It’s that time of year again! With the second week of August now behind us we’ve seen the completion of another Omak Suicide Race and the death of another horse.
Still from the above 2006 video by the Humane Society of the United States.
You know, they call it a “suicide” race but the word suicide implies some sort of willful decision and intention. I was not aware horses were suicidal. The riders, sure! I could see that. But, then again, we’re not reading article after article (see all the links in the post?) about dead people. No! It’s the horses who are suffering as the people continue to defy death.
The origin of the Omak Suicide Race stems from “a rite of passage, a demonstration of our young warriors and their horses’ ability to become one”, or so says The Suicide Racers Owners and Jockeys Association in this article from Horsetalk.co.nz. Although, if you check out the website of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation there’s no mention of horses at all, nor is there any mention of either on their Wiki entry. Clearly their horse/warrior history is top secret; very hush hush. So even if the race does have it’s roots in Native American endurance races (as per Wiki) were they really THAT important to the tribes? Important enough to continue to this day, knowing the inherent risks to horse and rider? -especially horse. Interesting tidbit: the Suicide Race was started in 1935 by a local business owner to help promote the Omak rodeo and drum up business for local merchants. I think maybe I missed something in school because that’s not what I picture when I think “warrior”.
While I haven’t been able to find any information to really justify the “rite of passage” claim, several articles report that 23 horses have died in this event since 1983. The most recent horse to perish, Little Big Man, didn’t even die in the race itself! Oh no, he broke his leg in aqualifying event! It’s not just the race you gotta worry about, it’s getting there that’ll kill ya too!
From an article on CBS News, a volunteer at the race provided some information, undoubtedly meant to assuage concerns for the horse’s safety, “She said horses are thoroughly prepared and that there are rescue boats and ambulances on both sides of the river and in the arena.” Oh good so they were there, watching as Little Big Man drowned last Thursday? In all the articles written in the last few days, some report Little Big Man being euthanized, others report that he broke his leg and was unable to swim across the river, drowning and washing up on shore a short ways down river. What good are rescue boats and ambulances to horses? Rarely is a broken leg fixed! And for all their claims that the racing horses are “extremely valuable” (this from Omak City Administrator Ralph Malone in this article from Mail Online) how valuable are they really once the structural integrity of their bone is compromised? The horse certainly wouldn’t be fit to race again! So what then? Is there a lucrative breeding career for Omak Suicide Race survivors? Somehow I doubt that.
Hold the phone! They pray before sending horses potentially to their deaths: “There is an opening prayer before the race and city officials deny any claims of animal abuse”. This from the article by Mail Online.
Is there anyone, anywhere more deserving of this? (for the sake of what’s left of my sanity, do NOT answer that!)