Jousting in Germany

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Germany included an unexpected side trip to a medieval jousting festival. We discovered this event as it happened to be just a few kilometers from our hotel. It was a beautiful afternoon and we had a few hours free, so we decided to walk down to the festival. Coming up over the hill upon it, I was awed by the setting, as the medieval tent village was nestled in a small valley with a backdrop of a castle or “burg” dating from the Middle Ages.

Inside the village were throngs of people – from all classes . . . and centuries.

Photo by Daniel Dunbar

Even the kids got into the act.

In addition to the main event of jousting, the festival featured a Mittelaltermarket with many stands selling medieval fashion, food and trinkets.

At 99 euros, this dress would have been a great buy. After the festival, you can wear it to your year-end awards banquet.

Anyone thinking freestyle reining?

A falconery booth.

Candles for your next dinner party. Or, witching.

Speaking of dinner parties. . .

Actually, the food was amazing, albeit a little out of the ordinary. Caramels made the old-fashioned way, dried fruits and vegetables, spices, herbs, a fish market, fresh baked bread, complimented with mead (a wine made with honey dating back to the middle ages), and of course, the German standard, beer gardens.

Yes, it translates to flea market . . .

My daughter and her cousin carefully consider the jewelry stand, featuring many medieval pieces.

Of course, the main event was the jousting, and while the afternoon schedule featured more of a set of games on horseback, as opposed to riders jousting against each other A Knight’s Tale style, we still found it thrilling to watch.

In these games, individual jousters compete against each other at high speeds whilst performing skills such as knocking helmets off poles, piercing rings set in a row and slicing an apple on the throughway. I gathered these afternoon games were fashioned for amateur and novice riders and their horses. Similar to our horse sports they serve as an entry point whereby to hone skills, technique and gain experience in the arena, with the final destination the more ardent man to man (or, woman to woman!) jousting, which is typically scheduled as the showcase evening event.

Remarkably similar to modern day horse events, the deciding factor of success or failure often lies in the horse’s desire to perform at particularly crucial moments. Such as when one is scheduled to be galloping in full armor and glory down the arena.

It’s the crowd, it’s the noise, it’s that barbecued, yeewwh, pig at the other end of the arena . . . I’m just not going there.

Fine, I will do it, however, in protest, I’m keeping my eyes closed.

Just a personal observation, but on this day it appeared the frauleins held the upper hand.

Like any other horse show, we headed down to the “barns” to get our fix of barn smells and petting horses. Look, a medieval fly mask.

Eventually, we had to head back across the moat and return to our hotel, but we really loved our afternoon at the jousting, and securing our horse-fix so far from home. I didn’t realize what a vibrant sub-culture exists surrounding the Middle Ages and the sport of jousting.

Here’s a short video of the Kaltenberg, Germany jousting event which gives a huge insight into the intensity of the sport.

Jousting Tournament in Kaltenberg, Germany

Remembering Laurel

Do not shed tears when I have gone
but smile instead because I have lived.

You can remember me and grieve that I have gone
or you can cherish my memory and let it live on.

~ David Harkins

Photo courtesy James Hudyma

We lost our friend Laurel Wood on Sunday, April 18. Our greatest sympathies to Tim and family. Please join us in remembering Laurel – a horsewoman who lived with joy, passion and courage.

Photo courtesy of James Hudyma

Photo courtesy of James Hudyma

Photo courtesy of James Hudyma

Photo courtesy of Sandy Hansma

Photo courtesy James Hudyma

Photo courtesy James Hudyma

Vogue Western


Photo by Muriel Knowler.

Cowgirl poet, Doris Daley, Turner Valley, Alberta, in a traditional Sheridan-styled silverbelly hat and plaid western shirt.
Note: Recently announced on her website: a Daley Double at the 2009 Western Music Association Awards in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when Daley was awarded Best Female Cowgirl Poet and Best Cowboy Poetry CD. More at

And watch for our feature interview with Doris in the May issue of Western Horse Review.

Another “G” Word

Tonight at 6:00 p.m., I’ll be boarding a KLM flight to Munich, Germany, with my family. We’re headed for a family reunion somewhere in the Old Country, where we’ll connect up with my mom’s family and enjoy a cultural education decidedly unwestern.

So, while I’m logging off the blogging for a bit, I know Jenn and Barb will keep the posts popping. Depending on my level of jet-lag I’ll be back early or late the week of April 26 with more Screen Doors and Saddles news, winners of the Brand It contest and a brand new contest. For now, auf Wiedersehen!

The “G” Word


Amid the grime, grace and grandeur of country living, I missed a particular “g” word that’s raised it’s little head to haunt me. No, it isn’t gourmet. Not today.

I refer, of course, to gophers. Those pesky little rodents that make their appearance every spring in full furry fashion, causing havoc and burrowing holes just perfectly sized for a horse’s leg in our pastures and paddocks.

The same critters my eight-year-old still insists on calling “cute.”(What can I say, she was born in the city. . . we’re still coaxing it out of her. Apparently, it takes a community . . .)

