“Who guides the stampede's definition of animal "welfare", is it Corporate Communications or is it the animals and people advocating for them?”
Meagan P
From Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Our Answer

The Calgary Stampede's Corporate Communications team does not determine how we define animal welfare. Corporate Communications simply relays information provided by livestock experts, who are indeed people who advocate for animals, grounded in years of specialized training in livestock health and behaviour.

The globally-recognized experts we look to for guidance summarize "animal welfare" as the animal’s state of being.

While there may be an understandable tendency for the public to focus on animal welfare as publicized incidents, the Stampede considers and plans for animal welfare in a much more comprehensive way for the 7,500 animals who visit our Park throughout the year. This includes transportation, unloading, infrastructure, footing, feeding and water, temperature, living quarters, handling, medical attention and providing downtime and rest.

Calgary Stampede employees and volunteers attended a two-hour animal handling session in the spring of 2014. This session outlined how animal welfare is assessed by livestock experts world-wide was facilitated by independent livestock contractor Jennifer Woods. Here is short segment of that session.

“How often is an individual calf roped during the 10-day stampede? Is there a limit on how many times a calf may be roped over the rodeo season?”
Mark H
From Unknown
Our Answer

Calves used at the Stampede tie-down roping will perform once for the Pool A contestants, then a second time for Pool B contestants. Some select calves will perform a third time for the final weekend events.

Roping calves at the Stampede are specially prepared through 10 days of 'Stampede school" where they are gradually introduced to the arena, chutes and handling. They quickly outgrow the target weight of about 200 pounds, which means they're returned to the general herd after about 10 rodeo events total.

Posted in: Rodeo

“So, another "rare" occurrence today, with the death of the steer. How long will the Calgary Stampede perpetuate the myth that these animals are so loved? ”
Birthe L
From Unknown
Our Answer

Emotions related to animals can be complex.

Rodeo horses and bulls are bred and raised as long-term performance animals, beloved by the Calgary Stampede ranch and other contractors for their own personality and traits. Timed event horses are specially-trained and highly prized as essential partners of cowboys. Chuckwagon horses are rescued racing horses, enjoying exceptional and extended lives as part of a herd of up to 50 horses trained and encouraged to do more of what they do naturally – run.

Timed event rough stock animals come from general herd beef cattle, specially chosen for extra size and strength. These selected animals are prepared over a period of days, exposed to the chutes, arena conditions and handling.

They are well-cared for and well-prepared for their brief time in rodeo, and every reasonable measure is taken to ensure their safety and comfort during their time at the Stampede. When they outgrow the weight restrictions, usually after about 10 events, they are returned to the rest of the beef cattle herd wherein they continue through processing and the meat production chain with their peers.

Posted in: Rodeo

“If the Calgary Stampede is so passionate about the care of their animals, why do animals die during the stampede every year?”
Leslie S
From Unknown
Our Answer

We believe our community expects us to do all we reasonably can to ensure animal welfare, comfort and security while at the Stampede.

We have a zero tolerance policy for preventable incidents. That means we do whatever we reasonably can to anticipate and prevent incidents. We review and analyze each incident looking for any lessons that can be applied to avoid the same situation again. That said, pet owners and horse owners do what they reasonably can to prevent incidents, yet animals and pets die every day from unanticipated and unpreventable incidents in homes, streets, parks and ranches around the world.

Whether it’s 5,000 animals at Stampede Park, or within a shelter where hundreds of animals are kept, during any given 10-day period there may be health incidents, injuries and other incidents within a large population of animals that necessitates humane euthanization.

Posted in: Rodeo

“(Paraphrased for brevity) I have heard differing statements from the Calgary Stampede in media in 2012 versus this website about whether or not its bucking horses are sent to slaughter or euthanized because they are not bucking stars, and a 2012 media quote that Calgary's urban audience would not understand in the same way rural folks would. This greatly underestimates your local audience. Have I been misled by local media or the Calgary Stampede spokespeople? ”
Kimberley G
From Unknown
Our Answer

Each year the Calgary Stampede reviews all our animal care policies. What was stated in 2012 may no longer be the case in 2014. In fact the statements that were attributed to an employee in 2012 that you referenced were part of an article that was rejected by its original publisher for its bias.

In any event, the Calgary Stampede Ranch has 22,000 acres of open pastures and the most natural herd setting anywhere for approximately 600 horses, plenty of room to incorporate non-bucking horses as a beneficial part of a herd’s social dynamics. Even retired bucking horses have long lives on the ranch. We also have multiple teams of bucking horses, ranch horses, brood mares, colts and herd nannies. As with any breeding program, sometimes animals are removed from our herd. The Stampede can confirm the prime reasons a horse would be removed from our ranch would be deteriorating health or congenital problems, or an aggressive disposition that poses a hazard to people or other animals; not because they aren’t bucking stars. We believe our community understands this, in the same way ill or aggressive animals are routinely euthanized in the city or even animal shelter setting. For large livestock, that is done most efficiently through processing facilities that are federally regulated and monitored, and it is our expectation they adhere to the highest standards of humane handling.

Posted in: Rodeo

“Yet another chuckwagon horse died today, which was devestating and entirely unnecessary. Please explain how you justify going against Calgary's own humane society, and dozens of other humane societies in North America and beyond? Are you saying they are all ill-informed on the welfare of rodeo animals?”
Birthe L
From Unknown
Our Answer

Thanks for your question. We share your concern when a horse dies. We order autopsies and investigate every death on site to review whether there are further measures or checks that could be helpful in future years. In this case, we’re looking at a horse that died due an undetectable medical condition. Specifically it was the rupture of an aneurism potentially brought on by a past parasite infection. Aneurism ruptures can result from exercise, including a stallion breeding a mare, running in a field or racing.

