Saturday, February 10, 2007
Concerns about the safety of the horses have forced the cancellation of this weekend's popular Winter Carnival chariot races.
Ed Duncan, a member of the Yampa Valley Cutter and Chariot Racing Association, made the decision Wednesday after examining the rodeo grounds at Brent Romick Rodeo Arena in downtown Steamboat Springs, where the races would have been held today and Sunday.
Duncan said there is too much snow in the arena.
"It's a safety deal for the horses," he said Friday. "They just can't run in that much snow. If they hit a soft spot, that leg would be gone."
This marks the second consecutive year in which the chariot races have been cancelled because of too much snow on the racetrack.
Duncan said the chariot races are a popular Winter Carnival event that draws large crowds to the arena because spectators enjoy seeing the horses racing at full speed in the snow.
Horses typically race on a few inches of packed snow, not the 18 inches of inconsistent snow that currently covers the track, Duncan said.
Jeff Nelson, ski and rodeo supervisor for the Howelsen Ski Area, said the city was willing to clear the snow with the help of Duncan's organization. However, a lack of participant interest in the races did not make the job worth what it would have taken to clear the snow.
"We could have done it, but with the amount of time we had and the lack of interest we had, we had to ask ourselves if the juice was worth the squeeze," Nelson said. "For three sets of races, it just wasn't worth it."
Nelson said the track was groomed last weekend for a series of Nordic combined skiing events. He agreed that horses could not race safely on the same terrain.
"A skier doesn't weigh as much as a 1,200-pound horse," he said. "A skier doesn't notice when there is an inconsistency in the snow, but if a horse is racing as fast as it can and punches through the snow, it's the glue factory. No one is willing to hurt their horse."
Rick DeVos, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, which sponsors and organizes the Winter Carnival, said he was sad to hear the races had been cancelled.
"We just love having the chariot races included in our schedule of events," he said. "We encourage and embrace the whole thing. We're sad they're not going to be there. It's part of the whole experience."
- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org