Does anyone really know how to rid one’s land of gophers? I mean, short of gassing, drowning, poisoning or blowing up. Don’t misunderstand me, I can stand up to a rodent. I’ve proven myself more than capable of Carl the Greenskeeper moves and have been known to employ them. Against mice, that is. At the log house these are categorized not as simple pesky rodents, but vermin in the extreme.

But when it comes to gophers, I just can’t bring myself to those methods, and I have to admit, I still can’t shoot one. My neighbour does. Every spring on through summer, he’s driven his old grey gopher-hunting Dodge over and thinned out my herd. Just not this year. He must be on holidays. Or having an extended coffee break with our Hutterite neighbours. Meanwhile, the troops are multiplying. There was a group of them gathered at the end of my driveway the other day when my partner came by for a sales meeting. She AVOIDED them. (What can I say. She lives in the city. It takes a community . . .)

The truth is in all probability I would have avoided them as well. I know I shouldn’t be admitting that in this county. But I’m counting on the fact that my neighbors are out in the field, not sitting in front of their computers, enjoying a coffee with my blog. The news will take a while to reach them.

In the meantime, let’s hear your foolproof, or perhaps even foolhardy, methods of gopher control.

I leave you with the dialogue of one of my favorite Caddyshack scenes; it doesn’t involve gophers, but it’s a memorable scene in which Carl the-ultimate-gopher-getter does his own version of mentally tough visualization in his garage.

“This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere. Former greenskeeper and now about to become the Masters champion . . . He’s on his final hole. He’s about 455 yards away, he’s gonna hit about a 2 iron I think … IT’S IN THE HOLE!”

AQHA Data Reveals Breeding Trends


~ Heraclitus, early Greek philosopher

Photo by Cowgirl Creations

If you need to know where the modern western horse industry is headed, there is no more fitting marker, yardstick or demographic cruncher to give allegiance to than the American Quarter Horse Association. If you don’t believe me, take a moment and reflect upon the trends and changes that have come our way in the past 30 years. The influx of youth into the industry through the show circuits in the 70’s and 80s, the advent of baby boomers and their specific needs through the late 80s and into the next decade, followed by the surge of recreational riding in the 90’s, as that generation retired their show gear.

While the baby boomer generation drove most of these movements, the AQHA serviced those needs. Consider the AQHA Youth World Show, the Select Show and the association’s wildly popular Horseback Riding Program. The AQHA has nurtured every demographic trend which has found its way into the horse industry over the past four decades. It’s foreseen most of them.

Which is why, when the AQHA releases data, those of us who are invested in the western horse industry, tend to pay attention. At the 2010 AQHA Convention in Kissimee, Florida, the AQHA shared with its members, for the first time ever, stallion breeding numbers. That made me sit up. As I looked through the report, the data revealed some interesting trends to come.

Trent Taylor, AQHA treasurer and executive director of operations, noted the 30 years of registration data the AQHA reviewed showed a classic Economics 101 supply-demand curve.

Interpreting these trends also becomes somewhat of a history lesson, as Taylor pointed out that the supply-demand inclines and declines can be directly attributed to the repeal of the favorable equine tax law in the 1980s; oil prices that hit highs in 1981 and 2007, and lows in 1988, 1994 and 1998; stock market record highs from the late 199s to 2007; and the closing of horse slaughter plants in 2007.

“There are also other factors that affected the supply and demand of our horses,” Taylor added, “including implementation of the AQHA Incentive Fund and the Racing Challenge, alliances formed with other equine organizations, pari-mutuel wagering, and registration rule changes such as embryo transfers, the use of cooled and frozen semen, the registration of multiple embryo foals and the repeal of the white rule.”

Taylor also believes that the trends point out that members of the industry must uphold quality selective breeding standards.

“There are opportunities to the thoughtful breeder who can look to the future,” Taylor added. “We must accept the changing world we are all living in. And yes, we face many challenges as an industry, but there are also many opportunities for the organization and the individual that is willing to invest in a horse that has brought us to this point and will take us into the future.”

“This is the first time we have reported our stallion breeding numbers in this nature,” said AQHA Executive Vice President Don Treadway Jr. “Historically, we have reported registrations completed during the year. That includes weanlings to 4-year-olds. To gain a different perspective and look for trends, we looked at the number of registered foals by foaling year in hope of giving our members more information to make decisions.”

“Our purpose in doing this is to provide as much information as possible, in a timely manner, so our members can make knowledgeable breeding decisions based on accurate statistics,” Treadway added. “After reviewing these reports, breeders have the opportunity to analyze future markets for prospective foals with more information than they have previously had available.”

Here are some of the slides from the presentation:

In early 2008, when it was obvious that the United States economy was beginning to tank, business owners began taking a good, hard look at their numbers. AQHA was no different. The AQHA Executive Committee, along with the AQHA Investment Oversight Committee and members of the AQHA staff looked at past American Quarter Horse industry trends, hoping those examples would help them predict when the economy might start climbing back out of the hole it fell into.

