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2 Horses Killed in SF Trail Race

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Albuquerque Journal

Thursday, September 13, 2007
By Kiera Hay
Journal Northern Bureau

SANTA FE- Tragedy struck the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race when two
horses were killed and their riders injured after being hit by a car Tuesday
near the day's finish line near Canton, Kan.
The stage's top two competitors- Theresa Wilcox of Chadwick, Mo., and
Sandy Olsen of Edmond, Okla.- completed Tuesday's 50-mile ride just before 2
p.m. but rode past the finish line, apparently still racing.
The pair "were neck-and-neck running" in the direction of a paved road
about a half-mile west of the finish line, McPherson County Undersheriff Jim
Johnston said Wednesday.
The women were unable to stop before an oncoming car plowed into their
horses, killing the animals instantly.
"They crossed the finish line and just continued racing. I don't know if
they got caught up in the whole thing or what," Johnston said.
Wilcox and Olsen were airlifted to Via Christi Regional Medical Center
in Wichita. Both were in fair condition Wednesday afternoon, according to a
hospital spokeswoman.
"Their injuries weren't life-threatening, but they had substantial
injuries to the pelvic area and legs," Johnston said.
The driver of the car, 73-year-old Goldie Becker of Canton, sustained
minor injuries and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, where she was
later released, The McPherson Sentinel reported.
The dead horses were taken to a pasture in McPherson County and buried,
Johnston said.
The Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race started Sept. 3 near Santa Fe and
ends Saturday outside Independence, Mo. It spans about 850 miles, roughly
following the Cimarron route of the Santa Fe Trail used by traders in the
1800s. About 500 miles are on horseback, with riders completing 10 stages of
50 miles per day. There are three idle days.
Attempts to reach race organizer Rob Phillips on Wednesday were
unsuccessful. Phillips told a Journal reporter Tuesday- about four hours
after the accident- that no major incidents had occurred during the race's
seven days of competition.
It's extremely rare for horses to perish during endurance rides, said
Mike Maul, president of the American Endurance Ride Conference, a national
governing body for long-distance riding that sanctioned the Santa Fe Trail
About 23,000 horses took part in AERC-sanctioned endurance ride
competitions last year, Maul said, and somewhere between six and 10 died,
which is average. Many perish from colic, he said, although accidents do
"It's very tragic and it's very sad that it (Tuesday's incident)
happened," Maul said.
Maul said it appeared as though riders Tuesday had adequate room to stop
their horses between crossing the finish line and reaching the paved road.
If Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race organizers demonstrate they are
producing a "safe race," the AERC will sanction the event in the future, he
Dennis Latta, director of the New Mexico Sports Authority, said that
agency- which is listed as a "partner" of the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse
Race on the event's Web site, along with the New Mexico Tourism Department-
would also evaluate the incident.

Indications are, however, that it "wasn't a matter of poor planning on
the organizers' part," Latta said.
"There were no real problems in New Mexico, and I don't think there
would (have been) in Kansas if they (Wilcox and Olsen) had stopped at the
finish line," he said.
Latta said the race, which received $10,000 in sponsorship money from
the Tourism Department, was "a great event for New Mexico" and that safety
appeared to be a top priority for organizers.
McPherson County Sheriff's Department officials consider the incident an
accident and have not pressed charges, Johnston said, adding that Becker was
on a "straight through" section of road and unable to avoid the animals.
Riders were told before the day's stage began that the road was just a
half-mile away from the finish line, Johnston added.


The man who organized this race is a crook. the fact that he didn't secure the proper clearances and the fact that nobody bothered to check is just horrific. It is a tragedy that two horses lost their lives and the riders we injured due to this man's horrible negligence is deplorable. I hope he faces charges and he is reveiled as the scam artist he truly is. Shame on him!!!
I would like to ask anyone that has heard about the tragic accident that took two amazing horses from us during the Great Santa Fe Trail Race to please be conscientious about what is truth. Since the tragic accident there have been many slanderous comments in the press. This was an accident, a terrible one that has left my mother in a state of distraught. The people that are responsible for these lies have not even attempted to speak to my mother. They have no compassion for the hurt she is suffering. To see this happening to my hero, the strongest person I know, is ripping my heart out. Mister Valentine was a beautiful, talented horse. He will forever be in our hearts. For the record, the finish line was moved and marked AFTER the accident. Common sense would tell you that these two riders did not intentionally cause this. It has been a hard journey. For the other woman involved, my heart goes out to you.
The "facts" are extremely distorted in this story. My mother, Goldie Becker, who is not 73 as it is reported here, was a victim as she was minding her own business as she drove home from work that day. The statements, that the riders were injured and horses killed "after being hit by a car" or "oncoming car plowed into their horses" is grounds for libel. The impact to my mother's car was on the side, not the front of the vehicle and the pictures clearly indicated that the riders/horses struck the car. She was very traumatized by the event. With all that said, I am sorry for all those impacted by this tragedy. However, I wanted to set the record straight.
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