Back to School

Photo by Rockin A Photography. Outfit from Cody & Sioux.

Whether you’re preparing to send the kids back to school, or headed to back to work, or simply looking to update your wardrobe with the latest fall fashions, we have some ideas for you!

Photo by Rockin A Photography. Outfit from Cody & Sioux.
Photo by Rockin A Photography. Outfit from Cody & Sioux.

Starting out with our list of favorites is an outfit from Cody & Sioux in Calgary, AB. Here, the model is wearing a mid-length navy Tasha Polizzi skirt ($99.95), copper concho belt ($89.95), Shotgun Willie tee ($59.95), Wild leather jacket ($324.95), bone and pearl necklace ($225.95), and her own Doc Marten’s boots.

Photo by Rockin A Photograpy. Outfit from Cody & Sioux.

Next are the Kimes Ranchwear Sarah jeans ($199.95), a Tasha Polizzi Josie shirt ($174.95), Double D Ranchwear Consuela belt ($199.95) and the model’s own vintage Old Gringo boots.

Photo by Rockin A Photograpy. Outfit from Cody & Sioux.

Lastly, we have some Kimes Ranch high-rise Jennifer jeans ($179.95), Leave the Road tee ($54.95), Lack of Colors Sierra Hat ($144.95), Old Gringo boots ($425.00), and a vintage suede Scully jacket.

Photo by Tara McKenzie Fotos. Outfit from Classic Rodeo.

Then we take you to Classic Rodeo in DeWinton, AB. Featured above is a Tasha Polizzi denim, long sleeve shirt ($259), long turquoise necklace (inquire within), Genuine Handcrafted Sterling Earrings ($350) and turquoise ring. Tooled turquoise Juan Antonio purse – $705. Boots are model’s own.

Photo by Tara McKenzie Fotos. Outfit from Classic Rodeo.

Fall is the perfect time for cozy blankets! This one is by Tasha Polizzi. Hat by Charley 1 Horse.

Photo by Tara McKenzie Fotos. Outfit from Classic Rodeo.

Above is a Double D Ranch jacket with soutache embroidery ($675), and Navajo string pearls from Classic Rodeo. Hat is a custom-built Smithbilt.

Photo by BAR XP PHOTO.

Next, we take you to Lammle’s Western Wear, with styles for the whole family! Above is a Girl’s Panhandle shirt with Aztec print and jeans by Grace with jeweled feathers on the pockets.

Photo by BAR XP PHOTO.

Above is Lammle’s own oilskin vest, perfect for the chillier temperatures of fall.

Photo by BAR XP PHOTO.

Rock & Roll Cowgirl Women’s Southwest Print Vest ($39.95), jeans and white tee are model’s own.

Photo by BAR XP PHOTO.

And the Pandhandle Ladies shirt snap dress, Rough Stock For Her. Featuring a tie front, stretch fabric and western yoke, this versatile piece can be worn alone as a dress or open as a duster. Hat from Smithbilt.

We wish everybody a successful September!

KEEPING IT 100

Charles McKay believes it’s important to continue evolving the conversation around inclusivity in barrel racing as a professional sport. Sheila Armstrong Photography.

This model slash influencer, slash broker and barrel racer has an impressive list of credentials on his resume. His positive attitude and continued conversation around inclusivity in barrel racing makes him a game-changer for the ages.

By Aleesha Harris

Charles McKay of Vancouver, BC, recalls with a laugh, the transaction that garnered him his first horse. 

“My mom traded our neighbour up the street a case of beer for this 26-year-old, half-dead horse that they had,” McKay says. “Her name was Shelly.”

Introduced to horses by his aunt and uncle, Sandy Douglas, an avid barrel racer and her husband, Lincoln Douglas, a professional chuckwagon racer, McKay and his sister Megan fell in love with horseback riding. Eventually they tagged along with their aunt and uncle to ride at the variety of events throughout British Columbia they hauled to.
 
“We travelled to all the Little Britches rodeos and my aunt and uncle took us all over BC, wherever my uncle was competing at the time with the chuckwagons” McKay recalls of his introduction to rodeo and gymkhana events. Noting the siblings’ horse hobby wasn’t likely to lessen any time soon, the horses were moved from the Douglas’ farm to the McKay family home in Chilliwack, BC, so the kids could focus even more on their horsemanship. 

“It kind of just took off from there,” McKay says of his involvement in the horse industry. “I’ve never really looked back since.”

