CALGARY -- The Stampede is circling the wagons with the reported death of a sixth horse Thursday at the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
The Calgary Humane Society went on the offensive earlier this week and even bombshell movie star Pamela Anderson has joined the chorus, decrying the Stampede’s treatment of animals suggesting some of its signature events are cruel.
“I’m not a fan,” Anderson told reporters at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal Thursday when asked about the Stampede.
“I never have been. I think it is very cruel.”
An outrider horse went down after a chuckwagon heat Thursday, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether it died or was severely injured.
Media reports indicated the horse has died.
Doug Fraser, a Stampede spokesman confirmed “there was a horse down,” but offered no other details.
The fifth horse died Wednesday night following the nightly chuckwagon race and the cause of death remains unknown.
Following the fifth heat, the horse appeared to be in distress, prompting driver Kurt Bensmiller to have it looked over by veterinarians.
About 40 minutes later, the eight-year-old horse that has been racing for three years collapsed and died.
Bensmiller said his horses are his livelihood and any suggestions that they are mistreated or put at unreasonable risk are being made by those who don’t understand the sport or the relationship between rider and horse.
“We look after these animals like they are our family,” said the 11-year chuckwagon veteran.
“The worst part is you have to go again (and race) the next day.”
Bensmiller has ordered a necropsy to determine the cause of death, which could take several weeks.
Earlier in the week four horses died in just over 24 hours — two from natural causes and another pair due to major injuries suffered in the chuckwagon and junior saddlebronc events.
One rider, Amy Carver, was also seriously injured when her horse died. She sustained serious head injuries and broke a shoulder blade.
Fraser defended the rodeo and exhibition’s record of keeping animals safe, noting with 7,500 head of livestock on the grounds, the death represent a very small fraction.
“We are industry leaders when it comes to animal care and when people are pointing the finger at us, we hope they realize what we’re trying to do when it comes to animal care,” he said.
During last year’s Stampede, three horses and a steer died over the course of the 10-day event.
— with files from Renato Gandia