As an equestrian, I have to wonder what kind of horse sports ESPN is supporting with their recent choice to profile the Chilcotin Nation’s downhill race. In the wake of plenty of other horse sports shunned by the Humane Society of the United States, America’s ‘Suicide Race’ phenomenon is among one of many that are quite unsavory to watch. It seems the ESPN loves writing about speed, speed, and speed when it comes to horse sports, but doesn’t seem to care much for tactical merit and adrenaline rush of show jumping or cross-country (I genuinely understand that dressage would be too slow). In a recent article, the tagline reads, “Mountain racing riders only know one way to go: all out” but what exactly is meant by “all out”?
Although not as steep as the famed (and feared) Omak suicide races, the horses are still galloped top-speed down rocky hills that are awe-inspiringly steep and quite precarious. The race, exactly like the Omak suicide race, involves galloping in and out of a body of water, and a lot flat gallop home over even terrain. So is this race comparable? Unlike the Omak, this race is only run with 4 horses (the Omaha is run with more than 10). Additionally, the inclined running space is remains the same width and incline for the entire ‘mountain’ portion of the race. I’m not actually sure how deep the water is where the Redstone Stampede mountain race is run, so I cannot speak to that, however there is no “chute” that racers must funnel through and the race is only held once a year (rather than 3 nights in a row). You’ve seen the Redstone stampede, now here is what the Omaha suicide race looks like:
It has been alleged that Wallis has chosen this city, whose population is only 150, to reduce the chance of retaliation; the city may be too small to fight back. The building, which was once a beef slaughterhouse was formerly owned by Sharlene Mott. After being purchased by Hormel, then put out of business, it has been noted that this plant could offer up many new jobs to a town. When the original beef plant was closed down, a significant number of employees lost their jobs. Apparently, the citizens of Rockville are ‘excited’ for this business opportunity. In a public statement, Wallis stated that “We are excited to be bringing jobs and opportunity to rural Missouri” adding that they were also “even happier to provide a humane and viable option to the horse industry, decimated by misguided efforts to end humane horse slaughter.”
After ABC aired the controversial footage, Pepsi pulled its sponsorship from the event entirely and stricter penalties were put in place to prevent further abuse of these horses. The method referred to as ‘soring’ causes these horses to step higher due to stifling pain, resulting in a more ‘fancy’ high-stepping gait. It it important to note, however, that not all Tennessee Walking Horses are trained with this method. Thus far four Tennessee Walking Horse handlers have pleaded guilty to horse abuse, and it is expected that this number may steadily rise.