McKay got Shelly when he was in the third grade. He’s 33 now. Safe to say, his horsepower has evolved from that first, senior-aged mare, though. 

“Quite a bit,” McKay confirms with a laugh.

Like many young riders, McKay’s evolution in horsepower was a gradual one. From that bought-for-a-beer sorrel Appaloosa mare, he was given an old Arabian show horse by long-time Chilliwack horse trainer and family friend, Tom Berry. 

“He was super broke,” McKay recalls of the gelding. “And I ended up training that horse for all the gymkhana events. I won all the year-end high points and whatever there was to win in the Chilliwack Riding Club.”

It was at that point that McKay says “the bug for barrel racing” was firmly seeded. When McKay’s sister Megan briefly stepped away from riding, McKay began riding a horse that she had named CJ. 

“I jumped on CJ and started competing,” McKay says.” I won a saddle and buckles and everything on him. He took me pretty far. I went to the BRN4D Finals on him. And that’s kind of how it all evolved for me.”

While the speed and level of competition in the sport of barrel racing, which sees a horse and rider run a pattern around three barrels set up in a cloverleaf pattern, is enticing, McKay says he’s always been more drawn to the development of young horses — and the incommunicable bond that comes with. 

“I love training horses and I love bringing a young horse along and seeing them progress,” McKay says. “And seeing what they’re learning and how far they come in the time that you work with them. Becoming a team with your horse, that’s really what I’ve always loved.” 

Being a man in barrel racing, McKay admits he feels there’s a “bit of a stigma” that lingers around male competitors in the sport.  

“I think it stems from the rodeo world, where only women are allowed to compete at the professional level and go to the National Finals Rodeo (NFR),” McKay says. “When you’re a fan and you’re watching rodeo, whether it’s the National Finals Rodeo or the Calgary Stampede, it’s referred to as Ladies Barrel Racing.”

That designation has to do with the fact that barrel racing in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) events is run by the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA). Riders competing in PRCA barrel racing events must also be a WPRA membership permit holder.

While McKay acknowledges the significance of the history and triumphs of the WPRA, which began in 1948 as the Girl’s Rodeo Association before becoming the WPRA in 1981, he says it’s important to continue evolving the conversation around inclusivity in barrel racing as a professional sport. 

“I understand why it has been preserved that way,” McKay says. “But I feel like some of the best barrel racers in the world are, in fact, men. There are many male barrel racers. Lance Graves, Troy Crumrine and Brandon Cullins, they’ve won millions of dollars in futurities and derbies barrel racing.  

“I think that men should be given a shot to compete at the highest level of barrel racing.”

The topic, of course, isn’t new. In fact, in a 1989 lawsuit, Graves v. Women’s Professional Rodeo Ass’n, Inc., barrel racer Lance Graves challenged the inclusivity standards of the WPRA, stating the rules “discriminated against him by reason of his sex.” He lost the case.

Men are allowed to compete in the various association open 4D races, slot races, futurities and derbies. Some barrel racing associations have also amended the membership eligibility criteria in order to embrace all riders. McKay points to Valley Girls Barrel Racing Association in the U.S. as an example of a group within the sport that has “evolved” beyond gender restrictions, allowing everyone to compete. The well-known The American rodeo holds qualifiers throughout North America, which are also open to both men and women. 

“Many men have qualified and made it to the final round. No man has won it yet,” McKay says of the competition. “But I think it has been received really well, having men compete in that. So, I don’t know why it should be any different for the rest of the pro rodeos.”

The seasoned barrel racer also points to the apparent double standard in professional rodeo, which sees women allowed to compete alongside men in roughstock and roping events at PRCA rodeos, pointing to Chilliwack saddle bronc rider Kaila Mussell as a prime example. 

“Men are competing alongside women at the professional level in almost every other equestrian event, so why not the barrel racing?” McKay says. “Let’s not limit the sport to just one gender. Let’s have inclusivity for everyone.”

McKay at work in his other profession, modelling. CREDIT: Mark Stout.

Being one of the only male barrel racers in his area, McKay says people often look to him as a kind of “influencer” in the sport. His presence on social media platforms including Instagram (he goes by the handle @_cowboyken), where he shares many images running the barrel pattern, also undoubtedly helps with that. 

“I want to be able to use my voice for good,” McKay says. “And I really want to see this sport grow and evolve.”

On his social media channels, McKay also offers a glimpse into his other resumé-padding project: modelling. 