We recognize that some people have different views on how we as a society interact with animals, whether that be food production, competition, as working animals and more. What is acceptable to the majority of people may be unacceptable to some, and we respect people’s right to their viewpoints. We value to ongoing input of animal welfare oversight agencies, globally-recognized livestock experts, and we share updates with them on improvements and enhancements we are making to our animal care programs.

The video above explains the aneurism in more detail.

Posted in: Chuckwagons

“Quote: "The Calgary Stampede uses authoritative globally-recognized experts in livestock behavior to tell us how large livestock (prey, herd species) are responding in different experiences." from Calgary Stampede Corporate Communications. Tell us how this dead chuckwagon horse responded to its experience?”
Cheyenne J
From Unknown
Our Answer

Thanks for your question. We share your concern when a horse dies. We order autopsies and investigate every death on site to review whether there are further measures or checks that could be helpful in future years. In this case, we’re looking at a horse that died due an undetectable medical condition. Specifically it was the rupture of an aneurism potentially brought on by a past parasite infection. Aneurism ruptures can result from exercise, including a stallion breeding a mare, running in a field or racing.

We recognize that some people have different views on how we as a society interact with animals, whether that be food production, competition, as working animals and more. What is acceptable to the majority of people may be unacceptable to some, and we respect people’s right to their viewpoints. We value to ongoing input of the Calgary Humane Society and we share updates with them on improvements and enhancements we are making to our animal care programs.

The video above explains the aneurism in more detail.

Posted in: Chuckwagons

“Perhaps you could address whether “animal safety” was being considered in 2013, when the bull in this video was allowed to be kicked in the head a couple of times with a cowboy’s boot simply to get him to “perform” upon leaving the chute. I look forward to hearing your explanation of the event in this video. ( I imagine you are familiar with the LiveLeaks video). Thank you.”
Birthe L
From Unknown
Our Answer

We share your concern. When we witnessed the situation last year, we immediately reviewed and addressed it, as this is in clear violation of Stampede animal handling codes and protocols. The cowboy’s leg was being mashed against the steel by the bull leaning his full 2,000 pounds of weight. The stock contractor who owns the bull was trying to get the bull to shift his weight and save the cowboy from further injury.

Our independent auditor agreed these actions were not appropriate. Recommended action should have been visual stimulation - wiggling the gates and waving a flag in front of the bull’s face to draw his attention and shift his weight to save the cowboy without aggravating the bull. This instruction was reinforced during continued training of contractors and handling crews this spring towards our goal of 100% compliance with our codes and expectations of everyone who handles animals at the Calgary Stampede. In 2014 and beyond, we are further restricting access behind the chutes.

Like any organization, we institute codes and protocols and expect people to adhere to them. We reinforce and grow compliance through continued training.

Rough handling is not allowed, as our long-time Stampede handlers understand and explain in this video on the techniques we strive to achieve 100% of the time.

Posted in: Rodeo

“Why did you cite .006 percent of chuckwagon horses killed when it's .06%, why did you cite 50 horses killed over the past 30 years when it's the past 28 years, why did you cite 50 horses killed when it's 60 according to the Vancouver Humane Society, how many horses have been used in those 28 years, and do you feel the tragedy of horses killed for entertainment is minimized based on percentages?”
Dana J
From Unknown
Our Answer

Thanks for your question. Before we dive into the stats on animal safety, you should know that we are working hard to eliminate risks from our animal competitions, just as society tries to eliminate the risks in the use of motor vehicles. Any animal incident is one too many.

We look to data – and science - to guide and inform our animal care program. Our past statistics showed heart and skeletal issues were contributing to chuckwagon racing fatalities. So we instituted the continent’s most comprehensive animal medical monitoring program. This has been highly successful in heading off heart and skeletal challenges and health issues that can be detected (not all health issues are detectable).

Drawing upon the unofficial source you refer to, 61 chuckwagon horse fatalities are noted. This is out of 78,440 horse starts over 28 years, many related to heart and skeletal issues. The sad but irrefutable fact is that with any living animal – or human – at some point there will be a mortality – whether on a green pasture or in action. We spoke with a horse vet clinic serving 15,000 recreational horses, and they report one horse fatality per week on average in general horse population under normal management or stabling.

52 out of 15,000 horses each year. Adjusted for comparable volumes = 260 recreational horse fatalities out of 75,000 horses each year.

61 chuckwagon horse fatalities out of 78,440 starts in 28 years at the Stampede as per your source.

We have a zero tolerance policy for any animal incidents we can anticipate and prevent, and we mourn alongside owners when unanticipated and unpreventable personal tragedies happen in a public venue.

Posted in: Chuckwagons

“Ivania, aged 7, asks: Do you have horses that are named rodeo princesses and queens, or is it just people who are rodeo royalty?”
Kid Q
From Calgary, Alberta
Our Answer

Great question! The Calgary Stampede has three lovely ladies who are named Calgary Stampede Royalty each year - the Calgary Stampede Queen and two Calgary Stampede Princesses. These ladies ride horses who are also very dressed up and lovely as well. But these horses aren't really named as princesses and queens.

But there are rodeo horses that are named Champions. The Calgary Stampede has a Champion Bareback Horse and a Champion Saddle Bronc Horse each year.

