Should the deadly Omak Suicide Race be stopped?on August 7, 2012 @ 11:03 am (Updated: 8:27 am - 8/8/12 )
The Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle said the horse Little Big Man stumbled at the bottom of the race hill Friday as it entered the Okanogan River. It reportedly drowned in the river.
The horse, owned by Jerry Ford of Wellpinit, was attempting to complete the final qualifying test for the races later this week.
Little Big Man was the first horse to die in the race since 2004 when three horses died. In the past 25 years 21 horses have died because of the race.
The Owner's and Jockey's Association sanctions the Suicide Race, which began in 1935.
Pete Palmer of the Jockey Association defended the race when Dori questioned the risk to the horses involved.
According to Palmer, the horses are bred and trained for the a 62-degree slope that runs for 225 feet to the Okanogan River.
"It was traditionally done as a rite of passage, a demonstration of how young warriors and their horses had the ability to become one," explained Palmer.
Lindsay Rajt, PETA's associate director of campaigns and outreach, said that Palmer's explanation of the history is false and that the Suicide Race was created by the white publicity director of the Omak Stampede in 1935. Only in the years since have the Colville Tribe embraced the race as their own.
"It's all about money and that's why this continues," said Rajt.
For Palmer, it's about the culture - not about the money and they take the lives of the horses seriously. There have been strict safety regulations set up for both the jockey and the horse. They also invite a lot of people to come down before and for the race to educate them on what is going on in Omak.
"Accidents happen everywhere and you can't help that," said Palmer of the incidents during the yearly race.
But according to Rajt and others at PETA, the race is cruel. "I think every culture has traditions that are rooted in cruelty or injustice," she told Dori. "Part of our growth and development as human beings involves replacing cruel or unfair traditions with kind ones."
Said Rajt, "There are better ways to raise our kids and better rites of passage."
Here's video of the 2011 race
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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