Circle J Wins Again!



Lord Sterling Cup Champion – Circle J Zachary & Circle J Dezigner Genes – Charlene Gale, Cochrane, AB

Reserve Champion – The Governor & The General – Peter/Terry Holt, Morinville, AB



Canadian National Pleasure Driving Champion – HCM Warpaint Feelin’ Groovy – Louise/Kim Locke, Calgary, AB

Reserve Champion – Enchanted Acres Shadow Fax – Christine Tilleman, Airdrie, AB

Supreme Halter Horse Champion – First Knights Platinum Princes – K. C. Pappas, Calgary, AB

Senior Mare Champion – First Knights Platinum Princes – K. C. Pappas, Calgary, AB

Reserve Champion – Visa Valleys Gold N Reflection – Holly Whyte, Tomahawk, AB

Roadster Champion – HCM Warpaint Feelin’ Groovy – Louise/Kim Locke, Calgary, AB

Reserve Champion – Enchanted Acres Shadow Fax – Christine Tilleman, Airdrie, AB

Senior Stallion Champion – San Sujos Midnight Wrangler – Lena McMurtry, Saanichton, BC

Reserve Champion – Lucky Four Santafe Beau Bey – Kaycee Lunde, Airdrie, AB

Junior Stallion Champion – First Knight Shot of Champagne – K. C. Pappas, Calgary, AB

Reserve Champion – Imprint Phantoms Fancy Red – K. C. Pappas, Calgary, AB

Senior Gelding Champion – Circle J Champs Li’l Chief – Louise/Kim Locke, Calgary, AB

Reserve Champion – San Sujos Midnight Butero – Lena McMurtry, Saanichton, BC

Junior Mare Champion – First Knights Southern Belle – K. C. Pappas, Calgary, AB

Reserve Champion – Holwill Wow That Was A Surprise – Holly Whyte, Tomahawk, AB

Photo By The Calgary Stampede

Photo By The Calgary Stampede

Calgary – For Charlene Gale, showing and winning with miniature horses is something between a habit and a family tradition. After driving Circle J Zachary and Circle J Dezigner Genes to yet another Lord Sterling Cup, Charlene admitted she couldn’t remember how many times she’s won it. “Quite a few times,” is her guess.

Charlene’s father, Merv Giles, started the miniature program at his Circle J Ranch near Cochrane in 1981. “By about 1982 or ’83, Dad was chair of the Miniature Horse Committee at the Calgary Stampede,” she
recalls. “There’s been one of us on the committee ever since.” Giles was also responsible for persuading Lord Sterling, whose wife and daughter showed miniature horses back in the UK, to sponsor the multiple hitch class at the Stampede.

The Circle J program isn’t as big as it was, but there are still just under 40 miniature horses on the ranch. Charlene and her daughter Kendra Gale are responsible for breeding, training and showing and can point to a respectable number of successful show horses that can boast of Circle J bloodlines.

Miniature horses are indeed a separate breed, not midget versions of other breeds. The little beauties are descended from the pit ponies that were used in mines, deliberately bred to be small to fit into the narrow confines of the mines of a couple of centuries ago. Today’s miniatures are somewhat different from their ancestor, since the original pit ponies were a much stockier horse, almost like a miniature heavy horse. Modern-day miniature horses are shown different ways, some are led around obstacles and over jumps, while others pull scale carts and wagons.

Some miniature horses display an early aptitude for being driven, Charlene says, and are introduced to the idea when they are two year-olds. “Depending on how well-developed they are, we might possibly put them on a cart as a three year-old and do some driving.” Maturity is a benefit, though, and she points out, “On our show string here this weekend, the youngest horse is 15.”

Showing and driving is still fun for her, Charlene admits, adding, “Sometimes, when you’re going to bed after midnight and getting up at 4:30am to get back in here to feed the horses, you question it. On a day down here when it’s over 30 degrees and humid, if you didn’t love it, you wouldn’t be here.”

Hansen Back on Track

Pickup man taking a breather at the Airdrie Pro Rodeo

Pickup man taking a breather at the Airdrie Pro Rodeo. Photo by Kelsey Simpson

Jordan Hansen was the youngest bullrider to qualify for the Canadian Finals Rodeo last season. Now in his third season on the Pro Rodeo Canada trail, the Okotoks, AB, cowboy is still just 20-years-old, but in the last eight months his goal has definitely changed.

