go both ways in this argument. In order to get a better understanding of PETA I read over their website. I discovered that they were very graphic with how animals are treated and they are also very graphically “tied” to the pornography industry. I don’t like how some people treat animals and I don’t like how the pornography industry treats women and men. I think we can learn from both points of view; however, we need to be careful of getting to the point of hating each other. We all need to learn from each other, take a stand on what we believe and be faithful.

  44. Hey Cami – great post. I just wanted to let you know that I shared this on a Facebook page that I operate called “Eat Cow. Drill Oil. Rope Calves. Welcome to Alberta.” and it’s had a HUGE response. Thanks for joining those who aren’t afraid to step up and speak out for the industry. Check us out sometime!

  45. Thanks Cami, I am a former rodeo brat, I was raised on the rodeo circuit, for those of you who don’t know what this means. I have also competed in the AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) shows, as well as being a cowboy mounted shooter. I have owned a horses since I was 3, and I am now in my mid 40’s. I have been out there in the middle of the night walking a horse that has colic, I have spent hours a day doctoring a horse with a horrific leg injury for months on end, I have clipped, bathed, hauled, babied, loved, fed, and cryed over my horses. I lost a 6 month old filly in a freak accident, a mere month after purchasing herand I cryed, I have bought and sold many horses, as well as I have several senior horses as well as young ones on my property. Anyone who knows me knows who much I love my horses, they also know these values were instilled in me because of how I was raised.
    That being said, I know how much these animals mean to their owners, chuckwagon drivers and stock contractors alike. To lose an a horse is like losing a child, its hard on the heart. I have seen “These totally at rest animals poke their heads from their box stalls and they start swaying their heads back and forth while their front feet start to march in one spot, they are SOOOOO excited! ” We do not force our horses to do what they don’t want to do, they have minds and if they don’t want to do something they won’t. When I have a horse that doesn’t like to be shot off of, I will sell it to someone else for another type of dicsipline ie: a penner or reiner, whatever the horse was bred for. Horses are pretty black and white, if a chuckwagon horse didn’t love what they do they won’t allow themselves to be harnessed let alone run.
    I agree animals rights should be protected, but let’s be realistic… if chuckwagon drivers starved their horses, beat and neglected, and still expected them to run, then by all means ban the races forever!!! These horses are our livelyhoods… if we were truck drivers, we would be taking care of our trucks, just like we take care of our horses and like any living being when they are nourtured and cared for we love them thats human nature!
    I would love to have “city raised” Pam Anderson, come and spend time here and learn about what country/ rodeo life is about, I garuntee she will have a change of attitude, on how this life is lived, and how we care for and love our animals!!

  46. If I had made a statement like Pamela did, the only people who would care would be the people within earshot. There may have been a 5 minute heated debate then all would be forgotten. When a celebrity makes the statement, for some unknown reason the whole world seems to hear and care. I would like to be able to laugh at these dumb ass statements and brush them off as the simple uninformed opinions that they are. The problem however, is the vast number of people who treat celebrity opinions as the final word and gospel truth of any subject. Like lemmings they take up the cause. Of course activists understand this and do what they can to recruit as many celebrities as possible.

    While I love the letter, it is unfortunate that you may actually be hurting the very sport you are trying to defend. The vast majority of people have very little understanding of Chucks or Rodeo in general. For the most part they give it very little thought. All the activists want to do is bring to the general public the topic of rodeo and rest will take care of itself. You will not be able to defend Rodeo with statistics or common sense. Put the question of should horses or cattle be put in any danger for any reason other than to save lives of people and the vast majority of people will not require nonsense like stats or information to give an opinion. We celebrated 100 years of the Stampede Rodeo in July. Alas, I do not foresee a 125th anniversary. I believe change is coming. It is just a natural result of our new twitter world. This is a debate that will go on forever. When it comes to cruelty to animals we all have varied opinions. They range from some people believing there is nothing wrong with dragging a dog to death simply because it is just a dog to those who would not kill a mosquito because it is a living creature. Most of us are somewhere in the middle, but the middle contains a vast grey area.

