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Horses go through extensive checks before races: chuck driver

Chuckwagon driver Kris Molle races during the GMC Rangeland Derby at the Calgary Stampede on Tuesday, July 9th, 2019. (PHOTO: Tom Ross - 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – The chuckwagon drivers at the Calgary Stampede and their families spend day in and day out with their horses.

A day in the barns starts between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. and the day will go until midnight according to Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association (CPCA) driver Kris Molle.

“We walk and exercise the horses, while others are cleaning out the stalls and giving them fresh water,” Molle said. “For those that were rolling around, we bathe them and make sure they are all clean.”

The horses are given their afternoon snack of hay and given a rest, which includes the lights off and a fan to keep them cool.

A similar routine is followed in the afternoon.

Before every race, the horse is checked by a vet to make sure that the horse is 100 per cent sound. Molle explains the drivers don’t want to put a horse or the other horses on the track in danger.

RELATED: Chuckwagon driver suspended after horse dies during Rangeland Derby

“They check their heart rate, breathing, temperature, along with their joints and muscles, and if a horse isn’t 100 per cent, then we rest them and put another horse in.”

The eight year CPCA veteran adds that each horse sees a medical professional at least once a week, whether it be a massage therapist, a chiropractor, or another doctor.

Each horse has a microchip that is scanned by the vet when they are checked. It also keeps track of how often a horse can race.

“They are allowed to run three days with one day off, but if you run them four then they have to have two nights off,” Molle said. “You can run the one night and then rest them another and that is also okay.”

Molle said that with the amount of time a driver spends with their horses they get to know them to the point that if something isn’t okay, they can tell.

“You try to protect the other horses, and horses can trip or stumble just like a human in a foot race, so when that happens you let up and slow down to take care of them.”

Molle notes that just like humans, horses need to train–they aren’t just able to hit the track rearing to go. It takes months of training and building their muscles to make sure they are physically sound and healthy.

RELATED: Another horse dies after chuckwagon race at Calgary Stampede

That carries over to the day of the race as well, the horses are warmed up and cooled down just like any other athlete.

Another aspect where safety plays a measure is the tack.

“Starting with the wagon, it has to weigh a certain amount, and it is gone over to make sure that there are no sharp edges that can cut a horse.”

There is also x-ray machine used to check the poles on the wagon, to be sure that there is nothing there that will cause a crash.