Skip to content

Driver wants part in making wagon racing safer

Calgary Stampede: Six horses killed during 2019 Rangeland Derby
Stampede Chucks - Day 2 09033653
Okotoks' chuckwagon driver Mark Sutherland would like to be at the table when the Calgary Stampede discusses changes to the Rangeland Derby. Six horses were killed in chuckwagon Races at the Stampede this year. (Brent Calver, Western Wheel)

A three-time recipient of the Calgary Stampede Safe Driving Award would like to share his knowledge regarding any changes at the Rangeland Derby after six horses were killed at this year’s chuckwagon races.

“I want to have some input — with our association, with the Calgary Stampede — I believe I am one of the guys who can provide some positive input,” said Okotoks’ Mark Sutherland on Tuesday. “I plan on doing it myself, whether the Stampede invites me or not, and presenting some of my information to whoever wants to listen to it – not publicly, but to the Stampede and to my association (the World Professional Chuckwagon Association.)”

Three horses from Evan Salmond’s team died after his lead right horse suffered an injury in Heat 8 on Sunday. That horse and two other horses on his team were also injured as a result and had to be put down.

Earlier in the Stampede, three other horses had to be put down, one from a suspected heart attack, the other a fractured leg. Salmond lost another horse earlier in the week due to a collision. Driver Chad Harden was fined $10,000 and suspended from racing at the Stampede in the future as a result of the incident.

Stampede officials announced Monday it would be reviewing chuckwagon racing safety.

“In light of these events, we are committed to initiating a thorough review process surrounding chuckwagon safety,” Stampede representatives said in a press release on Monday. “At this time we don’t know what form that process will take, and we ask for your patience and understanding.”

Phil Fulton, Calgary Humane Society manager of community outreach, said it wants to work with the Stampede.

He said it is not looking for a ban.

“Whatever can be done so we get zero deaths, zero injuries — we are always going to be in favour of working with the Stampede and mitigating,” he said. “That goes for any organization.”

He said it has worked with the Stampede in the past.

“But to be clear, if there is nothing to be done, if there is no way we can mitigate these injuries so we don’t have death or series injuries, so, as we have discussed with the Stampede, we will say, ‘Please just don’t do it,’’’ Fulton said.

He said the society does not have any solutions.
He said the society does not have jurisdiction to lay charges or stop rodeos, it can however, lay charges in relation to ensuring adequate food, shelter, water and other provisions are provided for the animals.

“We have not had to lay charges for those infractions (at the Stampede),” he said.

Fulton added he would welcome working with chuckwagon driver.

Sutherland is more than willing to work with people trying to help the sport.

“My concern is with people that want to stop chuckwagon racing, not with people who want to improve the safety of chuckwagon racing,” Sutherland said. “My main goal is continuous improvement and it always has been and it always will be.”

Sutherland sits on the WPCA rules commission and helps manage the judges for the association.

He would like to use that knowledge to study what happened at the 2019 Stampede.
“I would like to see a real look back, cause and effect of leading indicators of these incidences, what happened, why it happened and I think it is doable,” Sutherland said. “I want to have an informed opinion, right now I don’t because I haven’t seen any of the races except for one for about 15 seconds which was blasted all over the news.”

Jason Glass said the death of six horses is saddening.
“Any time a horse gets hurt it’s very sad,” Glass said.

He had no comment on how the Stampede handles the situation.

Stampede results

Get 90 per cent on a calculus exam and you’re thinking to universities. Get 90 per cent at the Calgary Stampede and you drop from the top of the class to the lower echelons.

“I had a really good Stampede, the horses worked excellent nine out of 10 nights,” Glass said. “I’m proud of my horses. It wasn’t the outcome I was hoping for, but the horses worked great for nine nights.”

Glass finished 23rd in the aggregate after the eight nights to determine the semifinals, he was 18th after the full 10 days.

However, he was sitting on top of the standings going into the July 9 races when he racked up some penalties.

Glass toppled a barrel and missed a barrel pattern for 15 seconds of penalties. He dropped from first to 30th in the aggregate and his chances of another Rangeland Derby championship disappeared quicker than a pocketful of loonies on the Stampede midway.

“The horses started hard and my right-hand leader tucked on me – he had been driving really well all year,” said Glass, the 2013 Stampede champion. “I just had to reload, I took way too many penalties to get back into the finals, and do the best you can for your fans and your sponsor (Birchcliff Energy).”

Sutherland had a similar fate. He opened the Stampede with a five-second penalty and after climbing up the standings took a whopping 15 seconds on July 10 for similar actions to Glass.

“This sport can be humbling because of the intricacies,” Sutherland said. “You are dealing with horses, and sometimes they are great.

“This was the worst Stampede for me, disappointing for me. I came in clicking, the horses were running great and the driver wasn’t making too many mistakes — and if I did, the horses made up for them.”

Sutherland came into the Stampede having won the Ponoka races the week before. He finished 23rd in the aggregate.

Blackie’s Jordie Fike was the top driver from the Foothills by finishing 17th.

Logan Gorst finished first in the championship heat with a time of 1:10.87 won the Rangeland Derby and the $100,000. Todd Baptiste was second, Luke Tournier, third and Vern Nolin was fourth.

For full results go to


Bruce Campbell

About the Author: Bruce Campbell

Bruce Campbell is the editor for and the Western Wheel newspaper. He is a graduate of Mount Royal College journalism program, 1991. For story tips contact
Read more