“With any of the modelling stuff too, you never know who is looking,” McKay says of the fashionable photography on his feeds. “I’m always on the lookout for different work with that, too.”

McKay started modelling in 2016, after a breakup saw him step away from horses in order to leave the Fraser Valley in an attempt to start fresh in Vancouver. 

“Being single and young and having these horses, I kept finding myself looking for more and wanting to make more friends. I was at a bit of a crossroads where I loved the horses so much, but I wanted to travel and do other things,” McKay recalls. 

Not long after that transition was made, McKay packed up and moved to Australia, where he lived for about a year. Upon his return to BC, McKay moved back to downtown Vancouver, taking over as a manager at Joey Restaurants. Through the company, he was transferred to Los Angeles. And that’s where he was living before the pandemic hit. 

“I was on a five-year work visa. I would have probably stayed on that career path with the company, because we were so rapidly growing,” McKay says. “But, once the pandemic hit, it changed the course of my life and I realized how much I missed having horses.”

McKay moved back to Canada and bought a few young horses. While his travels and career had taken him away from horses physically, McKay had maintained a connection within the industry through his business Horse Brokers International (www.facebook.com/Horsebrokersint), which sees him curate a virtual sale feed of barrel racing horses for buyers throughout North America. 

“I had a friend of mine who had this really nice horse that she just couldn’t seem to click with. She said, why don’t you just take him and ride him and see how he is?” McKays says of his first foray into brokering. “So, I brought him to my barn in Langley at the time and started riding him and he was awesome.”

He helped his friend sell the horse by posting him on his personal Facebook page. The horse sold within an hour. Seeing how quickly the horse sold, another friend approached McKay to help sell her horse. It also sold in the same day. 

“I love training horses and I love bringing a young horse along and seeing them progress. And seeing what they’re learning and how far they come in the time that you work with them. Becoming a team with your horse – that’s really what I’ve always loved.” – Charles McKay. Sheila Armstrong Photography

“It kind of just snowballed from there. I just happened to have a lot of great connections on my Facebook through friends and I ended up selling a whole bunch of horses,” McKay recalls. “Before long, I was busy full-time selling horses.”
 
He focuses on offering performance prospects or proven competition horse that he can personally vouch for. 

“I want to be known for representing quality animals,” McKay says. “That’s my primary focus.”

McKay also recently purchased a stallion prospect out of Texas to add to his growing program.  

“He’s by Epic Leader, out of a daughter of Darkelly that sired Paige (CP Dark Moon), the horse of Amber Moore’s that she went to the NFR multiple times on,” McKay says of the horse, named Epic Ruler, that he purchased from barrel futurity trainer Kassie Mowry. “The bloodlines are amazing on this stallion. And I’m really excited to have him in Canada.”

This new direction of his horse business, will soon see ‘breeder’ added to his already unique resume. 

“I guess I’m a model, a horse broker, a barrel racer, and an influencer in the horse world, as well,” McKay summarizes with a laugh. “I’m all of the above.”

Fireside Trout

This beautiful trout recipe is so easy to cook and a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors. Photo by Twisted Tree Photography

By Chef Mike Edgar

This Rainbow Trout dish is best enjoyed next to the fire with your favourite people and a setting sun. Fireside Trout Pouches go amazingly well with Fennel Roast Baby Potatoes and Bannock on a Stick. Make these recipes over the campfire on your next trail ride and it’s a trip no one will forget!

Trout Pouches
 
INGREDIENTS:
6 Whole, Deboned Rainbow Trout (Roughly, two pounds each)
1 Package Fresh Cherry Tomatoes
250 Grams Whole Olives
1/2 Pound Sliced Butter
4 Lemons Sliced
Fresh Basil
Fresh Parsley
Salt 
Pepper
6 Large Sheets Tinfoil
18 Slices Sliced Pancetta
2 Bulbs Fresh Fennel
2 Pounds Baby Potatoes
24 Fresh Clams
 
Pancetta Method:
In a cast iron, pan fry the pancetta until crispy. Set aside for garnish.

These roasted fennel baby potatoes are a delicious and hearty side-dish, cooked easily over a grill. Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

Fennel Roast Baby Potatoes Method:
Cut potatoes in half and boil in water for five minutes to soften them up. Remove from water and set aside. Slice your fennel as thin as you can and sauté over medium heat in butter or oil in a cast iron pan. When the fennel starts to caramelize, add the potatoes and another tablespoon of butter or oil, cover and continue to cook. Stir often until potatoes are nicely roasted and fennel is sweet and crunchy – approximately 20 minutes. Wrap in a tinfoil pouch and set aside to reheat.
 
