Birth of a Champion

Harley. Photo by Lee Ann Rust.

Contestants are gearing up and counting down to the 40th annual Canadian Finals Rodeo, while one in particular has an interesting task on hand while she is there.

Lee Ann Rust, a CFR barrel racing competetior will be there to barrel race, but also to sign a brand new children’s book that she has written. Rust has written a book about her great barrel horse. Harley, and has shared the story of the trials and sucess along the way.

Lee Ann Rust’s new book about her champion barrel racing horse, Harley.

I remember Lee Ann when she first came up to Canada to rodeo, and she was a very unique individual. Her whole life, and spare time seemed to revolve around Harley, and his well being. She spent hours working on him through stimulating acupressure points, and having a natural approach with his health.  Then she would go and run – and win! I am lucky enough that I have been able to get to know Lee Ann over the past few years, and I must say she is a true inspiration. She is always there to cheer you on, and help you if needed, and always has a great story to tell. I have to laugh when I watch some of my barrel racing runs – because all you hear is Lee Ann in the background, “sit, sit, sit, sit, sit!” and as I round the barrel a really loud, “YEAH! Go on now!”

I love hearing how she wants the best for everybody.

Lee Ann is donating an autographed book to each child at the Canadian Finals Rodeo who is involved with the Rodeo Magic, and she will be autographing a limited number of copies at the Rodeo.

Her book is also available (for U.S. orders only) at, for $11.95 plus tax, plus shipping and handling, and can be found on Amazon.

Just knowing Lee Ann personally – I can assure you this will be a great book to read.

Starting the Barrel Horse

So you have a horse that you think can be a barrel horse, or you want to be a barrel horse. How do you know when or if they are ready to get started? I am going to write from my personal experiences, and share with you.

We all get in the mode of: Lets do this, and then we head straight to the pattern. Whether it be right or wrong, who am I to say, but first off let us review a few things. Any horses that I have had in for outside training or riding, or even with giving lessons, yes, they seem to know the pattern, but there are some real important elements of foundation missing. Not with all of them, but generally most of them. Without a foundation, when your horse blows up, which they eventually will, you have nothing to fall back on, or to go back to, to reinforce the basics.

First of all, can your horse stop? And I don’t mean lean into the bit and trickle down, pushing on you the whole way with their back end trailing behind and bouncing on their front end. Can they stop, use themselves, be smooth, have timing, and respond to your body cues?

Kendra Edey preparing to achieve a balanced stop. Photo by Joel Edey

Secondly, can they cross over with their front end, not swinging their hind out, and do a proper roll back by pivoting on their hind foot?

Kendra Edey having her horse cross over with his front end. Photo by Joel Edey

Shoulder control – does your horse respond to when you pick them up with the bit, or is it a power struggle?

Can you lope a smaller circle, or any sized circle for that matter, and have their hip engage underneath itself?

Kendra Edey teaching her young horse how to engage his hip underneath himself. Photo by Joel Edey

Also, are they soft in the face? When you put pressure on their mouth, do they give? Are you in charge of the throttle?

At any time, whether it be on the ground or on their back, you can reinforce all of the above. Manners are what it comes down to. I am not condoning being cruel; but have a respectful boundary, especially for safety.

Personally, if your horse cannot do some of these, or any of these, I would advise working on it and staying away from the pattern until it know these things. A horse does not have to be wound up and crazy to be able to run barrels and compete. They need to be broke, and be able to be efficient where those hundredths of a second counts. Without these basics, a horse cannot work to their full potential and will either end up hurting themselves, scaring themselves, or not lasting very long as a barrel horse. I work on these things daily, for me and for the horses I ride. Whether you are going for a joy ride, or practice, always ride and practice with a purpose. Bring out the champion in both you and your horse. Everybody has different opinions on what it takes to make a barrel horse, but this is what has worked for me.

Take what you like from it and best of luck.

Hell or High Water Rodeo Wrap Up

Well, the Hell or High Water Rodeo has come and gone, and people are wondering how much was raised and where it is going.

The day started out with the arena being very wet, with puddles everywhere – go figure, a rodeo for flood relief, so I guess Mother Nature wanted to remind everyone why we were all there! I pulled in early, and it was getting packed. I just had such a great feeling, seeing all those people offering support.

Josh Birks
Photo by Dana Zielke, Dynamic Photography.

The rodeo performance began, and it was a very touching opening. Organizer Rod MacBeth spoke about victims of the flood, and all those affected. I could see tears in people’s eyes. As the rodeo commenced, it was definitely a fun filled day for everybody. The Farmers Market was on; there was plenty of involvement for the little kids with the mutton busting, wild pony races, and, overall, the whole energy and positivity of the rodeo; and everyone there was so helpful and kind.