These are very strong horse athletes who compete really well in the rodeo and get marks, just like you get a mark on a test in school.

Each bucking horse can win up to 50 points for how hard they buck, how high their legs go, and how hard they make it for the cowboy to stay on. The harder the horse is to ride, the higher of mark he or she gets.

A super great rodeo horse may get a mark of 47 or 48 out of 50. That's how they are chosen to be Champions, which sort of makes them "royal" in the rodeo world.

Posted in: Rodeo

“Victor, aged 8, asks: Do the cowboys own the horses and bulls they ride?”
Kid Q
From Calgary, Alberta
Our Answer

That's a good question. No, the cowboys don't own the bucking horses or bulls. The cowboy does not know which bull or horse he will be riding until just before the rodeo. His name is drawn from a hat and a horse or bull's name is drawn from the hat. That is how they are paired up for the competition - the luck of the draw!

The horses and bulls are called "rough stock" and are owned by stock contractors. That is like a company or a family that owns animals that are really good athletes and good at bucking in rodeos.

The Calgary Stampede is the only rodeo that also owns and raises our own rough stock animals - 700 horses and 50 bulls who live at Stampede Ranch.

Posted in: Rodeo

“Evan, age 7, asks: Where do the people get the horses and bulls for the rodeo and how do the animals get trained how to buck?”
Kid Q
From Calgary, Alberta
Our Answer

Most horses are born and raised for someone to ride on them. But horses and bulls for the rodeo are a different type of horse.

Most rodeo horses were born from other bucking horses on a ranch that raises only bucking horses or bulls. On Stampede Ranch we have a program called Born to Buck. That means we match up mom and dad horses that are both big, strong and good rodeo athletes that love to buck off cowboys. Together this couple will produce young horses that are also big, strong and competitive like their parents.

These young horses will naturally buck when someone tries to ride them. So we encourage them to do more of that. When they are four years old, we start out with light weights on their back that come off as soon as they buck. Then we try them with young, light cowboys who generally get bucked off quickly.

The horses quickly learn that when they buck, they get their way and the weight or cowboy comes off.

So you see, instead of teaching them to accept someone riding on their back, we encourage their natural instinct to buck off a rider, so they buck harder and get more confident each time they practice it.

Posted in: Rodeo

“Lola, Age 8, asks: How do the horses get to the rodeo?”
Kid Q
From Calgary, Alberta
Our Answer

It's usually a long way from the ranches where the horses live to the rodeo arena. The Calgary Stampede transports its rodeo horses and bulls to the rodeo in custom livestock trailers. The horses ride standing up, and are most happy when alternating head to tail, so that every second horse faces left and every second horse faces right.

The Calgary Stampede breaks up longer road trips into shorter sections, with the horses unloaded into peaceful pastures or pens in between travel times. On rodeo days, the horses arrive at the rodeo a couple of hours before they compete, and are immediately loaded into their trailer to return to their pastures after the rodeo is over.

This video shows more about how bucking horses get to rodeos and their lives on the rodeo tour.

Posted in: Rodeo

“Why not use standardbred horses instead of throughbreds? I live in ON and the Standardbreds are used here for pulling carts. ”
Jill W
From Saint Thomas, Ontario
Our Answer

Thanks for your question. The standardbreds you are used to seeing in harness racing are bred to trot and pace, not race in a full-out gallop the way thoroughbreds do. In fact, harness racing in North America is restricted to using standardbred horses because they are suited to trotting and pacing categories. Thoroughbreds have longer legs and shorter bodies, and are better suited to full-speed racing at a full gallop and run. Four thoroughbreds harnessed together in a chuckwagon team can find a rhythm running together in a way that would not happen with standardbreds.

Posted in: Chuckwagons

“How do you manage to deal with people who have never been around livestock and don't understand that animals feel things differently than humans, and that animals like 200-pound rodeo calves are not like their puppies?”
Kiara H
From Unknown
Our Answer

In our urbanising world, fewer and fewer urban residents have any contact with livestock animals like cattle or horses. It’s simply human nature for people to relate new encounters to something they are most familiar with, often relating a horse or cow to their own dog or cat or even child. This is precisely why agricultural and western competition and exhibition programs year-round at the Calgary Stampede are so important – exposing city folk and students to working animals like horses and cattle. One our strategic priorities is to continue to build our role as a connector of urban and rural. Exposure and personal experiences open an opportunity to offer a bit of information, facts and context, and even the latest research on how livestock respond and feel, from sources like the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. We continue to seek out new ways to share livestock knowledge with our guests and our community.

Posted in: Exhibition, Rodeo, Chuckwagons

“Cast-off Calgary Stampede horses sent to slaughterhouse. What happens to the killed calves or injured bulls? ”
Bea E
From Winter Haven, Florida
Our Answer

In any cases of animal deaths, the animals do not enter the food chain. The Calgary Stampede considers post-mortem examinations as part of its review to determine what, if any, changes need to be made to prevent these circumstances in the future. Our priority is on future prevention, not meat production.

Stampede horses are not sent to slaughterhouse or euthanized because they are not bucking stars. With an overall herd size of about 500 horses, only some of the herd are active bucking competitors at any given time. There are many purposes for horses that didn’t become rodeo stars, including use in the breeding programs to contribute other desirable traits such as size and strength, as surrogate mares, or general inclusion in the overall herd as mentors to younger generations. The Calgary Stampede Ranch runs very natural herds of horses with a lot of time in open range pastures, which means a good mix of ages and experiences exist within the herd.