    Now I get to add my two cents to this topic and I am sure the world will listen. I may put an end to this entire debate right here and now. People may have to make a slight adjustment to the way they currently live but some things are worth it. Lets start with some of the grey area’s and work from there.

    Are Zoo’s cruel to animals or do they live in the lap of luxury. Should dogs be allowed to remain outdoors when the weather is 20 below. Should cattle be raised to be slaughtered for food. Should we be allowed to put our pets down when the time is right or should they be put on life support machines and be kept alive for years as a vegetable. (That is just silly. Who would ever do that to a living breathing being). I personally believe it is extremely cruel to give a dog some ridiculous haircut, put it in a frilly little dress, tie a pink bow in it’s hair and parade it around on a stage. Ask the dog. Would they rather do that or chase cats and piss on the carpet. Just so I understand, I take it Pam is saying that horses have no personality and take no pride in winning and have no bond with the people who own them. That is obviously why Ranchers are cruel. If horses are too dumb to enjoy competing then they definitely do not enjoy work. All people who use animals for any reason are cruel to them.

    But wait. Perhaps I am being silly. Of course we need animals for work, however we should never use them for entertainment. Most people do not seem to have a huge issue with using people or machines for our entertainment even if may people die each year providing this entertainment. Contact sports kill and maim many people every year. Speed sports like bobsled and skiing also kill people. Actors and stunt men are killed providing mindless entertainment for the masses. Auto racing also kills people. I believe auto racing is far too dangerous. Perhaps we should go back to racing horses……….oops!

    OK. I am losing the point. I forgot. Is it safety or cruelty that is the issue. It can’t be safety because our entire society’s daily life is unsafe. We drive our cars like idiots among a thousand other idiots and kill ourselves doing it every day. In fact I am typing this now on the freeway going 80 mph. Look Mom, no hands. An airplane just crashed and all people on board died. Perhaps we should outlaw air travel and automobiles because both are clearly dangerous. We will go back to riding horses………only that is cruel to horses so I guess we are back to walking. Now that we are walking we must make our living and feed our families the old fashion way. We men will be hunters …….. only that would be cruel to the animals we kill. Who could kill a pretty deer. Even if we only kill ugly animals I am sure word would travel via twitter and soon we would put and end to that. After all who defines ugly. So that leaves farming. I will become a great farmer and feed my family that way …….only how do I plant my crops. To use an animal to pull the plough would be cruel.

    The problem is I am not on twitter so my solution may not go viral and solve the problem so I will leave the debate to better connected, smarter and more informed people like you, a Doctor and a scholar who owns horses, lives a rural life and has intimate knowledge of animal care within the horse community and your opponent Pam Anderson who I am sure is also well … informed. This is all far too confusing for me. All I know is once you and Pam come to some consensus please just send a pretty girl to my place with a petition and I will sign it.

  47. Pingback: There has been a huge uproar in the media, of late, around the sport of chuckwagon racing. Most of this hull….. : Horses – Riding

  48. Pingback: A Well-Written Article Worth Sharing « NOT Da Momma

  49. Pingback: Likes of the Week | Western Horse Review

  50. Pingback: How Disgusting. - Page 20

  51. Reblogged this on Cami Ryan and commented:

    I have been studying PETA – as an organization – for several years. Their business and organization mandates have changed considerably over the past two decades. Where once the organization really did some terrific things, now PETA is primarily focused on building their arsenal of celebrity endorsers and less on caring for the animals. This might explain PETA’s 90%+ euthanization rates. I mean, who has time to find homes for stray animals when one is busy rubbing shoulders with the Hollywood blue bloods? And every celebrity is looking for a ‘political’ (yes, I said political) avenue to push a personal agenda and to remain relevant in the eyes of the fans. It’s not all about altruism. It rarely is. Dairy producer, Carrie Mess, takes actor Ryan Gosling and PETA to task – who together think that they know something about dehorning in dairy cattle. I don’t know about you, but I’m going with the “real” expert on this – Carrie Mess. Check out her outstanding blog:

  52. Pingback: Tommy, Tommy, Tommy… (PETA, PETA, PETA…) | Cami Ryan

Leave a Reply