“I don’t want to just qualify (for the CFR),” says Hansen of his expectations in 2014. “I want to go win it.”

After a pair of victories this past weekend in Taber, AB, and Benalto, AB, Hansen is at least back in the hunt for a second straight CFR appearance. The $2,031 he won will unofficially move him to 13th in the new CPRA standings ahead of the injured, Ty Patten of Buck Lake, AB, and just behind 2011 world champion, Shane Proctor, who isn’t likely to enter the required 15 rodeos this season to allow him to compete at the CFR as a non-Canadian.

“My season started really good. I was in the top ten until Hand Hills and then I hit a slump,” explains Hansen. “I watched some videos and saw I wasn’t focused and kept looking at the ground. But I finally pulled my head out of my butt in the last month and I’m focused on staying focused.”

In fact, since June 1st, Hansen hadn’t won a dime until rolling into Benalto on July 5th and posting an 87-point ride on a Bar-C5 bull called Sugar Bear.

“Tanner Girletz had him in Maple Creek (last year) and he was good. He bucks a lot like (Big Stone Rodeo’s) Pop Evil.”

Rookie bareback rider, Cole Goodine of Carbon, AB, has now won cheques at five of his last six rodeos. Goodine went to the pay window at all three weekend stops in Taber, Benalto and Coronation, AB. The cheques totaled $1,246 compared with the $9,550 the semi-pro superstar won in Ponoka, AB, and Airdrie, AB, the weekend before.

Stettler, AB, roper, Riley Warren also collected three cheques. The 24-year-old split 1st in Benalto and split 2nd in Taber in the tie-down roping and grabbed a 3rd place cheque in the team roping in Taber for a $2,856 weekend.

A pair of CPRA cowboys competing at the Calgary Stampede took time out to cash in at the smaller pro rodeo stops. Donalda, AB, steer wrestler, Curtis Cassidy, who competed in the tie-down roping in Calgary on Saturday afternoon and then made the three hour trip to Taber, won the top money there ($1,249) with a 4.0-second run while Pincher Creek, AB, bronc rider, Dustin Flundra was 83.5-points on Frank Wyzykoski’s Ink Spot in Benalto to take home the first place cheque worth $1,147.

Other top winners from the weekend included steer wrestler, Scott Guenthner ($1,656); saddle bronc rider, Jim Berry ($1,253); team ropers, Kolton Schmidt and Rocky Dallyn ($1,201 each); barrel racer, Kerilee Noval ($1,250) and novice saddle bronc rider, Keenan Reinhardt ($749).

Next on the CPRA schedule are the Teepee Creek Stampede (July 11-13) and the Peace River Pro Rodeo (July 12-13).

Father and Daughter Combine To Win 10 Class Penning

10 Class Team Penning Results

Champion Team:

Brian Cardinal, Millet, Alta.

Paige Cardinal, Millet, Alta.

Alex Hansen, Calgary, Alta.

Aggregate time over 4 runs: 123.64 seconds

Reserve Champions:

Amanda Goodwin, Priddis, Alta.

Bob Bolin, Stettler, Alta.

Rene O’Rourke, Priddis, Alta.

Aggregate time over 4 runs: 137.97 seconds


Calgary – Winning a buckle at the Calgary Stampede for the first time is a pretty exciting thing. Just ask Paige Cardinal, who was on the team that won the 10 Class Cattle Penning title on Sunday evening. “It’s a very big day,” she smiled. “It just worked out amazingly.” Her father, Brian Cardinal, would probably say that he knew of something even better – being part of the same winning team as your daughter.

“I’m very proud to be riding with my daughter, as any parent would be,” said Cardinal. “This is my second buckle. I won the 10 Class in 2011.” Brian has only been penning for 8 years, meaning that the 54-year old has just four more years of experience than 22-year old Paige.

The veteran of the team is 24-year old Alex Hansen, who said he’s been penning “since I could walk, 20 years or so.” 2014 was his sixth Stampede, and he already had a penning buckle –earned in the 7 class in 2012. Although Alex had ridden with Brian a few times, the two hadn’t teamed up in about two years.

After this year, however, they think it might be a good idea to get together more often. It wasn’t just his teammates that were kind of new to Hansen, he was also riding a horse that he had not competed on before. “I may have to write a cheque, I think,” Hansen quipped. That shouldn’t be too hard as Hansen and the two Cardinals will split the winning purse of $30,469.