The Calgary Stampede Ranch practices good herd management like any other livestock rancher. In limited circumstances, an adjustment to herd population or individual animals may be required. Any decisions carefully consider a range of factors such as an individual animal’s health, temperament, safety of other animals or humans, quality of life, or physical challenges. The Stampede Ranch does not raise horses for the intended purpose of meat production.

Posted in: Rodeo

“Since humans are entrusted to treat animals respectfully by what "necessity" is there to put any of the horses, calves or bulls in a risk situation of injury and/or death. Since this is animal "use" for entertainment only - How can these rodeo events be justified by a civilized culture? Thank you. ”
Bea E
From Winter Haven, Florida
Our Answer

Thank you for your question Bea. What you’re asking certainly goes well beyond the Stampede to some pretty fundamental things about humans’ relationships with working animals. The National Post ran a number of editorials last year that delved into this area, which you may find interesting and are linked from this one: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/07/14/barbara-kay-on-the-calgary-stampede-the-chuckwagon-races-must-go-on/

You should know that the Calgary Stampede believes our community expects us to do everything we can to anticipate and eliminate any risk we reasonably can related to animals we host on our site. We have instituted the most comprehensive rules, regulations and animal welfare protocols in the industry. Independent contractors audit our actions each year as well as all incidents to determine if we can be doing more to lower any risks.

Looking at the bigger picture, livestock animals are expensive to feed, house and provide veterinarian care for. Most livestock horses and cows must have a purpose or a job to offset the cost of their upkeep or they simply would not be bred and born. We judge the quality of life of the animals involved in our events by the entirety of their lives, and not by the 8 seconds they may spend in a rodeo arena. We can appreciate and respect that, for some people, the participation of animals in competition will never be acceptable.

Posted in: Exhibition, Rodeo, Chuckwagons

“Has there been any thought towards using a slightly bigger steer in the steer wrestling? I have noticed the cowboys have gotten bigger over the last 10 years :) (6'8 and 275lbs) ”
Bobbi A
From Mattawa, Ontario
Our Answer

That’s an interesting question and a good observation. There was indeed a cowboy, Jake Rinehart, who topped out at 6’7” and 280 lbs at this year’s Stampede. Even though we are not a sanctioned rodeo, the Calgary Stampede follows some of the same rules as events sanctioned by the CPRA and PRCA. Their guidebooks stipulate minimum size of steers for steer wrestling. Our events are consistent with the industry norm and what the cowboys compete on in other locations.

Most steer wrestlers average just over 6’ tall and around 200 lbs, like Ethen Thouvenell who made it to our final four. There are cowboys on the smaller end of the range as well, including Matt Reeves who made it to our final four at 5’10” tall and 180 lbs.

Posted in: Rodeo

“ How many questions have you received concerning the safety of rodeo animals that you have NOT chosen to answer?”
Marilyn E
From Unknown
Our Answer

Thanks for your question. We’re working to answer all animal related questions – but they gotta be questions and follow posting guidelines! To date, we’ve received about three dozen submissions through our site and we appreciate the interest in the animals that take part in our competition, exhibition and educational activities. A few of the questions have been more philosophical and some weren’t even questions. So we’ve asked those authors to resubmit in question format. Since the is a Q&A site, we’re here to answer your Q’s with our A’s. So please ask away!

Posted in: Exhibition, Rodeo, Chuckwagons

“ What is the length or amount of time for the process you've mentioned around calf roping for the calves gradual exposure and conditioning to being contained, chased, roped, tied down and thrown down?”
Marilyn E
From Unknown
Our Answer

It takes 10 days for stock contractors to introduce calves to the new environment and handling experiences, taking the time at each stage of exposure to provide downtime and a return to familiar situations between new experiences.

Posted in: Rodeo

“ Do you offer crisis counselling for spectators, staff, or participants after having to witness the injury suffering, and death of these magnificent animals, often many in one season ?”
Marilyn E
From Unknown
Our Answer

That’s an interesting question. We know a lot people do attend and support events across Canada and around the world and where working animals take part in exhibition, competition or educational events. Check out this video of famous animal behaviorist Temple Grandin for her thoughts on how the animals are faring here at the Stampede. And rest assured that should spectators witness an injury to any animal (or human) competitor, they’ll also see the instant vet/medical response and hear an explanation of what’s going on.

Posted in: Exhibition, Rodeo, Chuckwagons

“I have read all your answers and appreciate your forthrightness and information about the various events but am not convinced the forcible use of animals for entertainment value is worth the extreme risk to them. With 50 animal deaths since 2000, mostly horses from the chuckwagon races, what do you consider the threshold where Stampede officials will be willing to consider banning the most controversial and deadly rodeo events?”
Marilyn E
From Unknown
Our Answer

Anytime we are dealing with nature and sport, we acknowledge there may be accidents. We would not consider there is a threshold, however one of our organization’s strategic pillars states: “Animal participation at the Calgary Stampede aligns with the values and expectations of our community.”

The Calgary Stampede believes our community expects us to do everything we reasonably can to anticipate and eliminate any risk to the animals and people we host on our site. We earn that trust and confidence through our zero tolerance policy for preventable injuries – that means we do everything within our power to anticipate and prevent incidents. In recent years we have introduced the most stringent rules and regulations of rodeo, and have instituted the most comprehensive animal medical program on the continent. We hire independent contractors to audit our actions each year, and review their recommendations as well as all incidents to determine if we can be doing more.

We can appreciate and respect that, for some people, the participation of animals in competition will never be acceptable. We appreciate the time you have taken to ask questions and consider the information we have been able to provide.

