After the tragic loss of a longtime volunteer due to an accident during practice on July 26, Ponoka Stampede Association president Jason Cline said the incident was “the most awful thing you could ever ask for.”
The wrangler, a 30-year-old woman who’s identity is not being disclosed at this time, had been a volunteer with the Stampede for over five years.
The woman fell off her horse while bringing in a group of between 25 to 30 horses into the infield, as the wranglers were practicing for the traditional wild horses stampede that’s part of the introduction segment of each rodeo performance’s opening ceremonies.
She was trampled under the other horses and succumbed to her injuries.
Cline said that the entrance of the wild horses had never been an issue before in the history of the Stampede, which is now in its 86th year, and called the incident a “freak accident.”
The incident happened at about 7 p.m. on Sunday and is now being investigated by Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), RCMP said.
Cline confirmed there has been a verbal stop order issued by OHS regarding the wild horses. However, the work order was removed prior to Monday evening’s performance on June 27, as the association provided control measures to address identified hazards, according to OHS.
On opening nigh, the association modified the opening segment, with the horses entering by themselves without any other livestock or people present in the infield.
He said Monday was about handling the situation and Tuesday, the association will begin to plan how to honour the volunteer. A recognition of some form will take place sometime during Stampede week, Cline said.
Rodeo is a tight-knit community and the impact of the loss of a longtime member of that community is being felt and is nothing short of tragic.
The Stampede runs June 27 to July 3.