In 2009, AQHA’s completed registrations for American Quarter Horses of any age totaled 112,005.

To view the entire Powerpoint presentation, go to

To view the 2009 AQHA Annual Report with more statistical data, visit You can also find the 2008 and 2007 Annual Reports at the link.

A Day at the Shoot

What I like most about photo shoots is the complete absence of responsibilities I have. For the most part, all I really need to do is show up and thank everyone for coming. Apparently I can keep this job for as long as I like.

This year, however, I decided to step out of my box and have my own photo shoot at our annual fashion shoot. For this project, I chose a highly technical and sophisticated camera. My iphone. The photos you see here are taken with a mod little iphone application called the Hipstamatic.

Yes, that really is the Lone Ranger. Well actually, not. It’s better than the Lone Ranger, it’s John Scott, head of John Scott Motion Picture Animal Productions, and on whose ranch we’ve been allowed to conduct this year’s fashion shoot.

This place represents dream territory for a photo shoot. Not only because the ranch is set in the Alberta foothills with a stunning – and on this day sparkling snow-capped – Rocky Mountain backdrop, but John Scott’s ranch has provided the real-life western landscape of many a Hollywood movie. In fact, John has been involved in three Academy award winning movies filmed in Alberta, including Days of Heaven, Legends of the Fall and Unforgiven. Many a scene has been shot right on the ground I’m standing on and the land is populated with some impressive sets such as the buildings above.

And this General Store.

I love the patina on this building. I’d like that on my barn. John, may I take this building home?

Photo shoots are a lot like horse shows. Hurry up and wait.

This leaves time for everyone to stop and smell the roses. Hey look, it’s a crocus, the first of the year.

This is Travis Rogers, our fantastically talented photographer. He’s looking out onto a herd of buffalo, where the next set of photos are to be taken. That slight appearance of concern might be traced directly back to John relating to him we could have had horses in this set, but two of the female buffalo are prone to charging.

Yes, I took this photo from inside the truck. I didn’t want to startle the herd, is all.

That’s model Sandy Hansma to the right. She was conducting her own photo shoot at the photo shoot as well. I think the gal on the left might have been a technical director and is quite likely wringing her hands and praying Sandy doesn’t forget herself and scuff up the outfit she’s wearing for the next shot.

And this is Command Central at the photo shoot. Hair and make-up. Six talented and lovely gals from MC College in Calgary came out to make the models look like a million bucks. Not that they didn’t already. Those gals did a fabulous job.

Thanks gals! Y’all come back next year!

Walking towards me is Donna Andersen, one of two leads on this shoot. Donna and Deanna Paulsen had most every detail organized, and each outfit meticulously co-ordinated. Running on time relaxes everyone, makes for a fun day and leaves room for little mishaps such as loading the entire photography crew in the wrong truck. Those darn white Fords all look alike, don’t they? I’m going to hold a contest later this week to see if you can guess who might have been behind that. Hint: she may be in the photo above.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into our fashion shoot day, and hope you’ll join us for the real deal – complete with fabulous photography, an array of real-life western riders stepping out as models, and stylish fashion and jewelry, all in the June issue of Western Horse Review.

Canada’s Cutting Olympics


Photo by Sandy Hansma

Amid the anticipation of tomorrow’s start to the Canadian Cutting Horse Association’s annual Finals, as well as the inaugural Northern Bloodstock Showcase and Sale – both at Olds, Alberta, we at the magazine are also feverishly finishing off the final details of our annual fashion photo shoot, scheduled this year at John Scott’s picturesque ranch – the scene of many movies over the years, from Little Big Man to Shanghai Noon to the modern The Virginian.

How I’m going to traverse from one to the other in the space of a Saturday, I haven’t quite determined, but I will be at both, and hope to offer you up some sneak peeks of the shoot sometime on Sunday.

Also, and in collaboration with our partners, Northern Bloodstock and Total Horse Marketing, we’ll be showing a live feed from the Finals beginning today.

Two valid reasons to stay tuned!

Vogue Western


Welcome to Vogue Western, a category I’ve decided to devote to the unique genre of clothing and accessories we call western. Throughout it I’m going to post photos of what I consider hits to the core and vitality of western wear – in all it’s tradition, cosmopolitanism, luxury, polish, hipness and flair. Since my travels can take me anywhere from a 4-H club show in rural Alberta to the culture-shock of an Arabian Show in Scottsdale, I figure I’m in a great position to amass an interesting cross section of all that is western to entertain and inspire your own sense of fashionableness.

For our opener, I chose this shot of a vaquero-styled ranch hand at a clinic I attended a year or so ago, because he, quite likely unbeknownst to himself dominated the film of most of the media’s cameramen and women that day. Yes, it was the blue shirt, the sky blue shirt – ageless in style, modern in adaption. It was a bleak Canadian wintery day, a dark arena, a conservative crowd, and he chose this to wear.

Our cameras loved him.