Posted in: Rodeo, Chuckwagons

“What does the Stampede hope to achieve by answering these questions? Wouldnt it be simpler and less time consuming to just ignore people who hate what you do?”
Dayna S
From Calgary, Alberta
Our Answer

This question and answer website is to provide answers to questions people have. This is open to any and all who are curious, have questions or even concerns about animals involved at the Calgary Stampede.

Some questions may come from people wanting to learn more about livestock animals, rodeo and chuckwagon races. Some questions may come from those who are not fans of the Calgary Stampede. We respect that people have differing viewpoints about the participation of animals in competition, working situations, food production and more. They are entitled to those opinions; however, we also want to provide people with the full picture and factual information from livestock experts.

Posted in: Exhibition, Rodeo, Chuckwagons

“I am delighted to hear how Ms Jennifer Woods has trained with Ms Temple Grandin but I still don't understand why animals should be used as entertainment for people. Wouldn't it be far kinder all round to consider another way of presenting all animals in the Calgary Stampede with less emphasis on always using them in such an objective way.....”
Ann H
From Unknown
Our Answer

We have several events throughout the year that provide children and their families with the opportunity to see and touch farm animals up close, such as Aggie Days, 4-H on Parade among others. We also have a week long school program called Stampede School which is a partnership with the Calgary School boards and provides an engaging, first-hand experience that makes connection to the real world and prior learning in the classroom. Our resource personnel, drawn from the community, include a professional horse trainer, Treaty 7 First Nations consultants, cowboys and western artists.

We also have events that showcase competition high-performance athlete animals such as chuckwagon horses and rodeo competitors. We accept and respect that, for some people, it will never be acceptable to involve animals in events that entertain people, whether they be competition sports like rodeo or show jumping, or whether it be in entertainment shows like the Superdogs or Lipizaaner Stallions.

Posted in: Exhibition, Rodeo, Chuckwagons

“There are injuries and deaths related to calf roping! How do you justify this cruelty to calves?”
Rita C
From Lakeway, Texas
Our Answer

Injuries and deaths among roping calves is exceptionally rare, especially at the Calgary Stampede. The last serious incident involving a roping calf was a decade ago. Since there, the Calgary Stampede has consulted with top livestock handling experts and truly listened to their advice and audits, every year. The Stampede has instituted a series of rules and regulations that are the most stringent in the rodeo industry. These rules prevent competitors from pulling a calf off its feet from horseback, ensure the calf is released as soon as the cowboy has completed his work and prohibit any rope catches that are not clean head catches. As well, the calves used at the Calgary Stampede have been specially exposed to the environment and handling, which not only increases their safety but also decreases their perception of threat from the experience. Read more about calf preparation in another question on this site.

Posted in: Rodeo

“(re: tie-down roping calves) You’re chasing after the calf with a huge horse then you rope him and put his body onto the ground and if it is NOT done right then the animal may have an injury and possible death?! I would be scared. I don’t understand how the calf is not scared? (submision shortened for meet Posting Policy)”
Mel S
From Unknown
Our Answer

We can understand how you would feel this way. Cattle are naturally fearful of anything that is new and unfamiliar. The Calgary Stampede requires that roping calves be gradually exposed to the environment and handling while ensuring they are not experiencing pain in the process.

This exposure involves first moving the calves in an arena, then later into the chutes to be simply released. Then the calves are released from the chutes with a rope already on their neck, the way a dog comes up short on a leash. Then the calves are released from the chutes and roped. Finally they are released from the chutes, roped and tied down, then immediately released. Through each of these steps of gradual exposure the calf comes to learn this experience doesn’t pose a threat to them.

We are told that if calves were to experience pain or an actual threat in the process of the gradual exposure and conditioning, it would reinforce their natural reluctance of the experience, and they would balk and refuse to budge.

This is not unlike how dogs are conditioned not to react and perceive threats in our everyday city environment. Professionals advise exposing puppies early to new and alarming experiences to help them see there is no threat, such as walking along roads where monstrous vehicles roar past, within crowds where they may be stepped on or to the vet clinic.

Posted in: Rodeo

“To me, tie down roping is cruel. How do you justify holding this event at the Stampede?”
Amber-Leigh P
From Unknown
Our Answer

We understand people have differing opinions on the use of working animals in competition, exhibition or food production and we respect that.

Tie-down roping is an original rodeo event that showcases North America’s western traditions and skills, and is still very much accepted and supported by our rodeo fans. Across five continents of the world, herd ranching skills are still appreciated and celebrated today. Tie-down roping skills are used every day on the ranch to restrain a calf for quick medical treatment, known as “field doctoring”, an essential part of animal welfare on ranches. Also remember that not all rodeos are the same. Calgary Stampede has the most stringent competition rules in place to ensure we can all appreciate the heritage and purpose of roping, while ensuring the animal competitors remain safe.

We often hear the very important question about whether the roping calf is in fear or pain while being roped and restrained at the Calgary Stampede. We asked this question of an independent livestock handling specialist who audits and monitors this very thing all over the world and who has trained under Dr. Temple Grandin. Important discussions like this are worthy of more than a short sound-bite. We appreciate the time you take to explore this important question.

