If you have no idea what Chuckwagon racing is, count yourself lucky and skip today’s post. Ignorance really is bliss in this case. I consider Chuckwagon racing to be nothing more than sanctioned horse abuse. And the wheel horse that shattered a hind leg on the first night of this year’s Calgary Stampede would probably agree if it were alive to have an opinion. I suspect the horse that died last night from a broken front leg would also concur with my summing up of this sport of ignobility. Believe it or not, this year has actually been a good year for the Chuckwagon horses, with only two dead; last year six died during the Stampede. This is one place where PETA and I see eye to eye.
The Stampede can be apportioned a hefty share of the blame for the existence of Chuckwagon racing. According to my good friends at Wikipedia, the first race organized for spectator ‘sport’ was at that very event in 1923. The Stampede continues to be the benchmark of this ‘sport’, and some questionably sane sponsors pony up $1 million in prize money to reward the winners. After the first fatality last week, the Canadian news was aflurry with the story, and there were the usual quotes from ‘experts’ about the accident. Among the more reprehensible comments I heard was made by a Stetson wearing redneck who claims that the farm where the chuckwagon team resides is his neighbour; he vouched for his neigbours’ love of their horses. “No one feels the pain more than they do.” What a retrograde thing to say. I’ll bet our quotable cowboy doesn’t buy into that evolution bunk, either. Dear Mr. Cowboy neighbour of the Chuckwagon barbarians: you are wrong. No one felt the pain more than the horse, which was dragged along on three legs by the three other horses, which kept running for quite some time before the wagon was pulled up. Unless you are a direct import from the school of Rene Descartes, that esteemed 17th century philosopher who was so sure animals had no sense of pain that he skinned them alive to study their inner workings, you are in a state of denial bigger than Texas.
Another gem of a comment was that Chuckwagons are part of the west’s heritage and as such should be protected as historic in the Stampede. Ah, yes, our sacrosanct heritage. Just like bull fighting in Spain. And slavery in the South (no, I am not drawing an equivalency, I’m using an example). Arguing that because our ancestors drove wagons around to run all their errands or to settle new parts of the west, therefore Chuckwagon racing is A-ok, is just more of the flawed logic used by the neighbourly cowboy. Another argument along the lines of Kansas Creationist-style reasoning was this comment from another Chuckwagon racing supporter: “These horses are bred for this.” No, they’re not. They were bred for Thoroughbred racing, and quite a few of the poor creatures that find themselves hitched to a wagon along with three other like minded horses are actually off the track. Thoroughbreds do NOT have ideal temperaments for driving. If you’ve ever taken an off-the-track specimen and retrained it for more sedate activities (not driving – almost no one does that with TBs off the track) you know how these horses will sometimes mentally leave the building, with nothing left but the natural instinct that was cultivated through breeding: to run.
Always a fan of irony, I simply must point out what may already be obvious to some of you: that the horses pulling Chuckwagons across our Great West back in the day of the pioneers were hardly racing types. If this were truly a heritage sport, the wagons would be pulled by chunky, slow moving power houses whose idea of a race would be a brisk jog to the water trough. Heritage my ass. Thoroughbreds do not belong in front of racing wagons.
That adorable but uncuddly autistic animal rights crusader Temple Grandin inflamed the Thoroughbred industry by weighing in on last week’s tragedy. She believes today’s breeders are to blame for selecting horses with flimsy legs. To me, her comment is beside the point. The real point is that Chuckwagon racing needs to go away. Forever.
A little blood on the tongue pales in comparison, doesn’t it?