Trout Method:
To begin, cut your sheets of tinfoil to make your pouches. Place lemon slices and fresh torn herbs down first. Season the trout inside and out with salt and pepper, stuff with some herbs and some lemon slices. Place two to three slices of butter over the trout. Add four tomatoes, four olives and four clams.

Fold the tinfoil around everything to make a sealed pouch. Ensure there are no leaks and is everything is sealed, (you can always wrap a second tinfoil sheet around if need be.) Place your pouches either next to the fire as close to the heat as possible, or over the fire on a grill. Depending on the heat of your fire, the trout should take no more than 20 minutes to cook. Flip the pouches every five minutes. Make sure you put your pouch of fennel potatoes on the fire as well to heat up again!
 
Open your pouches. If you feel that your fish needs more time, just wrap it back up and put back on the heat. Discard any clams that have not opened. Top your trout with chopped parsley and basil, the crispy pancetta and a drizzle of olive oil. Place your potatoes around the trout and dig in.

Bannock on a stick is a great recipe to enjoy with kids! Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

Bannock on a Stick
 
INGREDIENTS:
1 Cup Flour
1 Tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 Tsp. Salt
2 Tbsp. Powdered Milk
1 Tbsp. Melted Butter
 
Once you have combined all the above ingredients and created your dough, take the dough and role into a long thin shape. Start wrapping the dough around a carefully chosen stick, (an ideal stick is one that would work for cooking hot dogs or marshmallows over a fire.) As you wrap, spiral the dough down down the stick and compress and spread it, so the dough is half-an-inch thick.
 
The inside of the dough needs to cook before the outside over-cooks. Therefore, you need to find the perfect distance from the fire. The best way to do this is to find a spot where you can hold your hand over the fire for 15 to 20 seconds.
 
Once you have found the perfect cooking spot, hold the bannock in place, rotating so all sides cook evenly. This should take 10 minutes. The dough should easily come off the stick when cooked. If it sticks, the dough is not cooked.
 
Serve with warm butter and jam of your choice.

Wojabi
 
Wojabi is an American Indian Berry sauce. You can use any mix of berries you like. For this recipe, w used Saskatoon berries and blueberries.
 
2 1/2 Cups of each Berry
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Honey
 
After washing your fruit, place all ingredients into a pot and mash with a fork or potato masher. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stir and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for an hour stirring occasionally so nothing burns. Let cool and enjoy! 

For some expert trail riding advice, check WHR’s recent article here. Photo by Monique Noble.

Mental Wellness Pt. II

When you have horses, a lot goes into it – it’s not just about riding. Caring for a horse can add to a person’s productivity. Photo by Wildrose Imagery.

This blog is a continuation from our Embracing Mental Health blog. If you’re struggling with mental health, you’re not alone. The pressures added to society due to Covid-19 are two-fold. Here, we get some meaningful advice from Psychologist Vanessa Goodchild, for navigating the world we currently live in.

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Depression looks different in every person. Sadly, many men who suffer from anxiety or depression don’t always get noticed.

“Society expects females to cry and share our emotions. Yet still in today’s day and age, society expects men not to share feelings of sadness or overwhelm, etc. Therefore, many men kind of withdraw and bottle up their emotions – they feel like it’s a sign of weakness or they are a failure if they show emotion,” Goodchild states.

She goes on to say that sometimes men don’t even realize depression is a “thing” because there is so much dishonour in society surrounding it.

“We need to slowly reduce that stigma,” she says. “With men , depression or anxiety can show up as aggression or irritability. It’s like an iceberg – on the surface there’s just a little piece popping up out of ocean. This is what we all see – the aggression or irritability. But underneath the water is a larger piece of the iceberg. Underneath there is sadness, guilt, blame, self-doubt, loss and grieving, hopelessness and from my experience in speaking with many male clients, it stems from the belief that they are not good enough and they feel like a failure…”

The psychologist says the reason this happens so often is because of the expectations many men put on themselves.

“They want to be the rock of the family and when challenges or stressors arise , they bring sadness and fear, but also, shame. Men may feel like they are letting down their family. They don’t think they can open up to anyone. It’s not expected in our culture. The pain gets heavier and heavier, until they can’t deal with it anymore,” she explains.