Posted in: Rodeo

“Why are thoughbreds used in Chuckwagon races and not draft as would have been the case when horses were actually used in chuckwagons. It would probbly slow the races making them less dangerous plus draft horses are far more sturdy.”
Sandra H
From Unknown
Our Answer

We share your love of draft horses and their great strength. However, this breed is not meant for distances at speed. An equine vet tells us that draft horses are so bulky that muscle and cardiovascular issues would arise if they were to be used in modern chuckwagon races. The original horses used for pulling chuckwagons were likely a hybrid that could pull a heavier weight than thoroughbreds and yet had the endurance to travel large distance at much slower speeds.

Thoroughbreds are bred for speed, and in fact most long-distance stage coaches used thoroughbreds. The pulling of modern-day chuckwagons is spread between four horses on the team, and in fact, seems to create fewer problems for the horses than they had when they carried jockeys on their backs. Equine veterinarians notice fewer flexor tendon and fetlock injuries in chuckwagon horses than flat-racing horses with weight on their backs.

That said, we are always looking to learn more. A University of Calgary Veterinary Medicine research project is examining pulling loads for the different positions within a team. This research is a continuance of EKG research that started last year. View this video to learn more.

Posted in: Chuckwagons

“How does the Calgary Stampede justify the risk of injury or death to the animals that it uses in its various forms of "entertainment"?”
Perian R
From Unknown
Our Answer

Anytime you are dealing with nature, and animals, there are never failsafe guarantees. This is true for animals running in the field, walking a dog along a busy street and when animals are competing in events. However the Calgary Stampede is doing everything in our power to eliminate every foreseeable risk to any animal involved in our programming. We believe this is what our audience and community expect of us – to do everything in our power to eliminate preventable incidents.

We are continually reviewing any and all incidents, looking for ways to anticipate and eliminate risks. Recent new measures include stringent rules and regulations for some events, using the latest technology and best practices, and instituting the most comprehensive program in North America for medical monitoring, testing and guidelines for chuckwagon horses. We are constantly working to improve and raise the bar through expert advice from livestock specialists and reviewing the latest research. We base our decisions upon expertise and facts.

We recognize that some people have different views on how we as a society interact with animals, whether that be food production, competition, as working animals and more. What is acceptable to the majority of people may be unacceptable to some, and we respect people’s right to their viewpoints.

Posted in: Exhibition, Rodeo, Chuckwagons

“Has the "fit to compete" program considered using thermography? Another diagnostic tool unique in the way that it can help prevent injuries prior to a horse showing clinical signs of lameness when used as a maintenance tool to monitor horses and livestock. Or using it to monitor infectious disease outbreaks among the livestock as a bio security measure?”
Toby L
From Unknown
Our Answer

Great question. We checked with our equine veterinarians for you.Here's what they said:

"New info from the equine veterinarians: Thermography is an emerging technology that has some limitations. Even slight excitement in an animal can alter the results. It is not specific enough for accurate lameness diagnosis, so an experienced lameness practitioner is usually the preferred method for diagnosis and assessment of athletes prior to competition. We do use it for assessment and monitoring of soft tissue injuries, but along with traditional veterinary techniques as well."

"Two other methods of temperature monitoring are also used; the microchips implanted in all the chuckwagon horses and some of the bucking stock are equipped to monitor body temperature. Rectal temperatures are also taken on arrival exams for performance horses. The other method is retinal thermography which can be used on less domesticated animals like cattle and bucking stock. It is not as likely to be altered by excitement, but this is still considered a limitation of the technique. Fortunately, Stampede Park has never experienced a severe infectious disease outbreak, even when there was year-round horse-racing at the grounds."

Posted in: Chuckwagons

“What is the most common injury for those animals involved in the rodeo, and how can it be prevented? ”
Amanda S
From Unknown
Our Answer

Good question – We contacted Dr. Greg Evans of Moore Equine who answered:

“Each injury is very individual, as the sports are so different. That being said, the injury rates are very low, so I am not sure there is a trend that we can really draw on for a frequency question. The most frequent issue with performance horses of all kinds is muscle strain and soreness, best prevented by good conditioning and training programs, and proper nutrition and hydration. As performance horses age, joint injuries become more common, due to repetitive motion and normal aging. Best prevention is regular joint supplements and proper attention to shoeing angles, etc.

The latter issue is relevant to all performance horses, and is not specific to rodeo events in any way. Tendon injuries do occur to the timed event horses, but are usually the result of deep, uneven footing or an awkward step by the horse. These are best prevented by support wraps and ensuring regular, good footing. Again, this applies to any type of performance horse, not rodeo horses only.

The best news is that all of these issues can be successfully treated and most can be rehabiltated to previous performance levels.”

Posted in: Rodeo

“I've seen first hand how well the chuckwagon horses are treated and cared for, how is the stampede relaying this information?”
Brian H
From Edmonton, Alberta
Our Answer

We appreciate your feedback. Consider yourself lucky… It’s a rare treat to be permitted into the chuckwagon barns during Stampede. It certainly helps one understand what happens behind the scenes and the full scope of the care these animals receive. Not everyone can be here in person to see, experience and ask questions, so we’re doing some “show and tell”. We tell our animal care information on our website and blog posts. We show numerous Youtube video posts under Calgary Stampede Animal Care. And we answer questions through this new Animal Q and A website. We’re looking forward to more show and tell and this opportunity to answer questions.

Posted in: Chuckwagons

“Do you train the Stampede animals to hate humans through the use of cruelty?”
Jayden H
From Unknown
Our Answer

No. The bucking horses and bulls that you see in the rodeo do not hate humans and are definitely not treated cruelly. Quite the opposite. Bucking stock horses and bulls enjoy the most natural lifestyle of virtually any animal we typically consider domesticated. The less human contact, the better. They enjoy most of their lives in a field undisturbed by humans outside of rodeo events. They will be accustomed to just enough contact with humans to ensure we can do regular health treatments and checkups to ensure their well-being.