The Hell or High Water Rodeo raised over $100,000. Incredible. There are so many sponsors and volunteers who have made this happen, and are helping people’s lives come back together. The funds will be donated back to various people or causes. Hell or High Water Rodeo has already paid for two trauma bags that one of the volunteer fire halls lost during the emergency response, as well as a pair of skates and a hockey helmet which have been given to a 6-year-old.

Todd Herzog
Photo by Dana Zielke, Dynamic Photography.

When I asked Rod how the weekend was for him, and if he found it stressful, he replied, “Weekend was great!!! Was it stressful? I don’t get stressed! I was a bit anxious on Friday night. I had an arena that had a nice patch of mud in the middle. You know that because we moved the barrel pattern for the girls’ safety. I worked that thing until dark on Friday and it still was in awful shape on Saturday morning. Thanks to some great help from the Millarville community, we secured a vac truck and sucked up the mud so it was okay by show time. I’ve still got a bit of an emotional hangover. Lots of stuff was accomplished in a very short time. I am honoured to have such a great committee. ”

Kendra Edey competing in the barrel racing. 
Photo by Steve Dueck, Pride & Joy Photography.

The winners from the rodeo are as follows:

Bull Riding: Todd Chotowitz – 85 on High Water

Steer Wrestling: Harley Cole – 4.0

Bare Back: Denny Phipps – Sniper

Saddle Bronc: Sam Kelts – 81.5 on Dress Code

Ladies Barrel Racing: Rylee McKenzie – 15.15

Tie-down Roping: Murray Pole – 8.8

Wild Horse Race: Jason Loken

A big thank-you to the winners who donated their money back. Denny Phipps donated parts of his winnings back, Rick Quarrel’s Wild Horse race team donated their third place winnings back. Jim and Karry Kelts donated their pay back, and Aaron Ferguson donated his pay back.

There are tons of great pictures from the event on Facebook, Hell or High Water Rodeo, as well as Dynamic Photography. You can also keep up to date with the happenings at

The generosity that people can have for others in times of need is amazing. Imagine what the world would be like if we could all be like that all the time. It would be an amazing shift for everybody.

Cowboys and Colts

Shortly after graduating from university, with a Bachelor of Commerce, Gregg Garvie headed to Australia to play professional hockey. He returned home to Alberta after almost a year to continue playing hockey, which he says, “never panned out”. He then had aspirations to become a veterinarian, and went to work at a feedlot alongside a vet there. He says he always sat back and watched the cowboys working, and training their horses, and decided that is what he really wanted to do. From that moment on, Gregg put everything aside to be a trainer and work with horses.

Gregg has a very calming and gentle approach, and seems to have a “horse whisperer” type of demeanor when it comes to training. I have had the opportunity to watch Gregg with several horses, and he is great at what he does. But when talking with him, he certainly does not give himself the credit he deserves. He told me that, when he rides with great trainers, he considers himself a “rank amateur.” I had to laugh, as he was riding around on a pretty broncy colt at the time and getting along just fine.

Gregg has devoted his free time to ride with Sid Cook, whom he considers to be a great mentor for himself. Gregg applies techniques he has learned from Sid Cook, Tom Dorrance, and Ray Hunt into his training program. He states there is so much truth to Tom Dorrance’s words: “Timing, Feel, and Balance”.

Ground work with some flagging to gain control and get the horse moving freely.

The horses that Gregg works with get to do a little bit of everything. It is not strictly arena work. He is not shy about heading out to the field, packing a rope, moving cattle, or jumping at any opportunity that might be good for the horse.

Gregg uses a colt to take a stray yearling back out to pasture.

The most important thing, in his mind, when Gregg works with a horse, is that it is not tight and can cross over with their hind end.

“Pretty much all the time, when they step off the trailer, you know right away. About 90% of the horses I get, or ‘problem horses’ that come to me, it seems that they are not freed up and have no idea how to use themselves properly”.

Gregg achieving the hind end control he likes for a horse.

Gregg trains out of his homeplace near Priddis. You can find him on Facebook at Gregg Garvie Horses.