For men, depression or anxiety can be silent and harder to recognize – therefore making it more difficult for them to reach out for support. And according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), “…among Canadians of all ages, four of every five suicides are male.” As such, the CMHA are calling it “a silent crisis.”

“Men are more likely to commit suicide, compared to women,” explains Goodchild. “Women will attempt it but often fail. It’s not a sign of weakness or failure, it’s an actual illness. And it’s not something we can deal with a quick fix. People with suicidal thoughts cannot just ‘Get Over It.’ Even medication can’t just fix it – but there are tools to help people struggling,” the psychologist states.

If you’re someone already strained by a mental health issue, the stressors of 2020 have done little to calm the stormy seas of uncertainty. In fact, the year has exposed many more troubling mental health vulnerabilities. On June 25, 2020, the CMHA put out a press release that stated, “The pandemic has caused intense stress and disruption for all people in Canada, and is causing pronounced mental health concerns, including suicidal thoughts and feelings, in various subgroups of the population, including parents, those with existing mental illness or mental health issues, Indigenous people and those with a disability or who identify as LGBTQ+.”

Goodchild echoes this sentiment. “With Covid, many people with mental health issues have had their coping mechanisms taken away from them. Things like going for coffee, getting away, going on vacation, etc. I’m seeing a lot more anxiety and depression these days.”

“If you don’t feel there’s someone out there you can really open up and talk to, consider seeing a psychologist,” advises Goodchild.

“We’re trained specifically to treat mental illness. We know the research and we’re a compassionate ear. We can walk alongside people as they heal and become better versions of themselves.”

If you are someone who may need to reach out for help, consider this: the more people who come forward and find support, the more the stigma will be erased.

“It’s unfortunate there’s so much stigma associated with ‘mental illness,’ says Goodchild. “Because with an illness, it might be something you can fix! There’s hope. Mental illness might just be a condition where a lot of stressors / difficulties have come up and it’s way too much for one person on their own. It’s more common than we think – but it is treatable. You can learn how to overcome it. We can show you tools and strategies to use, to help you get back to where you were or want to be.”

WHAT CAN BE DONE
If you notice someone close to you may need support, the first step is to check in on them or call them . Don’t pity them, Goodchild advises.

“Reach out to them because it’s harder for them to reach out to you. Show them you care. Find out if they need to talk. If they do feel they can open up to you, listen! Listen without the intent to respond right away and just be there, with them and for them.”

Goodchild says that often it’s human nature to want to solve the other person’s problems and try to fix it for them, but that doesn’t always help.

“They just might need to know that someone cares about them and they can benefit from a little distraction for the time being. Humour might be good. A kind, caring mindset is good. Be compassionate but not belittling to that person.Ask them, ‘What can I do for you?’ Whether it’s cooking a meal, recommending a funny movie, or just somehow maintaining that connection between you – it can all help,” says the psychologist.

Depression and anxiety can happen when a person becomes so numb, so detached, that they don’t know what to do. In some cases it might be helpful to book that person a therapy appointment.

“Help them look up a psychologist in the area,” Goodchild suggests. “But help them confidentially. Learn about depression! Some people think it’s not even a thing – they think a depressed person should be able to snap out of it, but that doesn’t work.”

She says that it’s frequently helpful to learn what depression and anxiety are, what the signs and symptoms are and recognize if someone close to you is showing those behaviours.

“If that’s case, then you may have to impede a little more – if it means saving their life. Looking up signs of suicidal behaviour in people may be good knowledge too. Things like sending a text out of the blue, a goodbye call or letter, or tying up loose ends.

And know that sometimes we don’t see the signs either…” she stresses.

Above all, try not to “fix” that person. Avoid certain statements that are blaming and shaming. Think before you speak and always ask yourself, “Will this be helpful?” before you say something to someone who is in genuine pain.

“For example, don’t say things like, ‘Everyone gets sad sometimes…’ You don’t want to minimize the situation, nor criticize it either.”

Instead, Goodchild recommends saying things like, “You haven’t seemed like yourself lately.”

“Show them gently that you see them and hear them, but you’re still not blaming nor criticizing them.”

She says there can a heavy burden for caregivers living with someone with mental illness or depression. If they really rely on you, you have to ensure you set yourself up with emotional boundaries.

“It can affect the caregiver greatly too,” Goodchild explains. “Our nervous systems do tie up with the people around us. Therefore, we must be in check with ourselves too. Honour our own needs. We have to make sure we’re still exercising and seeking support. Because otherwise, this can lead to burnout.”

