Team Penning Gets Off to Hot Start

Just like that renegade black steer, Lindsey Thorlakson saw her championship hopes slipping away Friday evening.

Just as the Thorlakson trio was ready to start celebrating victory in the Calgary Stampede’s 14 Class Team Cattle Penning Competition, the stubborn bovine bolted back up the middle of the Pengrowth Saddledome infield. But with a stirring second effort, Thorlakson and her teammates corralled the cantankerous critter, rounded it up with its two mates, slammed the door, and finished the job.

And suddenly Thorlakson, at 22, has three Stampede championship cattle penning buckles in 12 months and change.

“That was a horrible feeling, for a few seconds,” the Carstairs, Alta., gal later admitted with a smile. “The steer turned, put on the brakes, and got back between us. But we knew we had a little room to breathe (as the last trio out in the 10-team final), and we’d been doing pretty well so far, so we just wanted to finish it off with some consistency.”

From left to right, Pete Molnar of Langley, B.C., Lindsey Thorlakson of Carstairs, Alta., and Russell Armstrong of Armstrong, B.C., celebrate their victory in Friday’s 14 Class Team Cattle Penning final at the Calgary Stampede. The three split a cheque worth $16,500. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

As it turned out, the winning squad of Thorlakson, Russell Armstrong of Armstrong, B.C., and Pete Molnar of Langley, B.C., authored a comfortable margin of victory in cashing a winners’ cheque of $16,500. With a 43.27-second run in the final, their aggregate time for 12 head of cattle clocked in at 123.18 seconds, more than seven seconds better than the 130.80 turned in by the second-place team of Calgary’s Amy Carver, Ken Crawford of Okotoks, and Sal Howell of Calgary, who will spit the reserve champions’ prize of $11,000.

That 43.27-second run also stood up as the fastest time of the final, which saw plenty of high jinks from two pens of restless cattle.

“After (Friday’s third go), with all those fast runs, you’re thinking, ‘Wow, these herds are soft. People are going to have some smokin’ times,’ ” noted Armstrong, 20, who was riding Mary, an 11-year-old quarter horse mare. “But it just never really came together for a lot of teams. It seemed like one thing went wrong on every run.”

The 14 Class, which is the second-highest caliber Team Cattle Penning competition at the Stampede next to the Open Class, began with 110 entries on Thursday at the Okotoks Agricultural Society, with the top 20 teams moving on to Calgary after two rounds of competition.

Armstrong and Molnar, whose team cattle penning partnership goes back “a lot of years,” noted Molnar, “ever since he was just a little guy,” both celebrated their first career Stampede team cattle penning win.

Pete Molnar of Langley, B.C., shows winning form during Friday night’s 14 Class Team Cattle Penning final at the Calgary Stampede. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

“It would have been nice to finish with a bang,” said Molnar, who competed aboard Rebel, a 20-year-old Quarter Horse gelding and cattle penning veteran. “But we got ‘er done, and that’s what counts.”

Thorlakson, who had no Stampede titles to her credit on Canada Day 2009, now has three. She was the only two-time cattle penning champion at the ’09 Stampede, as a member of the winning 10 Class and 7 Class teams. And it’s an eight-year-old quarter horse gelding known as Doc’s Little Sky, whom she affectionately calls Little Man, who’s carried her to victory all three times.

“This feels pretty awesome. It’s pretty exciting,” she said. “I had really good luck last year, but we definitely had to earn it today.”

Team Cattle Penning, a race against the clock, gives a team of three riders on horseback 60 seconds to separate three specifically identified cattle from a herd of 30 and direct them into a 16-foot-by-24-foot pen at the opposite end of the arena. Teamwork is key, with all three riders working in harmony to cut out the correct cattle and drive them to the pen.

A pair of defending champions in the 14 Class came oh-so-close to repeating on Friday. Phil Mainey of Victor, Mont., seeking his fourth Stampede buckle in nine years, had the best aggregate time of the bunch with his teammates Drew Lewis and Larry David after the first two rounds, but couldn’t keep the momentum going. Meanwhile, Kurt Robson of Carstairs authored Friday’s best time – 23.05 seconds – in the third round, along with teammates Jennifer Robson and Shaylene Hunter, but followed it up with a 54.77 in the final.

The third go-round and final in 10 Class start at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 10. The third round and final of the Open Class will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 11, while the 7 Class third round and final begin at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, July 12. The Saddledome will play host in all three competitions.

