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Horse Destroyed After Breaking Leg in ‘Suicide Race’; Rider Injured

August 10, 1987

OMAK, Wash. (AP) _ A horse was destroyed after breaking a leg during a running of the grueling, controversial Suicide Race of the Omak Stampede, and in a subsequent race, a rider was injured, officials said Sunday.

National animal rights groups had called the rodeo competition ″one giant accident waiting to happen″ and had pursuaded two commercial sponsors to pull out.

The death after Saturday night’s race was at least the fifth of a horse in the 52-year history of the race; one rider died in the 1940s while preparing for the race.

In the quarter-mile race, the animals run down a steep hill, ford the Okanogan River, then race up an incline and into the Stampede arena.

The suicide race is run four times during Stampede weekend, with riders competing for $2,500 in purse money, a new saddle and fancy belt buckle.

A veteran race rider, Kerrie Carden of Nespelem, was injured during Sunday afternoon’s final running of the race. Mid-Valley Hospital nursing supervisor Ann Minor said Carden was admitted for observation and was in stable condition. Earlier, a 7-year-old horse named Peppy Hoedown, owned by Lisa Heaney of Ephrata and ridden by Bass Williams, was killed after it suffered a broken bone in the fetlock in Saturday night’s race, Stampede spokeswoman Linda Lewis said. The horse had run in three previous suicide races, she said.

″This is one giant accident just waiting to happen,″ Robert Hillman of the Animal Protection Institute said earlier.

Representatives of the institute, the American Humane Association and the Humane Society were on hand to take pictures and collect data at this year’s stampede. The coalition said it persuaded two sponsors, Coca-Cola and Wrangler Jeans, to abandon the event, but organizers said it would continue.

″We are not considering ending this race,″ said Dick Wilkie, president of the stampede during the past 12 years. ″This makes us unique. It sets us apart. And it’s vital to the success of this event.″

Wilkie says the rodeo brings in about $3 million to the economy of Omak, a community of 4,000, and surrounding Okanogan County every year.

Two horses were injured and destroyed in previous suicide race years and two drowned, for a total of four previous deaths, Ms. Lewis said. But local newspaper accounts for the years since 1969 showed five horses injured so severely they had to be euthanized.

The only human to die was a man who drowned when his horse stumbled as he rode across the river before the start of the race.

Update hourly