As stated, support can be extremely helpful and can be found in numerous, different ways. Especially in big cities. However, rural people may need to look at more online outlets. Sometimes there are helpful tools online, things like support groups for people with chronic pain. Psychologists are an essential service, so rural people can still find ways to do video conferences or telephone calls for help, if distance is a factor.

“And if you are dealing with abuse or there are people in your house that you don’t want to hear your conversation with a psychologist, go for a walk while doing a phone session or sit in your car for more privacy,” Goodchild states.

Remember, there are always ways around perceived hurdles. Suicide help lines or distress centres are available in every region, with 24/7 help. Or a person can call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.

Holistic health measures may be beneficial for finding balance. It’s also important to keep a check on our emotional health. These days we all need to ask ourselves – are we taking on too much? If so, what can be done to prioritize? How are we coping? Can we provide ourself some comfort? Do we do that by reading a book? Or by going horseback riding?

If you need help, speaking with a physiologist can be valuable. However, it’s also important to do the things you love to do. Try a new recipe or paint. Get outside, movement is huge! Listen to music. Watch a funny TV show. Have a bubble bath. Garden. Pet some horses. Take care of yourself.

Johnny Cakes


These old fashioned pancakes are best served stacked high and with sides of Saskatoon blueberry compote or vanilla whipped cream. Sunday morning breakfast will never be the same again.

By MIKE EDGAR, Photos by TWISTED TREE PHOTOGRAPHY

Ingredients
• 1 Cup Flour
• 1 Cup Cornmeal
• 2 Eggs
• 2 1/2 Tsp. Baking Powder
• 2 Tbsp. Sugar
• 1 Tsp. Salt
• 3/4 Cup Buttermilk
• 1/2 Cup Water
• 1/3 Cup Melted Butter
• 1 Tsp. Vanilla
• 1/2 Tsp. Nutmeg
• Butter or Oil for frying.

METHOD
1. In a large bowl, mix your dry ingredients; cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt.
2. Mix the wet ingredients.
3. In the center of your dry ingredients, make a well and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until combined and smooth.

4. Heat a lightly oiled cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Scoop about two tablespoons each of the batter onto the skillet.
5. Fry each Johnny Cake until brown and crisp; turn with a spatula, and then brown the other side.
6. Plate and serve immediately with syrup and/or butter.

SASKATOON / BLUEBERRY COMPOTE

Ingredients
1/2 lb. Blueberries
1/2 lb. Saskatoon Berries
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar

Place all ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until it has reduced by half. Let cool and serve.

VANILLA WHIPPED CREAM

Ingredients
1 Cup 35% Cream
2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 Vanilla Bean, Scraped.
1/4 Cup Sugar

Scrape the inside of the vanilla bean with a knife and add to your stand-up mixer bowl with all the other ingredients. Whip until you reach stiff peaks. Serve.

Embracing Mental Wellness

With so much loss associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s easy to understand why a significant number of mental health issues started rearing their ugly heads in 2020. The good news is, horses are a healthy coping mechanism for dealing with it all. In this two-part blog, we get some meaningful advice from Psychologist Vanessa Goodchild, for navigating the world we currently live in.

BY JENN WEBSTER

Photo by BAR XP PHOTO – Hopelessness is a main symptom of depression. It’s hard to overcome. A step towards curing it is to try and reach for a feeling or curiosity of what your life could have in store for you, if you keep going forward.

The western lifestyle ideal is sometimes at odds with the concept of mental wellness. While the notion of the tough, cowboy-type is romantic, it doesn’t always bode well with modern society’s embrace of safe spaces and open-mindedness. The year 2020 was filled with so much uncertainty and when you pile that on top of pre-existing problems, it has been very difficult for some to get back on the horse, so to speak.

Even with our beautiful landscapes and spacious country abodes, rural people are not exempt from anxiety nor depression. In fact, some research suggests the prevalence of depression is slightly higher in residents of rural areas compared to that of urban locales. Adverse weather conditions, lengthy distances from support or medical attention and long-term stress can all play a role. Add that to the social distancing measures, fear and the financial strain of 2020 and there’s a lot of turmoil with which to deal. As such, we’ve enlisted the help of Vanessa Goodchild, a Registered Psychologist and the owner of Solace Psychology in Edmonton, AB. Goodchild is very aware of the nature of the inverted world we are currently living in and the strain that has caused many people.