Words of Wisdom

For some barrel racers, the choice to go pro can be a challenging decision. However, sometimes it really may be just a head game. Photo by Deanna Buschert


Recently I wrote a post on the sacrifices and challenges of going pro. I’m taking that a step further with these interviews with some of the elite barrel racers in the Canadian Pro Rodeo Association, wherein I’ve asked them what it honestly takes. Here is what they had to say:

Nancy Csabay, Canadian Finals Rodeo & Calgary Stampede Qualifier

“Do you ever really know you and your horse are ready to go pro? The answer for me was always – somedays, yes, somedays, no. Whether I am rodeoing amateur or pro, barrel racing, in general, is a head game. If my head was in the game, I did well. If I decided to just go to a handful of rodeos during the year, I had a hard time competing with the girls who went to three a weekend. But what did I expect? Could I really compete? Of course I wanted to be the one who could go to the minimum amount of rodeos and still make the Canadian Finals Rodeo. But in reality, that wasn’t going to happen for me. I needed to make several runs to get “with” my horse.

So, last year I said to my husband, Tony, I think I’m going to do my best to make the finals, but I can’t do it just going to a few rodeos. I have to commit and go to the majority of them, and thankfully it worked out. As I get older, I am realizing it isn’t about the outcome, the CFR, but about the journey. Don’t get me wrong, the CFR is great and am grateful I got to go, but in the end, do you know who has won the CFR 10 years ago? It is not as important to me as I let it be years ago. Barrel racing is something I love to do, it doesn’t define who I am.

Nancy Csabay and her horse Whicked, at the 2013 Calgary Stampede. Photo By Deanna Buschert


Money, money, money…if I can’t afford to do something, I don’t do it. Barrel racing is expensive as you already know that if you are going amateur. So I ask myself, can I afford to enter this rodeo? Can I afford the fuel to get there? If the answer is yes, I go. But if I am afraid the answer may be no, I stay home. That way there is no pressure for me or my horse to perform. The competition is incredible nowadays, so any added pressure will make my job harder. I think horses are running faster and girls are making less mistakes in their runs. The amateur associations are getting larger entries and are as tough as the pro’s. The difference is that in the amateurs, a barrel racer may be able to have a mistake in her run and still place near the bottom. In the pros, if a mistake is made, usually I am donating my money that day, in my opinion. Am I ready to donate my money? ”

Cranna Roberts and Mooney running for home at the 2013 Calgary Stampede. Photo by Deanna Buschert


Pro Rodeo Competitor Cranna Roberts, a Canadian Finals Rodeo and Calgary Stampede qualifier and owner/rider of “Mooney” Horse with the most Heart

“Driving time. There is a lot more drive distance between rodeos. Scheduling flexibility – there are many rodeos during week. The variables don’t really change from amateur to pro (ground set up etc.) it’s still a rodeo and it’s the pressure you put on yourself that is the actual change. It’s about being mentally tough and knowing you belong. Maintain focus on the variables that you can control. Like not getting caught up in who’s who or what there doing, stay focused on making it your race. Knowing that you are ready to go would be – believing in yourself, your horse and program. You won’t know until you try and it’s always good to challenge yourself. Don’t let fear or circumstances get in the way- you do have the permit and semi pro steps are inevitable to get your feet wet and give it a go. With a commitment like this, it is very important to have a support team to overcome obstacles that will inevitably come your way. And to cheer on success.”

I thank Nancy and Cranna for taking the time to write, and share with everybody openly on what it is like to compete at the level they are at. They each have great points of reality, as well as points for physical, and mental preparation. I have great respect for these ladies, and am grateful that I have been able to run with them both over the past several years.

Best of luck to everyone, and thank you for reading!

Stepping Right

Learning how to change a trailer tire, part of learning the ropes of rodeo!

I woke up Friday morning, and the stress hit me instantly. I had a couple rodeos over the weekend, and knew I would be on my own travelling. My husband and niece have been going to the amateur rodeos, and I have been headed the opposite direction to the pro rodeos. I then remembered, I had changed things up. I took a deep breath, and jumped out of bed with instant release, and a smile.

I was ready.

The week prior, I made a decision. I went down to a semi-professional card, therefore I have the opportunity to still travel with my husband, and also bring my niece along to teach her the ropes of rodeoing. Things are much more affordable!

I can honestly say, recently, running in the pros was stressful. It is very tough, way too many miles, and very expensive. I have been doing it for 10 years now, with the help and support from many people, and I am very grateful for it all. But I think I felt it was time to just take a step, and to start enjoying life, rodeo and my horses again.

One of my weekends of rodeo, for example, I was set up at Strathmore, Alberta, in the 2:00 Friday performance. After I ran, I drove to Millarville to pick up my husband, swap out rigs with my brother-in-law, and we left there around 8:00 p.m. We drove all night to Abbotsford, B.C. We competed in the Saturday night performance in Abbotsford at 6:00 p.m. When we finished up, it was 8:00 p.m., and we had a 14 hour all night drive to Grimshaw, Alberta. Without stopping, or sleeping, we would get to Grimshaw just in time to compete in the afternoon performance. And then after that, off to LaCrete. Then 15 hours home. On that weekend, I was only about $1,000 out of qualifying for the Canadian Finals Rodeo. One win would put me there, and then I would have to maintain my spot by placing here and there.