To follow the action live on the Internet, check back to our Home Page and click on the live stream link.

Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby

Jason Glass - First On First Night Of Calgary. Photo By Paul Easton.

The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth kicked off on a wonderful Friday night in Calgary with the running of the 88th running of the Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby. It was a perfect night for racing with ideal track and weather conditions, and the day saw 2-time Calgary Stampede Aggregate winner Jason Glass, driving the Shaw GMC Chevrolet Buick outfit, open the 2010 Rangeland Derby with the top time of 1:14.84.

Coming off barrel number 2 in heat number 7, Glass won top money by just 6 one-hundreds of a second over 10-time Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby champion Kelly Sutherland. Kurt Bensmiller was third, while rookie driver Devin Mitsuing placed fourth and Ray Mitsuing rounded out the top 5 for the night.

The aggregate winner will be declared after 8 nights on Friday, July 16, and the top 8 in the aggregate on that day will go into “Semi Final Saturday.” The top 4 times from heats 8 and 9 on semi final Saturday on July 17 will go into the sudden death championship final heat. The winner of the final heat will be declared the 2010 Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby Champion.

The chuckwagon races from the Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby which will run at 8:00pm every night.

Billy Melville

Rank Driver Sponsor Total Time
1 Jason Glass Shaw GMC Chevrolet Buick 1:14.84
2 Kelly Sutherland Lucid/Lux Chuckwagon Team 1:14.90
3 Kurt Bensmiller WestJet 1:14.95
4 Devin Mitsuing 1-800-Drywall 1:15.46
5 Ray Mitsuing Friends of Heritage Park 1:15.60
6 Luke Tournier The Cowboys Posse 1:15.63
7 Troy Dorchester The Roadhouse Nightclub & Continental Imaging 1:15.72
8 Neal Walgenbach Team YYC Calgary International Airport 1:15.79
9 Roger Moore Lynx Brand Fence Products 1:15.93
10 Gary Gorst RE/ MAX Realtors of Calgary & Area 1:16.00
11 Rick Fraser Heninger Toyota / Chickwagon! Foundation for Women 1:16.23
12 Mark Sutherland VisitCalgary.com 1:16.50
13 Brian Laboucane The Mavericks 1:16.60
14/15 Grant Profit AGF Alberta Rebar Inc. 1:16.81
14/15 Wayne Knight Express Employment Professionals 1:16.81
16 Doug Irvine B & R Eckel’s Transport 1:16.85
17 Shane Nolin Bell 1:16.94
18 Buddy Bensmiller Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park 1:16.96
19 Chad Harden ATB Financial 1:17.22
20 Vern Nolin BKDI Architects 1:17.27
21 Layne MacGillivray Impact 2000 Inc. 1:17.39
22 Grant Preece MaXfield Inc. 1:17.72
23/24 Kirk Sutherland Calgary Archives Inc. 1:17.76
23/24 Jim Knight Universal Industries 1:17.76
25 Mike Vigen Cell Bridge Communications Corp 1:17.81
26 Brian Mayan Horizons Exchange Traded Funds 1:17.89
27 Barry Hodgson Friends of the Calgary Food Bank – AltaGas 1:18.81
28 Reg Johnstone Matco Financial Inc & MFI Group of Funds 1:19.08
29 Rae Croteau Jr. Stony Nakoda Resort & Casino 1:19.19
30 Leo Tournier Friends of the Mavericks 1:20.12
31 Jerry Bremner Gunthers Masonry Construction 1:20.22
32 Obrey Motowylo H & E Oilfield Services Ltd. 1:20.46
33 Tim Haroldson Busted Ladies Lingerie 1:22.39
34 Tyler Helmig Pidherney’s From Start To Finish 1:23.31
35 Hugh Sinclair Airstream Heating & Air Conditioning 1:25.26
36 Troy Flad Strate-Line Inspection Ltd. 1:28.51

All-new Draft Horse Town

Open daily at the 2010 Stampede on Saddledome Lane, between the Pengrowth Saddledome and the Agriculture Building, Draft Horse Town features the “gentle giants” of the equine world — Belgians, Clydesdales, Percherons, and Shires — in all their majesty. Draft Horse Town offers Stampede visitors a slice of living history, plenty of hands-on activities and exhibits, and a close-up look at these magnificent beasts in action.

“Generally speaking, the public’s perception of draft horses is limited to Budweiser wagons and farm ploughs, but the reality is that they’ve done so much more,” says Dale Befus, a member of the Draft Horse Town council.