“Any change can be stressful but with Covid-19, we’re dealing with a whole other layer of stress no one has really had to navigate before,” says Goodchild. “Stress can tie in with depression. And our stress can result from our own responses to challenging situations – not necessarily from the situation itself. So it all depends on how we perceive our ability to handle hardship or challenging situations. Our perception is the biggest thing. We all have stress right now, but it’s our perception of it that can breed hopelessness and fear about the situation.”

The good news is, it’s scientifically proven that horses (as do many pets) help release oxytocin in humans, a hormone responsible for easing stress. That’s why even just the simple act of petting a horse may make you feel happy or more secure in the world. Therefore, it begs the question – are horse people at an advantage when it comes to feeling happier? Could this be the reason many people have seemingly “clung” to their horses, as opposed to letting them go? While we understand everyone’s circumstances are different and horse people can struggle with anxiety and depression just like the rest of society, we do know there are many benefits to being part of the “horse world” that may be more important than ever.

With Goodchild’s help, we offer some tips for easing the distress of this year, finding balance or even simply reaching out to others who may be struggling.

HOW REAL IT IS

“One in five Canadians will suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime,” says Goodchild.

“With depression there is certainly a biological component to it. You have a higher chance of getting depression or anxiety if your parents faced it,” the psychologist explains.

“Then there’s a psychological component: finances, debt, isolation (before isolation was required) – many of the things farmers or rural people are already dealing with. The more stressors you have and the less able you are to cope with them, plus less social connectivity, equals more chance of depression or anxiety.”

Goodchild also explains that brain chemistry and our environment can play another role in contributing to depression and anxiety.

“When we do the things that we love to do, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin are released. These are what we call ‘happy hormones,’” Goodchild states.

“People with depression have reduced levels of these hormones / neurotransmitters. Research shows that coping with depression means to have a mix of therapy, medication and exercise! Any kind of movement releases dopamine and serotonin. We get an endorphin rush from it, we feel productive and accomplished. And it helps with fatigue and motivation,” she says.

Conversely, we feel less motivated and more fatigued with depression. This is why our hobbies and doing things we love to do is so important.

“If a person is struggling with anxiety or depression, they need a healthy way to cope. It’s unfortunate that depression is so common among Canadians and what’s worse is how often it gets overlooked. So I always ask my clients about their coping strategies. How do they unwind? How do they deal with stress? How do they engage in the things they love to do?

Photo by Tara McKenzie Fotos

“Getting sunshine, being active, connecting with horses and animals – those things can be really healing,” Goodchild says.

“Additionally, horses can tune into your nervous system. When you’re riding, a horse can sense your energy and tell if you’re nervous or relaxed. Horses can attune into your emotional well-being,” the psychologist explains.

The process of owning or caring for a horse also requires much responsibility. When you have horses, a lot goes into it – it’s not just about riding. Goodchild explains that caring for a horse can add to a person’s productivity.

“It requires a person to care for and nurture their horse, to show love and gratitude. It gets you out of your house and out of your work mindset. Plus for many, riding is an escape and a stress-relieving activity.”

Horses may also be a means of socialization, if you board at an outside stable or barn. Of course with lockdown restrictions in place to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19, many barns were forced to shut their doors to anyone who was not an essential caretaker of the property early in 2020. For anyone dependent on their time at the barn for exercise and as a way to relieve stress, this in itself could be very detrimental to a person’s well-being.

While it is possible to properly social distance during riding, immune-comprised or high risk individuals may choose not to partake in public barn activities at this time. That’s why it’s important to get creative about your riding activities, either by exercising at home or staying in contact with your fellow equestrians through FaceTime or phone calls. Or by trying to maintain connection in other ways. Some barns have even offered FaceTime calls for owners, with their horses – to help ease the uncertainty about an animal’s care and current health status. Worrying about a horse you own or care for, while trying to uphold social distancing measures is just another source of stress.

“Just because we’re social distancing and isolating doesn’t mean we totally have to disconnect from everything and everyone we love,” says Goodchild.

New Years 2021

By JENN WEBSTER, PHOTOS BY TWISTED TREE PHOTOGRAPHY

What are you doing for New Year’s Eve? I can tell you – my family has been waiting for this day all year long… That’s not to say we expect 2021 to morph us immediately into an easier time, but we do have hope for the upcoming year. And that’s something.

Today, we’re also hoping to do a little of this:

Or maybe even this with the kids:

Like many other folks we’ll be staying home – obviously due to the pandemic – but especially because we have animals to tend to in the morning. (We’re also looking forward to Eggs Benedict for breakfast!)