A total of 222 teams began the 10 Class competition with two rounds of qualifying on Thursday at the Okotoks Agricultural Society. The Stampede’s Team Cattle Penning Competition has drawn a record 551 teams from across the continent this year, with purses and prizes valued at nearly $300,000.

Coming into Calgary, the winning team was a respectable seventh. While some other teams ran into some fairly uncooperative cattle, the Cardinals and Hansen had an excellent time of 26.64 in round three, putting them into the lead in the final. A solid 32.61 was good enough to put them on top of the standings, 14.33 seconds ahead of the next-best team. “Everybody did what they had to do and it worked out,” said Brian.

Cutting at Calgary Stampede


Calgary – In 2009, the Calgary Stampede teamed with Mercuria and the National Cutting Horse Association to take the sport of cutting to a new level. By sweetening the pot in each of the Non-Pro and Open classes by an extra $25,000, the Stampede cutting event became the first show in what has become the Mercuria NCHA World Series.

With just 8 events considered part of the Mercuria NCHA World Series, this year’s Stampede cutting classic will draw the top cutting competitors from across North America. “It’s definitely a major event,” says NCHA competitor and board member Dan Hansen. “We have venues all over the country vying for one of these events.”

Hansen himself has four NCHA World Championships to his credit, two in the Non-Pro class and two in Novice Horse. He’s won the Stampede Non-Pro class twice, as well, scoring in both 2008 and 2010. Not bad for a guy who waited almost a quarter of a century to get into the sport.

“My wife and I started pursuing rodeo in high school,” Hansen explains. “We were both exposed to cutting there and we enjoyed it.” After building a business and raising a family, he continues, the couple was in their 40s before they were in a position to start competing. They joined the NCHA in 1992. “As we campaigned more at the weekend and local level, we began to understand more about it and kind of learned how to be better competitors,” Hansen says. By 1998, the Hansens had expanded their range from the area around their home in Nampa, Idaho and begun wintering in the Fort Worth, Texas area – the world capital of the cutting sport.

“That kind of worked into an early goal that I had set, and that was to be a World Champion,” says Hansen. Not only was that goal accomplished, but Hansen notes that in 2009 both he and his wife Karen qualified for the World Finals in Fort Worth.

The opportunity for men and women to compete on an equal basis is, he insists, “One of the unique and satisfying aspects of the sport. For my wife and me, it’s a great way to share our love of cutting horses and the sport.” The 63 year-old Hansen notes, too, that age is not a consideration as he regularly finds himself competing with young people who might not yet have a driver’s licence.

The sport of cutting shines a spotlight on the pure athleticism, instinct, agility and intelligence of the cutting horse. With horse-and-rider teams attempting to cut three individual cows out of a herd within 150 seconds, cutting has evolved into one of the most exciting equine events in North America. The NCHA counts more than 20,000 members from a wide range of backgrounds, and sanctions more than 2,200 events across North America each year, with tens of millions of dollars in prize money awarded.

Cutting horses are usually American quarter horses, and tend to be on the smaller side, says Hansen, partly so they can go nose-to-nose with the cow being cut. He adds, however that his prize mount – Woody Be Lucky – who is one of the top-ten money earners in the sport, is fairly large, especially for a cutting horse. “His barn name is ‘Freak’,” says Hansen, because the big horse is entirely comfortable crouching down to be at eye-level with the cow he is working. The horse’s instincts are what makes a competitive cutting combination work, Hansen says. As for the rider, “You make sure you start your horse on a good cow in the middle of the pen and try and help your horse when they need it, but it’s as important to stay out of the horse’s way.”

Cutting events this year will all be held in the Agrium Western Events Centre. The action starts on Monday, July 7th with the first go for the Non-Pros at 4pm. On Tuesday, July 8th, the Open class has its first go beginning at 5pm. The finals in both classes are on Wednesday, July 9th at 5pm.

There’s a handsome trophy at the Stampede with Hansen’s name on it in two places. Adding it a third time, he says, “would really be sweet. I would certainly be proud to put my name on that trophy again, I promise you that.” And if it was Karen’s name going on the trophy? “That would be even better!” he says.

Catch the live feed of the first go of the Non-Pro today at 4:00 p.m. here. 

