Thursday, August 16, 2007


Every summer, the town of Omak, Washington, hosts the Omak Suicide Race. Horses and riders charge down a 210 foot , 60-degree slope at full speed, then swim 50 yards across a rocky and rapidly flowing river, and then charge back up a similar hill. If you survive this gauntlet, you get to do it for two more heats plus the final over a total of four days.

Growing protests about the cruelty to the horses who run the race, and increased concern over the ethics of the event, have prompted several major corporations, including Wal-Mart and Diageo PLC (the maker of Crown Royal whiskey, Captain Morgan rum, and Smirnoff vodka), to withdraw longtime sponsorship this year.

The Omak Suicide Race originated in 1935 as a promotion gimmick and the brainchild of Claire Pentz, publicity chairman for the Omak Stampede, an annual rodeo that happens each August. Suicide Race organizers developed the spectacle hoping to draw tourists by showcasing horses and their riders in deadly situations night after night. It seems to be working.

The Suicide Race operates independently from other Stampede events. Over the years, race organizers have worked to align it with the traditional Native American horse racing of the local Colville tribe, but evidently the current form bears little resemblance to the Colville Indian Keller Mountain reservation races of the past which were never held at night.

Organizers, including at least one veterinarian, say it’s all good…

Huh? Did he go to the Bad Newz Killa Kennels School of Veterinary Medicine?

Just another version of “keepin’ it real.”

Obviously, animal activists are screaming about this event, and this year it’s under more scrutiny than ever.

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