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Letter to the editor

The right thing to do

I am writing in response to a letter to the editor from Jayney Sharpe in the Aug. 13 Today regarding the horse death at the fair. There are several statements that I find very troublesome and inaccurate, and hope that after reading this response she, as well as many others, might become better volunteers than complainers.

Sharpe’s letter has two primary criticisms: The first centers on the handling of a horses unfortunate death at the horse show and the second seems to be her disappointment with the judges’ decisions and therefore lack of “fun.” I would like this opportunity to address both of these issues.



The death of any animal is always a very sad event. That a horse lost its life in front of a crowd at the Routt County Open Show perhaps made this animal’s loss more public but no less tragic. I had just left the showgrounds moments before the incident so did not witness it directly. However, I have spoken to several friends who were there as well as the veterinarian. The 40 minutes of struggling that Sharpe mentions was more like 20. This is still a long time to watch any animal die, yet with the ample space at the fairgrounds, every one of the people present could have walked away easily. I am 44 years old and was a “ranch kid” once as Sharpe describes in her letter. I can say strongly from that perspective that it would have been no easier to listen to a gunshot. The silent option of an injection can cause lengthy minutes of agonal breathing and spasms and was not a viable choice.

The rate of blood loss from this animal was so profound that the blood pressure necessary to put a needle in a vein and disperse the drugs would have been zero. The vet did assure me that the horse was not cognizant or in pain.

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My family continues to have numerous horses, dogs, llamas, etc., and there are still times when I have had to walk away. Why didn’t you?

Related to the death were statements about the lack of a veterinarian and ambulance on site. I have been actively showing and volunteering at horse shows for 38 years and have never read an insurance policy (even for large rated shows with huge jumps incorporated with the competitions) where anything other than an EMT was required on site and a farrier and vet on call.

I took the liberty of looking at the programs for the last two shows I will be competing in this year and though nationally recognized, this is the case for both of them as well.

Why should a local show be held to a higher standard?

Alpine Horse and Rider shows were mentioned as the local example to which the Fair Board should look.

I have been a showing member of Alpine Horse and Rider since 1991 and assisted in the management and organization of many of the shows, and there has never been a veterinarian or ambulance in attendance there, either.

In response to the judging, our valley is fortunate enough to have a lot of competitors in hundreds of different sports, and I am sure the war stories regarding judging are too numerous to count. So it goes without saying that the reasons most of us participate is for the love of our animals, our sport and the personal fulfillment that doing our best arouses in our own hearts.

My horses did not place well either, but I still had a great time participating and enjoying a beautiful day in a wonderful town in the company of people who enjoyed their animals and much as I do mine.

I am sorry that Sharpe did not have as much fun, but I am certain that if she were to contact any Fair Board members, they would be happy to accept any help she would like to offer in a judge search for next year’s show if that would increase her happiness.

In closing, I am saddened that someone would sit back and write a letter without having made an effort or offer to contribute his or her time and energy.

Sharon Clever took on a truly daunting task to manage a large show that no one else offered to manage and I think she did a spectacular job. Hindsight is always 20/20 and so it is easy to sit back and wish that a few things had happened differently, but for the most part, there were a lot of kids (young and old) having a fun time with their horses. I hope that this is what participants and observers will remember.

Bethany Aurin

Steamboat Springs


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