I knew I could do it.

After competing at Abbotsford that evening, I looked at my husband Joel and said, “I don’t want to do this.”

He stared at me. I continued, “This is retarded, all this driving, sleepless nights, living out of the truck, it’s too freaking expensive! We are putting our lives at risk driving tired – for a chance at winning just a little over one thousand dollars. I love my horses too much for them to be hauled all these miles any more. I’m sorry – I just want to go home.”

Joel supportively said, “That is fine, don’t feel bad. It is your call, you are the one making a run for the CFR. I support whatever you choose.”

It was the next day on the drive home I had made my decision to drop to semi-professional. I realized how much “ego” can play into a title or a dream we are chasing, or have already achieved. Therefore we feel we have to maintain our status by being miserable. Don’t get me wrong – I love running barrels, and I am so grateful for having been to the Canadian Finals Rodeo a couple times, the Calgary Stampede and so on. I honestly get just as much enjoyment running barrels at local jackpot on a summer night, as I do competing at most of the pro rodeos. So for me – there was my answer.

I went to my first couple amateur rodeos over this past weekend, with Joel and my niece, we didn’t have to go far, I was not stressed, and we had a good time. We are a team. And I like that.

Are You Ready to go Pro?

Most of us at some point of our lives have questioned, am I good enough to go pro? Could I be a professional at this? Whether it be baseball, football, tennis, or barrel racing, there is a lot to think about before taking that step.

Are you willing to sacrifice what it takes to get there?

There is the famous saying of, “go big, or stay home” Understandable. Ultimately, it is your own personal choice of which route you take, but take these few points into consideration:

• Do you have a horse that can readily compete, and can mentally and physically endure the pressure of the long travels, 3-4 rodeos a weekend, and stay sound?

• Are you willing to sacrifice your horse’s health and your own well being to fulfill your dream?

• Do you have a competitive back-up horse to fill in when your main horse needs time off?

• Is your horse competitive at the level of the professionals? Have they ever proven, or shown you that they can run under a 17.5 on a standard pattern? And consistently?

• Do you have the bank account, sponsors, and support in place to help you to afford getting down the road?

Finally, why do you want to go pro? Is it because you have a horse that can do it? Is it purely for your own ego to say to someone, “I have a pro card,” and be able to compete in front of the fans at a professional rode?

If you feel you have what it takes, and have the horse that can do it – go for it! Follow your dreams, nobody can stop you! Stay focused, and keep your head in the game.

Ultimately the decision is yours, but my advice is – compete where you are meant to be. Don’t force anything that is not realistic. Set goals that are reachable. Run for you, run because your horse loves it, and enjoy every hundredth of a second.

Alberta Barrel Racing Association Finals

It’s all about the trinkets! Talyn Kapfhamer, winner of the 3D at the ABRA Finals.

As the summer begins to wind down, there is one major barrel racing event to compete at – the Alberta Barrel Racing Association Finals. The Finals are held in Ponoka, at the newer Ag Events Center.

Amazing building.

Over the weekend, that arena hosted roughly 2,000 barrel runs over the course of four days. Thank you to all the sponsors who donated prizes. Truly appreciated by everyone!

I must say, there are a ton of barrel racers in Alberta. I qualified on both of my two horses, my niece also qualified on a horse of mine. We headed up to Ponoka on Wednesday afternoon, as the Open Barrel Race started at 7:00 a.m. on Thursday morning. This event is definately one of the more organized, and well run events I have ever been to, and kudos to all of those that make it happen. Everybody gets two runs, and then based on either the average, or a fast time, qualification for the Short Go Sunday.

I am highly impressed with the quality of horses we have here in Alberta, and I think we must all be proud for what we have. I ran both of my guys on Thursday, they ran great. Captain pulled off an outstanding 17.49, and Cat a 17.59, which both took us to the pay window. Day 2, they began with the youth, and my niece was up on my horse, Taco. Together they ran a beautiful pattern of 17.88 and hit the pay window as well. I saw another old horse of ours, who ran a 17.67 and looked amazing, and I am happy to see that the owners are doing great with him. Come Sunday, all four of our Stampede Ranch (TS) Horses had qualified for the Sunday Short Go, in the top end, and I can say I am very blessed and proud to be riding, and seeing our horses out there.