They are bred specifically for traits related to strong bucking instincts, a very competitive temperament and athletic builds. They are bucking because it is in their nature to do so.

Want to learn more?

Read this ARTICLE from Alberta Express

Posted in: Rodeo

“How does the Stampede educate the public about the historical significance of rodeo (and other events such as Cattle Penning, Cutting) that are based on real life tasks required by cattle ranching? ”
Nicole H
From Unknown
Our Answer

The Calgary Stampede is where urban meets rural. With more than a million visitors to the Stampede, there are a lot of guests who explore everything our event has to offer and will take the time to attend the rodeo as well as Western competition events such as Cattle Penning and Cutting Horse competitions. Our live action announcers do a great job of helping our urban guests follow along with the action and understanding the context and application within ranch settings. We also get a lot of visitors who explore our website, blogs, social media and video sites, as yet another great way of helping city folk understand the use and background of these ranching skils.

Note – Due to the impact of floods within the Saddledome, Cattle Penning is being held off-site in Okotoks this year, and the Cutting Horse competitions have been cancelled. We’re looking forward to the return of these events next year.

Posted in: Exhibition, Rodeo

“Do animals coming on Stampede park require particular vaccinations? If so, which ones, and who checks for this? ”
Nicole H
From Unknown
Our Answer

Vaccinations are not mandated for animals coming to the Stampede at this time. However as part of our registration process we strongly recommend that anyone bringing animals onsite ensure they have provided the appropriate vaccination for the species and age of animal prior to coming. That said, virtually all the competitive animals, such as chuckwagon horses, rodeo competitor horses and Stampede’s bucking stock, have been vaccinated prior to arrival. Also keep in mind that many of these elite animals may cross the border during the course of a year’s competitions, requiring proper paperwork and vaccinations to be in order

Posted in: Exhibition, Rodeo, Chuckwagons

“Does the Calgary Stampede drug test all competitor's animals?”
Nicole H
From Unknown
Our Answer

The Calgary Stampede has mandatory drug testing for all chuckwagon horses and, new for 2013, ladies barrel racing horses. This is part of our Fitness to Compete program, the most comprehensive animal health monitoring system in North America for competitive animals. Our drug testing policies and enforcement ensures there are no performance-enhancing substances or painkillers in use at the Stampede, for both their health and the integrity of the competition.

Posted in: Rodeo, Chuckwagons

“Are rodeo bulls raised through selective breeding like race horses? ”
Greg S
From Calgary, Alberta
Our Answer

Yes they are. Bulls used in rodeos are generally bred from previous proven champion bucking bulls by roughstock contractors. These bulls are bred for their athletic size, strength, agility and temperament traits such as a competitive spirit. These breeding programs have existed for more than 60 years, creating well-document lineagesof related bucking champions.

For example, Man in Black is an emerging star owned by the Calgary Stampede, bred from past champion Rammunition. His full brother from a breeding program, Scuba Steve, is also upholding the family tradition for top-notch rodeo performances. Read more in this blog post.

Posted in: Rodeo

“How much does a bull owner get paid for sending their Brahma bull to compete? ”
Greg S
From Calgary, Alberta
Our Answer

All of our rough-stock contractors who provide bucking horses and bulls are paid a standard contract price per animal. There are bonuses paid to stock contractors for top performing bucking stock based upon the judges’ score sheets. In every bucking event, half of the cowboy’s score is awarded based upon the performance of the bucking animal. So each animal is scored out of a maximum 50 points on each ride, and that score is added to the judge’s assessment of a cowboy’s performance, also out of 50 points.

Posted in: Rodeo

“How big is the Calgary Stampede's private herd? ”
Greg S
From Calgary, Alberta
Our Answer

The Stampede Ranch near Hanna, Alberta, has a herd of about 600 horses ranging over an area of about 22,000 acres. At any given time, about 100 of these horses are actively competing in rodeos. The rest of the herd are involved in the breeding program, training to be bucking horses, or enjoying the quiet life of a well-deserved retirement as part of this natural, mixed herd. See more in this Youtube video.

Posted in: Rodeo

“Are young bulls or older bulls harder to ride? ”
Greg S
From Calgary, Alberta
Our Answer

Young or old, the bulls who buck at the Calgary Stampede are proven performers capable of giving the world’s top cowboys a run for their money. In general bucking bulls get stronger and more confident with each time out of the chutes. Each time out of the chutes, the bull succeeds in “winning” – getting the cowboy off of his back. This positive reinforcement only enhances his natural bucking instincts. Some bulls develop more of a pattern to their bucking as well, whether that be spinning in a circle or curving off in one direction.

So in some senses, bucking bulls can get harder to ride as they age and have a great string of “wins” under the belt to boost their confidence and skills, however the cowboys may also get better sense of any patterns to watch out for.

Posted in: Rodeo

“How do you decide the order of riders/animals in an event like barrel racing?”
Greg S
From Calgary, Alberta
Our Answer

The order of each day’s performances is a draw. There are advance draws to determine the order of each competitor in the timed events (which includes barrel racing, tie-down roping and steer wrestling). There are also advance draws to determine which cowboy is assigned which bucking stock horse or bull on any given day. p>

Posted in: Rodeo

“How many animals are involved in the Rodeo? ”
Greg S
From Calgary, Alberta
Our Answer

Cowboy and cowgirl competitor horses account for approximately 80 horses (20 competitors per event, plus extra horses for steer wrestling hazers), with an additional four horses used by the arena pick-up riders. Each rodeo event would involve 36 bucking stock horses (saddle bronc, bareback and novice) and 13 bucking bulls (1 horse or bull for each competitor plus three extras per event for re-rides). This adds up to 360 horses and 130 bulls bucked over the course of 10 days. There are 13 roping calves and 13 steers at each performance (one per competitor, plus three extras for re-rides) adding up to 130 roping calves and 130 steers.

