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Calgary Stampede uses technology for better animal care

The world’s largest outdoor show starts in full on Friday, but before things start, the Calgary Stampede showed off some of the improved technologies they are using to keep animals safe and healthy.

The Fitness to Compete program has been running at Stampede for seven years, but this year they’ve expanded their tools.

“New for 2018 is that we have significantly updated the software system,” said veterinarian Erin Thompson-Shields on Thursday.

Veterinarians examine every horse for infectious diseases and cardiovascular problems. They also look for signs of lameness in the animal’s path.

However, this year’s improvements show after the veterinarian’s examination.

Veterinarian Erin Thompson-Shields says the software has improved a lot this year. (Anis Heydari / CBC)

A bright yellow wand is waved over each horse. They are now all microchipped and everything is tracked in a central system.

“The microchip stick is only used to identify the horse and is automatically synchronized with the database system,” said Thompson-Shields.

This database is accessible across the Stampede site so veterinarians and competitors can better track the health of their horses.

Chuckwagon driver Jordie Fike says the technology really helps. (Anis Heydari / CBC)

For chuckwagon driver Jordie Fike this is a huge advantage.

“I mean, maybe he had a little stain somewhere that you didn’t even know about,” said Fike.

“Having these professionals here to see these things is great for us.”

The Calgary Stampede uses tablet computers, technology and databases to improve animal care. (Anis Heydari / CBC)

The tracking system also helps the Stampede enforce the mandatory rest days for the horses. You cannot enter a race without a microchip scan.

For many competitors, however, that’s not a problem, says Fike.

“These horses are family, they are our livelihood. We spend every day of our lives with them doing everything we can to make their lives better, easier and better,” he said. “We’re 100 percent for it and we appreciate that Stampede is ready to do this for us.”

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