Oregon rodeo cancels wild horse race after tragedy

ST. PAUL, Ore. - Last year, two horses collided head-on at the St. Paul Rodeo in an accident that shocked spectators. Now organizers say they will not run the same event this year.

The collision happened during the wild horse race, one of the rodeo's signature events. Two horses were speeding around in circles in opposite directions and hit head-on at full gallop.

The riders were not injured but the horses were. One was so badly hurt that it had to be put down the next morning. The other horse, which ended up crippled, was later put down as well.

A spectator caught the collision on video and posted it on YouTube.

(WARNING: While the video is not graphic, it may be disturbing for some viewers. The collision happens about one minute into the clip).

We talked to the St. Paul Rodeo's Livestock Director, Steve Coleman, to find out more about the decision.

Coleman said while the accident was something you never want to see, he wanted to hold the Wild Horse Race this year. He was out-voted by the board.

"It's the way you used to break horses in the old days," he said. "Nowadays, they do it kind of different."

Coleman said while he, personally, would like to hold the event again, it's doubtful there will ever be another wild race horse race at the St. Paul Rodeo after what happened.

"We most likely won't do it again," he said.

The rodeo made the decision earlier this year. When they told their fans about it on their Facebook page, there were mixed comments. Here are a few:

"I am glad to hear this. While the wild horse race is the most exciting event when it goes well, it's also scary and tragic when it goes badly. I will miss the race but not the danger to the riders and animals. I was at Pendleton in 2011 when riders were also seriously injured during the races." - Elke Bernal Bruton

"People and animals get hurt in rodeo. If you can't deal with the reality of it, maybe you should go to the zoo instead." - John DeMeritt

"I support your decision. Still a little too fresh. Give it some time!" - Shan Ryan

"So bummed! I so wanted to take the grandkids this year to see the Wild Horse Race of St. Paul Rodeo. It's so exciting - I've never seen anything like it." - Sarah Saucedo

"I agree with the board because although it is fun watching cowboys ride around on untamed horses, those horses are probably scared outta their minds. One of the horses I ride is such a sweetheart and completely tame, but just being brought to a show really scares her. Horses truly have feelings and we should respect that." - Hopeful Engberg

"These wild horses get treated better being in the rodeo than they do out in the wild. They have water and food readily available and work for a few minutes a year. Really is too bad to hear." - Jeff Annen

The Oregon Humane Society was a vocal opponent to the wild horse race following what happened and we talked to them as well to get their reaction.

"We're very pleased to see this action," said OHS spokesman David Lytle. "They (rodeos) are not subject to legal regulation - they're exempt - so it's up to the court of public opinion and I think the public outcry was so huge it just forced action."

Lytle said the Humane Society has long taken issue with rodeo practices.

"It's an extremely high-risk activity and we don't think animals should be used for entertainment when their lives are at risk," he said.

This is the 78th year of the St. Paul Rodeo. It runs July 2-6.