However, that doesn’t mean we plan to have a boring night.

Supper will likely be take-out from our favorite restaurant. And who knows? Maybe we’ll even eat in the barn.

The kids will have special “mocktails,” which is essentially Ginger-Ale poured over Gummy Bears:

We’ve made our own holiday crackers to celebrate the changing of the annual. Stuffed with little treats inside, the kids love these things. (And as they are made from toilet paper rolls, I’m not sure there’s anything more perfectly reminiscent of 2020 than these babies…)

We’re going to make the most of it.

Once all the animals are all tucked safely into the barn for the night, we have fireworks to light up in the back pasture.

After that, if we can still handle the cold, it might be time for a fire and some roasted marshmallows.

It might not be as exciting as an exotic beach New Year’s Eve getaway, or even that of the ambience in a fancy restaurant – but it works for us.

From my family to yours – we wish you all a Happy New Year!

Goat kids provided by Callie’s Classy Critters. Photos shot on location at Hartell Homestead. Belgians owned by The Stampede Ranch.

Making the Most of Everything

Photo by BAR XP PHOTO

The following is an excerpt from my current Publisher’s Note in Western Horse Review. Considering the new restrictions / changes / happenings of the past week, I’ve needed to re-look at my own writing. My own history. I needed this reminder.

Perhaps many of you will find it helpful too…

I was 4-years-old when my sister, mother and I made these decorations together.

Growing up as the young child of a single mother, I remember a couple of tough Christmases. Money was tight, stress was high and my mother secretly worried about how she was going to pay rent. I imagine it’s not much different to what many of us are facing this year in the first ever, Covid-Christmas.

Back then, she was so worried about the normal essentials. Not to mention how she would create a joyful holiday occasion for my sister and I. Of course, we were oblivious to her concerns, as we carried along in the blissful day-to-day of toddlers.

What I remember of those trying times were hand-baking ornaments out of dough, because we had no decorations for the tiny tree my mom managed to scrape together a few dollars for. None of them had any colour – they were all brown from varnish and we baked paper clips in the tops of each, so we could string green wool through the tops to hang them. I was so proud, in particular, of the hand-rolled candy canes I made. As a four-year-old, some of the more intricate designs were better suited for Mom.

To date, my mother still decorates her tree with some of those decorations. They didn’t cost a penny and they maintain the same brown color. Yet, they withstood the test of time. And after all these years, they serve as reminders of one of the most important lessons of my life.

Make the most of it.

After all this time, I worry that my mother still frets about those Christmases. There were few material gifts for us under the tree but the truth is, she gave us something much more precious. Much more important. At four-years-old, I learned how to use what I had. How to make the most of it. And it turned out okay.

That lesson has proven invaluable this year. In 2020, “making the most of it” has become my mantra. I only hope I can pass it on to my children as well as my mother did for us.

Whatever the Christmas season looks like for you this year – I wish you all the very best. Make the most of it.

Photo by BAR XP PHOTO

Boerderij Cheese Fondue

A ranch version of a Swiss classic.


By MIKE EDGAR, PHOTOS BY TWISTED TREE PHOTOGRAPHY


Celebrate the season with a big, beautiful platter of cheese, charcuterie, bread and seasonal fruits. This gooey indulgence is a festive family tradition in many households, but is a delicious treat at any time. Serve it around a holiday table and make an entire evening of memories from it.

INGREDIENTS
½ Pound Cave Aged Gruyere Cheese
½ Pound Raclette Cheese
2 Tbsp. Cornstarch
1 Garlic Clove peeled
1 Cup Dry White Wine
1 Tbsp. Lemon
2 Tbsp. Brandy
½ Tsp. Dry Mustard
Pinch of Nutmeg
Assorted breads and cured meats for dipping.


 METHOD

  1. In a small bowl, coat the cheeses with cornstarch and set aside. Rub the inside of a ceramic fondue pot with garlic, then discard.
  2. Over medium heat add the wine and lemon juice to the fondue pot and bring to a gentle simmer. Gradually stir the cheese into the simmering liquid – melting the cheese slowly encourages a smooth fondue. Once smooth, stir in the brandy, nutmeg and mustard.
  3. Surround your fondue with all your meats, fruits, bread and family and enjoy.
  • Thank-you to the French 50 Bakery in Okotoks, AB, for providing the bread for this recipe.