Totalling that all up, there are 84 saddle horses, 360 bucking horses, 130 bucking bulls, 130 roping calves and 130 steers who are involved in the rodeo.

Posted in: Rodeo

“How fast are the barrel racing horses compared to the chuckwagon horses?”
Greg S
From Calgary, Alberta
Our Answer

Barrel racing horses are a bit more agile than chuckwagon horses, since it is a single horse and rider slipping around three separate barrels than charging down the final stretch where they can peak at about 60-65 km/hr. We may see a bit faster times this year, as the Stampede has changed the exit stretch for barrel racers, enabling to run through the finish line and slow down on the track instead of pulling up hard after their run.

By comparison, the chuckwagon horses ride in team of four, pulling a wagon. They are racing around a long track with lots of space to gain speed, but also need to pace themselves a bit more. They top out at speeds of about 60-63 km/hr.

Posted in: Rodeo, Chuckwagons

“How fast can chuckwagon horses run when pulling a chuckwagon?”
Greg S
From Calgary, Alberta
Our Answer

Chuckwagon teams race at speeds around 60-63 km/hr. Chuckwagon driver Mark Sutherland, for example, had a GPS attached to his wagon during past GMC Rangeland Derby races at the Stampede, providing accurate readings on these speeds. Races are timed in the 100th of seconds, showing just how close many of these races are.

Posted in: Chuckwagons

“If the Stampede is so safe and takes such great care of the animals, why do horses keep dying in the chuckwagon races?”
Angela F
From Unknown
Our Answer

Despite increased efforts, there are still regrettable incidents that may happen. Every loss is felt deeply by the Stampede, the chuckwagon community and the drivers. In the past 30 years, 80,000 horses have raced in Stampede chuckwagon races. Regrettably, 50 have been lost to fatal health or accident-related incidents. That’s .006 per cent. Anytime you are dealing with nature, there are never failsafe guarantees. The Calgary Stampede is doing everything in our power to eliminate potential risks, including instituting Fitness to Compete, the most comprehensive program anywhere for health monitoring, testing and guidelines for chuckwagon race horses. And we’re digging deeper to better understand health considerations for these elite high-performance equine athletes.

Chuckwagon horses are in their second career after retiring from thoroughbred racing. That means they’re older than horses you see in other sports. Like people, even a clean bill of health in a checkup isn’t a guarantee there are no hidden issues lurking. The Stampede is leading the way in digging deeper. In 2012, thousands of electrocardiogram (EKG) tests were conducted on chuckwagon horses before, during and after Stampede races as part of research through the U of C’s Veterinary Medicine Faculty. Learn more in this video.

Posted in: Chuckwagons

“How many vets are on site in case of animal emergencies?”
Jason E
From Lahaina, Hawaii
Our Answer

At any given time during the Calgary Stampede, there are at least 10 veterinarians on our site, tending to and monitoring animals. This includes the Stampede's in-house veterinary staff, plus the contracted services of specialist veterinarians who are capable of checking and treating the livestock - including horses, cattle and sheep - who bring the Stampede to life.

Posted in: Exhibition, Rodeo, Chuckwagons

“Has the the recent flooding in southern Alberta affected any of the animals for the Stampede? ”
Aileena M
From Unknown
Our Answer

There were no animals onsite at the Calgary Stampede at the time of the floods and there will be no impact to animals when they arrive for the Stampede. We are cleaning, disinfecting and restoring all areas for stalls, pens, arenas and track space in preparation to safely and comfortably host animals on our site. That includes full inspections of buildings to ensure all spaces we use are safe and officially approved. The new rodeo chutes and steel pens survived and the floods and will be up and running for Stampede. We are stripping the infield and race track right down to its solid base and resurfacing it from the ground up, according to all the standards and regulations we have always adhered to. All of our industry-leading standards and protocols for animal care and welfare are in place and will be in full force.

Read more on our Animal Care at http://corporate.calgarystampede.com/animal-care/

Posted in: Exhibition, Rodeo, Chuckwagons

“How does the Stampede look after its animals?”
Margeaux M
From Unknown
Our Answer

Our animal care policies and procedures include daily veterinarian check-ups of each animal on-site, plus a full spectrum of proactive best-proactive animal welfare and care procedures. Our Fitness to Compete program is the most comprehensive animal health program of its kind in North America for competition animals, such as chuckwagon race horses. The horses are micro-chipped and given thorough medical exams when arriving on-site, have their race and rest days monitored, and are checked immediately before and after each race they compete in. Each animal that competes in rodeo events is medically checked prior to and immediately after their rodeo event. Animal handling experts also review animals as they are arriving on-site to ensure best practices in transportation are in use.

We established an unpaid Animal Care Advisory Panel that includes some of the world’s top livestock experts to guide our policies and procedures to ensure we’re doing all the right things responsibly. Each year they monitor and identify any opportunities for improvement as we all strive to continually improve.

Posted in: Exhibition, Rodeo, Chuckwagons

Thanks for your question, we will get back to you with a response.