“Until 1939, the Canadian artillery was all horse-drawn. Road building took 12 horses on a plough. The basement for (Calgary’s historic) Palliser Hotel, as deep as it is now, was all done with horses,” adds Befus. “Anything done with a diesel engine today was all done with a horse.”

From July 9 to 18, visitors can help wheelwrights build wood-spoked wheels, observe blacksmiths shoeing horses and forging other items, enjoy live Western music, and take in a draft horse art exhibit.

Teamsters and exhibitors will demonstrate how they prepare their teams for competitions such as the Heavy Horse Show, which runs from July 9 to 12 at the Saddledome, and the Heavy Horse Pull, which goes from July 16 to 18 under the Big Top.

Test your own “horsepower” with the Incredi-pull, cool off under the spray of the pump wagon, and watch as a draft horse operates an ice-cream maker with a treadmill for a sweet treat. Climb up on a carriage, have your picture taken with one of these gentle giants, and make sure to visit the Heavy Horse Barns to meet these brawny beasts who’ve been known to tip the scales at 2,600 pounds.

“We wanted to make sure this was not a museum exhibit. We wanted to give people an authentic experience, and make it much more of a participatory event,” says Tim Lane, who’s also on the Draft Horse Town council.

“It’s one thing to have an appreciation for these magnificent horses, but it’s quite another when you get people to sit up on a stagecoach and put reins in their hands,” adds Lane. “They come away from that experience . . . changed, in a way. We wanted to be able to bottle that type of experience — for all the different facets of how draft horses have made an impact.”

Draft Horse Town exhibitors include the Military Museums, the Remington Carriage Museum, the Heavy Construction and Road Builders Historical Society of Canada, the Firefighters’ Museum, and the Bar U Ranch of Longview, Alta., which is credited with restocking Europe’s Percherons following the First World War.

The Art of the Calgary Stampede

It was only earlier last week that I posted a note about a fabulous art exhibit at the Museum of Civilization, entitled The Horse.

Late last week I learned about another exhibit which is equally exciting and impressive. Western art lovers, history buffs and Calgary Stampede fans, you will love what I’m about to let you in on. Personally, I can’t wait to take it in.

The exhibition and display of artwork related to the West has been as much a part of the Calgary Stampede as bucking broncs and cowboy lore, dating back even to the first Stampede in 1912. Recently I became aware of an exciting new exhibition of artwork on display at the Nickle Arts Museum – a collaboration of the Calgary Stampede and the University of Calgary, where the Nickle Arts is located.

A press release I received from the Nickle Arts Museum elaborated on this history of the Calgary Stampede’s support of the visual arts:

“In the early days, artists such as Edward Borein and C.M. Russell presented works evocative of the West, works that were also used in the promotion and visual presentation of the Calgary Stampede itself. From the 1930s to the early 1960s, the growth in local arts institutions such as the Alberta Society of Artists and the Glenbow Museum was reflected in the works exhibited at the Calgary Stampede and around the city. By the 1970s, the Stampede’s own Western Art Show had become a sought-after venue for western artists and artisans to display their works.”

As you might imagine, the course of nearly 100 years has given the Calgary Stampede an impressive permanent collection of artwork. The Art of the Calgary Stampede draws on this collection, as well as works from the the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Collection of the Government of Alberta, Government House Foundation, Glenbow Musuem, the Galt Museum & Archives in Lethbridge, The Nickle Arts Museum, and private collections to bring together an incredible selection of artwork illustrating the history of the Stampede.

Such as, for instance, this vintage Edward Borein.

Edward Borein – I-SEE-U, c. 1919 lithograph, Collection of Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Canada.

Edward Borein came recommended to Guy Weadick by the great C.M. Russell for the design of advertising. He completed many pen and ink sketches for the Stampede which were used in newspaper ads and souvenir programs between 1912 and 1919.

Apparently the “I-See-U” title has been understood variously to refer to the title of the image, the name of the bronc, or a warning given by the rider to the horse. Weadick may have found the original sketch appealing because the “IC” brand on horses was common and meant an animal had been Inspected and Condemned . . .  which would make, I guess, perfect bronc material back in those days.

You may be familiar with Alberta sculptor Richard Roenisch’s bronze commemorating this image.

Gerald Tailfeathers – Opening the Gate, 1956 watercolour on paper, Collection of Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Canada.

