August 11th through 14th marks the annual occurrence of the Deadliest Horse Race in the World: Eastern Washington's Omak Suicide Race. Over a span of four days and nights, riders repeatedly run horses off Suicide Hill. After a 120-foot full-galloping start, horses must plunge blindly 210 feet down a slope that, the organizers boast, is an "almost vertical... 62 degree angle." At breakneck speed horses then meet the rocky Okanogan River with concrete force. After a panicked swim of more than a football field in length, the horses face a final, grueling uphill sprint.
In the 20 years PAWS has been monitoring the race, more than 20 horses have died. Just last summer, three horses were killed in the first heat alone. Because practice runs are not officially part of the race, additional deaths go unreported. The total number of fatalities in the last 20 years could be well over 35. These horses, many “on loan” for the event, have suffered heart attacks, broken bones and even horrifying death by drowning in the Okanogan River.
We have hope that 2005 will be a banner year for the PAWS Suicide Erasers (concerned individuals who show their support to end this race). With your help, this will be the last year this so-called race is run. There is no excuse, cultural or otherwise, for such animal abuse.