Return of Ponoka Stampede marred by female volunteer's death

·2 min read
Riders prepare for the opening of the Ponoka Stampede. (Nathan Gross/CBC - image credit)
Riders prepare for the opening of the Ponoka Stampede. (Nathan Gross/CBC - image credit)

A volunteer wrangler with the Ponoka Stampede died on Sunday night after she was thrown from her horse and trampled.

The Stampede president, Jason Cline, said the incident happened during a practice for the opening ceremony. He described it as a tragic accident that's especially difficult during the return of the stampede after a two-year hiatus.

"It's the most awful thing we could have asked for to kick off the Ponoka Stampede," Cline told CBC News. "I haven't seen this much support in the community for a long, long time. It's tough to even move forward right now."

Cline said the 30-year-old wrangler was moving horses into the infield during the practice for the opening when she got thrown from her horse. There were between 25 and 30 horses without riders in the arena at the time.

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Gina Slaney said officers were called out to the rodeo grounds Sunday night at 7:09 p.m. to assist paramedics.

The 30-year-old woman was declared dead at the scene. Her death has been ruled accidental.

Occupational Health and Safety is investigating. They've issued an order that will mean the opening ceremony on Monday evening will not include the riderless horses.

Nathan Gross/CBC
Nathan Gross/CBC

Cline said they are co-operating with the investigation and plan to hold some sort of tribute for the victim later in the week. He said the woman was an experienced rider who had volunteered with the stampede for the past five years.

He said he expects her death will have an impact on all the competitors and other volunteers.

"Like most other sports, the sport of rodeo and the western culture is a very close-knit culture," Cline said.

"These people have been together for a long time so it's going to be very tough on everybody."

The Ponoka Stampede is scheduled to run from Monday to July 3.

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