Gerald Tailfeathers’ painting, “Opening the Gate” completed in 1956 is a recent acquisition by the Glenbow. Tailfeathers, from the Blood reserve in southern Alberta had his artistic abilities recognized as early as nine-years-old while attending St. Paul’s residential school.

Jody Skinner – Celebrating – A Load off the Shoulders, 2009 oil on linen, collection of the Artist

More contemporary pieces are featured as well, including this stunning oil painting by Jody Skinner, a regularly-featured artist of the Western Art Showcase. This artwork was chosen as the 2008 Calgary Stampede poster.

All these and another 100 or more spectacular pieces are now on display at this special collection until August 4 at the Nickle Arts Museum. What an incredible opportunity to view so many unique pieces of artwork related to the West. Hope to see you there!

Organized by The Nickle Arts Museum in collaboration with the Calgary Stampede and the University of Calgary Press, guest curated by Dr. Brian Rusted. Funded with assistance from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

Equine Ecstasy at Horse Haven

It was a business venture all the way, but the Nygaards soon found their hearts ruling their chequebook.

“It’s like a box of chocolates. You can’t just have one,” says Cheryl Nygaard, recalling the Martensville, Sask.-based family’s decision to bring back a half-dozen Gypsy Cob mares from England, and start their North Fork Gypsy Cobs breeding operation, in early 2008. “They’re amazing animals. They are not only pretty, but they have calm, peaceful personalities.

“They’re quick to learn, and very eager to please,” adds Cheryl, who runs North Fork with husband Dale. “They really are very special animals.”

You’ll find plenty of that sort of sentiment during the 2010 Calgary Stampede at Horse Haven, located in the north Agriculture Barns. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. in a Western setting, Horse Haven features all kinds of light horse enthusiasts extolling the virtues of their equine companions — and promoting the breed they love.

This year, 18 different breeds are on display. Sixteen of them (Quarter Horse, Appaloosa, Friesian, Tennessee Walker, Morgan, Paint, Welsh Pony, Mini, Norwegian Fjord, Thoroughbred, Standardbred, Peruvian Paso, Paso Fino, Curly, Foxtrotter and Canadian) had stalls set out at last year’s Stampede. And two other breeds are new in 2010 — the Gypsy Cob, which will set out its stall from July 9 through 13, and the Spanish Andalusian, which will have its own five-day presentation from July 14 through 18. These light horse breeds can be seen in action daily during demonstrations in the Northern Lights Arena and the Big Top.

“Even rare breeds are becoming prevalent these days. Alberta is horse country, and there’s all kinds of breeds out there,” notes Lara Schuelke, the chair of the Stampede’s Light Horse committee. “And the more breeds we have that can commit to putting on a good show, the higher quality programming we can provide.

“Horse Haven promotes the breeds common to the region and provides an educational opportunity for the public,” adds Schuelke. “People get to see horses in action, and get up close and personal.”

The Nygaards will be using the Stampede stage to help spread the word on Gypsy Cobs, which have been a recognized breed for less than a century and were only brought to North America in the late 1990s. Originally bred by the Romani people, or “travellers,” in the United Kingdom, Gypsy Cobs are also known as Gypsy Vanners in the United States, where they’ve gained more of a foothold.

“We guess that there’s probably only about 200 Gypsy Cobs in Canada right now,” says Cheryl Nygaard. “They’re still a very rare breed here. Most of our customers are from the U.S., because Canadians just don’t know what to do with them. But you can use them for anything — riding, driving, working cattle, even jumping and dressage.

“One of the things we like to do is have our ranch open to people so they can come out and visit with the horses — spend time with them, and absorb the peace and the pleasure of being with them.”

Equestrian vaulting, a new, must-see light horse demonstration, will take over the Big Top on Wednesday, July 14 and Thursday, July 15. A combination of gymnastics and dance on horseback, vaulting teaches children and adults to move in harmony with a horse, as well as improving balance, flexibility, strength, and teamwork skills. Spanish-themed demonstrations, courtesy of Spanish Andalusian and Paso Fino breeders, will be held under the Big Top on Wednesday, July 14, Thursday, July 15, and Sunday, July 18.

New to Horse Haven this year is a celebrity station, which will see Stampede rodeo and chuckwagon stars, as well as other luminaries of the equine world, chatting and signing autographs.

