A High & Wild Adventure

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BY KELSEY SIMPSON

People often talk of amazing places they have seen or their own adventures to foreign places, but this experience and my own adventure to Glenn Stewart’s High & Wild is one that I will treasure forever. And it is only the first day.

Flying out of Calgary to Fort St. John’s B.C. I had no idea what to expect. The website created an epic picture in my mind of horsemanship and beautiful scenery, and so far it has definitely delivered.

We started the morning off early to drive a quick three hours to a landing strip down the Alaskan highway. We sat at the treeless clearing meeting and greeted each other.

Questions like: “Where are you from?”, “What do you do?” were obvious favorites and then the inevitable, “What kind of horses do you ride?”

Quickly our small red and white airplane landed and loaded the first couple of people and their bags. It was only about an hour until the plane came back to pick up it’s second load of baggage and people.

Sitting with my camera lens pressed to the window of the plane, the view was breathtaking. Pure green with openings of water and some random cutlines here and there. We were headed for the mountains and they were spectacular. The further and further in we flew the harder it was to believe that people actually were out here. There were no highways, no roads, and barely a trail leading us to our destination as we floated high above.

Across the river and at the base of Gary Powell Mountain lies the Big Nine Outfitters Lodge. Truly a little oasis in a mountain range, the lodge is a two story house with the most beautiful mountain ranges for a backdrop. Home of the High & Wild Adventure with Glenn Stewart, the lodge is laid out on over 640 acres of wooded area, streams, rivers, marsh land and open grass.

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The plane touched down just in time to put our bags in our rooms and come back out for lunch. With a quick bite to eat we headed out to the pen of multiple shades and sizes of horses that were really the reason why we were all here.

When you picture wild horses that have lived on their own all year, you might picture (or at least I did) scraggly, flighty, and well, wild! But these horses were quite the contrary. The plump horses obviously wintered well and there were still weanlings suckling from their mothers.

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That is not to say they aren’t wild, because they are but it is very easy to forget that tiny detail.

After a quick head count of the 87 horses the wranglers managed to bring in this year, Glenn gave us a run down of the place. This included an introductory walk around the expansive perimeter of a fence that keeps the wild horses in while they are being used. After a couple of hours we made it all the way around with tips and great stories from Glenn.

We made it back to the corrals just in time to see some elk grazing and a big mother moose wander across to our side of the river. We got an up close encounter with her before she sauntered back across the river to find her calf.

Next was picking out tack to use on our horses for the week ahead. Although we haven’t been assigned one yet, we all point out the horses that look promising and secretly hope we get.

While we had a quick inspection of our saddles and tack, some of the wranglers and Glenn’s daughters came over the hill with 20 more head of horses that had been missed in the initial roundup. Thundering hooves pounded the ground and another herd was brought in.

Their grazing range in the off season spans the whole size of the valley from the mountain peaks we can see poking the skyline on one end to the big towering range off in the distance to the other end. They wander from place to place in their own packs and herds until it is time to round up for another year.

Pushing and shoving around salt licks, the latest batch of wild horses appear to be happy to be back. They run out of the corral and over the hill into the distance just as the sun sinks behind the distance westward mountain.

After a juicy moose roast and a homemade spread for supper, the events of the day begin to sink in.

“Is it really our first day?”

“Did we honestly just all meet this morning?”

These were common comments around the supper table. And it was true. It did feel like we had at least been here for a week when we hadn’t even spent the night and our group really felt like friends even though we had just learned each others name.

Our first day left us in awe of what we accomplished, what we learned, and where we were. I write this from the front porch of the lodge facing the horses grazing around the “yard” and the mountains in the backgrounds and sounds of the river making a quite rushing sound, to truly remind myself where I am and that today wasn’t a dream and that tomorrow promises to be even better!

Here is video of our day or you can find it here.

Check out Glenn Stewart on Facebook or at his website.

Rodeo Poster Unveiled

If you're Ponoka-bound for the 77th edition of the Ponoka Stampede next week, you might want to take a bit of collectible memorabilia home with you.

Kicking off a series of original paintings depicting a significant person or event in Ponoka's rich rodeo history, the 77th year poster features World Class Saddle Bronc Rider Rod Hay. Among too many accolades to mention, (he captured the Ponoka Stampede Saddle Bronc Riding Championship title three times) his natural riding ability and classy style is considered to be a defining career achievement by rodeo cowboys and fans alike. Rod Hay's effortless-looking style is skillfully portrayed in watercolor by artist and rodeo entertainer Ash Cooper.

These two cowboys have shared the rodeo arena spotlight for many years and Ash Coopers' first hand knowledge culminated into a true to life painting of the famous rodeo athlete. Saddle bronc riding is often described as a true art form and through his paint brush Ash Cooper has captured the action. This year there are 77 limited edition high-quality artist prints available for purchase, each individually signed by Ash Cooper and Rod Hay. These highly collectable poster sized prints give rodeo fans a once in a lifetime opportunity to seize a single moment where rodeo, art and history intertwine. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of these prints are donated to the Tom Butterfield Creating Cowboys Scholarship Fund.

The original painting will be made available for viewing during Stampede week at the Canadian Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame and the Ponoka Stampede Western Art and Gift Show and will be sold with the artist present at the 3rd Annual Ponoka Stampede Live Art Auction set for June 30th at 4 pm in the Stagecoach Saloon.


Gearing Up for the Trails

Published in the August 2008, edition of the Western Horse Review.

Allan Johnson of Rocky Mountain Outfitting, Springbank, Alberta, offers this checklist of seven essential items to prepare you for the unexpected on a trail ride.

Horse Trail Riding Tips

1. First Aid Kit including such items as bandages, wraps, disinfectant, scissors, etc.

2. A good quality, multi-purpose knife. Look for one with a variety of built-in tools and always keep your blades sharp and in good repair.

3. Maps and GPS are important for mapping out where you are going. Inform someone back home of your planned route and when you expect to be off the trail. If you get lost, don’t take short cuts – stick to the trail.

4. Cell phone, carry one and be mindful of its range. If you plan to trail ride in isolated areas out of cell range, it may be wise to invest in a satellite phone.

5. Matches/Lighter come in handy if you need to start a fire (where permitted).

6. Saddle bags are essential. They will keep your stuff safe, dry and secure. Ensure to distribute the weight as evenly as possible. Your horse will thank you for it!

7. Rain gear: a ¾ length or longer oil skin slicker will keep you and your saddle dry. A waterproof hat also comes in handy.