A horse has died as a result of injuries sustained while attempting to qualify for the World Famous Suicide Race, slated to take place during the Omak Stampede in Omak, Wash., on Aug. 12.
Inspired by Native American endurance races, the Suicide Race is best known for the portion of the race during which horses and riders run down a 62° slope that runs for 225 feet to the Okanogan River. The race has been run during the Omak Stampede for decades.
Pete Palmer, president of the World Famous Suicide Race Owners and Jockeys Association, said that on Aug. 3, a Thoroughbred horse named Little Big Man was participating in the third qualifying test for the race when it sustained a fracture to its front leg.
"The horse came off the hill with a rookie jockey and got ahead of himself and fractured his front leg at the bottom of the river," Palmer said. "He was euthanized at the scene."
Palmer said that the loss of the horse took place despite race organizers' efforts to reduce risks to horses and riders.
"All the horses undergo veterinary checks to be sure they are sound enough to compete," Palmer said. "We take a lot of safety measures for both horses and jockeys."
Palmer said the horse's death is the first in the past eight years, but some animal welfare advocates would like to see an end to the race altogether.
"It's animal abuse, but they get away with it because it happens during a rodeo," said Mark Coleman, spokesman for PAWS, an animal welfare organization in Lynwood, Wash. "The loss of the horse is tragic."
The Omak Stampede will take place Aug. 9 -12.
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