Craig Cameron, creator of the incredibly popular Extreme Cowboy Race, will also pay a visit to Horse Haven. Extreme Cowboy Racing will be making its Canadian debut with the Calgary Stampede Cowboy Up Challenge from July 10 to 12, and Cameron, who’s based in Bluff Dale, Texas, and known as the “cowboy’s clinician,” will be on hand in Horse Haven from July 9 to 12 to promote the new sport.

Meanwhile, Horse Sense 101, a relatively new Horse Haven feature, continues this year with a daily family-oriented program that teaches the basics about horses in an interactive, hands-on, educational setting. Special guests, including breeders, trainers, veterinarians, and other equine experts, will discuss important topics such as grooming, feed, and bedding, among others, to those interested in populating their own stable with a four-legged friend.

Horse Sense 101 will be augmented for this year’s show with an additional new educational display. “It’s focused on general horse knowledge,” says Schuelke, “like what they eat, how to groom them, that sort of thing.”

The boardroom will also come to the barn this year at Horse Haven, as The Natural Leader, an Alberta-based company, uses the relationship between horse and handler to teach companies how to build effective corporate leadership, communication, and team collaboration skills from Tuesday, July 13 to Thursday, July 15 in the Northern Lights Arena.

The Best in the West

Calgary’s Ron Mathison was the inaugural winner of the Elite Western Rider Award, in 2009, by posting a pair of Top-10 finishes in Western Performance Horse action.

It’s almost time for the Calgary Stampede – in fact, three more sleeps – and I want to remind you all to check in on our website this Friday for the live feed. I believe it will begin with draft horse competition coverage, followed by the Cowboy-Up Challenge.

More on that later.

Right now I want to let you know about the Calgary Stampede’s Elite Western Rider Award.

For the second year, the Calgary Stampede Elite Western Rider Award will be up for grabs among all competitors in the western performance horse events at the 2010 Calgary Stampede. From a total entry list of several hundred names, the award represents a tip of the hat to those riders nimble and versatile enough to negotiate the challenges of all three western performance horse events — the Calgary Stampede Team Cattle Penning Competition (which runs from July 9 to 12 at the Pengrowth Saddledome), the Calgary Stampede Cutting Horse Competition (July 13 to 15 under the Big Top), and the Calgary Stampede Working Cow Horse Classic (July 16 and 18 under the Big Top).

“It’s a way of recognizing some of the really good horse people that compete in not just one of our events, but two or all three of them,” says Christine Sowiak, chair of the Stampede’s Western Performance Horse committee.

All riders who compete in at least two of the three disciplines are eligible for the Elite Western Rider Award, which carries no separate entry requirements, and all competitors earn points toward the title with Top-10 finishes in at least two of the events. The second annual Elite Western Rider Award will be presented on Sunday, July 18 after the Calgary Stampede Working Cow Horse Classic wraps up under the Big Top, with the winner receiving a handcrafted Stampede champion buckle.

“The award focuses on the rider, not the horse. If they’re in all three events, they’re riding three different horses, and have skill sets to transfer,” says Sowiak. “We’re not discrediting the ones who dominate cutting, or team penning, for example. But these cowboys and cowgirls who have the skills to compete at a top level at the Stampede, in more than one discipline? That’s really something.”

Calgary’s Ron Mathison was the inaugural winner of the Elite Western Rider Award, in 2009, by posting a pair of Top-10 finishes in Western Performance Horse action. Mathison was fourth in the 14 Class final in Team Cattle Penning, and placed fourth overall in the Non-Pro Bridle category of the Working Cow Horse Classic aboard Another Hot Chic.

Those chasing Elite Western Rider Award points can compete in any of the four Team Cattle Penning categories (Open, 14 Class, 10 Class, and 7 Class), and either of the major divisions in cutting (Open and Non-Pro). The Open Bridle, Open Hackamore, and Non-Pro Bridle classes are eligible in the Working Cow Horse discipline, but Limited Open and Novice Non-Pro are not.

Western Canada, particularly southern Alberta, enjoys a sterling standard in all three Western Performance Horse events, thanks to the excellence of the region’s trainers, and should give area competitors a leg up in the arena from July 9 to 18 as Elite Western Rider Award points are tabulated.

“This part of Alberta is blessed to have some of the world’s best trainers and competitors,” says Sowiak. “Some of the best cutters on the circuit, in any given year, come out of Texas, and there are some really elite penners who come up from Oklahoma or Arizona.

“But this award is pretty much impossible for anyone but an Alberta competitor to win, and part of the motivation for establishing the award was to recognize what those people give back to this community.”