One of the winners was probably the most excited little girl I have ever seen. Her name is Talyn Kapfhamer, and she was the winner of the 3D. As she went up to receive her buckle, saddle and all her little trinkets she had won, she was no bigger than the saddle she had won. I had to get her picture! I absolutley love seeing that kind of excitement from a winner. And she will continue to win, because she appreciates it. Good work Talyn!

On the Saturday, I had a bit of down time, so I thought I would get my horses out of the pen for a walk. Earlier that day someone had told me about the river being nearby. I thought, well, it is 30°C out here, and I know they would love to go cool down and splash around in the water. So I am rode Captain, and ponyed Taco and Cat. We spotted the river, and the one kilometer road parallel to a set of train tracks, which we needed to travel down to reach it.

We arrived at the river, and overhead was the train bridge. I led everyone into the river to splash and play. In the distance, I heard something. I thought it might be a train. I glanced up at the bridge which was almost directly over us, and thought, “I better get outta here.”

The train sounded fairly far off still. I got my horses turned around, and we are heading up out of the water, and suddenly it appeared, coming at us head on, loud, and directly over top of us. Cat leapt backwards, jerking me his way, but I didn’t let go. He pulled again, I tried my hardest to hang on, but lost the rope. There was a moment of stillness, my heart dropped. He stood staring at the overhead thundering train for a second or two, and then the fear and flight set in, and he bolted, up out of the water, and into the trees.

Meanwhile, Taco in my left hand, pulled back, and almost jerked me out the other side of my saddle. Captain was doing everything he could to stay calm and upright what with getting pulled all over the place. Through the rope burn, blood and mud, I managed to hang onto Taco. I knew I couldn’t let two go. I rode up to a flat spot, the train continued on, and in my mind, I feared the horrific things that could happen.

I panicked. I didn’t know what to do but I needed to find Cat. Every morning when I feed my horses, I call them by name. And they come. As the train roared by, I started screaming, “Cat!….CAT!”

And, ….he came back. From out of the trees, I saw this scared little horse running up to us. He came to me, put his head almost in my lap in the saddle, and let me grab his halter. We were all safe.

I rode back to the trailer, shaken, and sick over what we had just experienced. It makes a tipped barrel, or anything negative look like nothing at all. Things like that are always a reality check. We must all count our blessings, daily. And give our horses the credit they deserve for knowing who they love and trust.

Hell or High Water Rodeo

The aftermath of the floods that recently affected High River, Calgary, Millarville, Eden Valley and many more places, has left many with nothing. Loved ones were lost; there are no homes, no cars, no personal memorabilia, no jobs. Nothing. Those affected are slowly trying to piece their lives and community back together, and ongoing help is still needed.

High River, Alberta is the one area that was hit the hardest by the ravaging flood. There have been plenty of volunteers, but this disaster and the devastation that goes along with it, is going to take a lot of time and dollars to restore back to habitable.
Plenty of fundraising and benefits have taken place, but yet- There is one more that can really help out.

Rod MacBeth, a rodeo announcer, has big plans. He has created the Hell or High Water Rodeo, to benefit flood victims of Alberta. On September 21st and 22nd, commencing at 1:00 p.m., the rodeo is a two-day, family fun benefit, that will feature some of the best cowboys and cowgirls in the world.

A typical day at the office for rodeo announcer, Rod MacBeth.

One of the highlights of the two-day event is the Team Roping Jackpot hosted the morning of the 21st, for 30 teams of those that were affected by the flood.

When I asked Rod how he chose his competitors, he replied, “I really want to have competitors that have paid their dues. Ones that have worked hard and made a name for themselves. I also want the fans to be able to watch a great rodeo, and have a good feeling when they leave. They may forget what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

Amongst Rod are many others that are involved.

“Once I got this whole thing started, I realized, I am going to need help, and lots of it. I have a great crew of people that are working alongside me, and things are moving along.”

Some of those people include, Viktor Grant & Ryan Johns (Rodeo Committee), Jack Vanstane & Denice Hansen (Sponsorship Committee), Peggy Sue Moffat & Annalise Blishen (Production Managers), Tayla Frazer (Social Media), Anna Melnick (Media), Josh Traptow (Volunteers)

I’ll be there too, competing in the barrel racing event.

Oh, and we’re proud to announce, Katy Lucas, chosen as one of Western Horse Review’s Top 25 Under 25 this year, will be sharing the announcing duties with Rod.

Also, special thanks to Kesler Rodeo and Maynerd Bird for providing the stock for the rodeo.

For more information on the Hell or High Water Rodeo, you can visit their website, like them on Facebook, or follow their Twitter feed. So put those dates on your calendar, do a good deed, and come out to support!