Cowboy Up Challenge

cowboy upYou could say that Kateri Cowley has already had a fair bit of success at the Calgary Stampede. After all, she was the 2009 Stampede Princess. These days, however, Cowley’s focus is on a different crown – the Stampede’s Cowboy Up Challenge, Canada’s biggest Extreme Cowboy Racing event.

Raised on the Rafter 6 Ranch in Kananaskis, Kateri says, “I’ve had many, many hours in the saddle.” Not long after her reign as Stampede Princess, she found out about a new event that was coming to the Stampede – the Cowboy Up Challenge. “It just seemed to be right up my alley – having a horse and rider team that can handle anything,” she recalls. “Right away I was excited to give it a try. I gave up my crown in October and the first race was April.” At Aggie Days in 2010, there was a preliminary event that served as a qualifier for the first Cowboy Up Challenge. Kateri won it aboard her horse Kokanee.

It’s called Extreme Cowboy Racing, but, if you look at the results of the just-finished Extreme Cowboy Alberta Winter Series, gender doesn’t really make a difference. In April, when the winner’s buckles were awarded, the top scoring rider in all four classes was female. Kateri was the champion in the ultra-competitive Pro division.

Featuring twelve of the best horse and rider combinations to be found, the Cowboy Up Challenge is sanctioned by the international Craig Cameron Extreme Cowboy Association. The first round of competition takes place in the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday, July 5th at 2:30pm. The second round is also in the Scotiabank Saddledome at 2:30pm on Sunday, July 6th and the final is in the same venue on Monday, July 7th, also at 2:30pm.

Extreme Cowboy Racing challenges riders and their mounts with a course complicated by a bewildering number of ingenious obstacles. In past years, there have been water hazards, narrow bridges and various kinds of tricky footing. Once there was even a scale-model chuckwagon pulled by miniature horses.

“They try to put you and your horse in really awkward positions to see who has the best connection and communication,” Kateri explains. She has a special bond with Kokanee, she adds. “I couldn’t ask for a better partner. He’s always had such a big heart and so much ‘try’.”

While Kateri has been in every Cowboy Up Challenge since 2010, her big brother David will be making just his second start in this year’s event. David was in the 2010 Challenge, he says, and, “It taught me a lot. I sold the horse I had been using and started training the horse I have now.” That first horse, he says, was too temperamental for the sport. Tucker, the horse he’ll be riding this year, has had five years to get ready. “I bought him as a two month-old foal with the mare. There was just something I liked about him,” David says. “I bought him specifically with the Cowboy Up Challenge in mind.”

“What I really like about it is that I’ve been training horses to trust me and to go anywhere and do anything. This is such a good sport for that,” he says. “It really shows the bond between horse and rider. You don’t know what to expect.”

David will have some distraction during the Challenge, as he is also filming the pilot of a reality TV show. “It’s following me around the world and introducing me to these unique horse cultures and seeing how the horses, and people, respond to a cowboy,” he says.

The Cowboy Up Challenge has become one of the most interesting events at the Stampede for people who enjoy high-quality displays of horsemanship. For the competitors, it’s an event anticipated all year long. “I love Stampede,” Kateri exclaims. “I look forward to it more than Christmas!”



Stampede’s Newest Western Facility

Photo courtesy Calgary Stampede

Photo courtesy Calgary Stampede

Calgary – Horses, cowboys and rural residents now have a custom-built, year-round home right in the heart of Calgary on Stampede Park.

The Calgary Stampede has officially opened the Agrium Western Event Centre – Canada’s premiere western event and agriculture education showcase. The building opened on Saturday, June 21, amid much fanfare of a community open house and a grand ribbon-cutting ceremony that featured federal Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification Michelle Rempel and Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Verlyn Olson.

The ultra-modern 150,000 sq. ft. building features an extra-large 2,500-seat specialized arena for equine and western events, a multi-purpose exhibit hall, and a grand rotunda entry that double as a week-day classroom for a unique educational program on sustainable agriculture. The Agrium Centre becomes the new focal point of horse and agriculture-related activities at Stampede Park. Visitors will experience it first during the Stampede July 4 to 13, and with more experiences this year when a series of new horse shows and competitions fill the building throughout the fall season.

“The Calgary Stampede is a world-class event, attracting millions of visitors from all over the world,” Minister Olson said when addressing the crowd on Saturday. “As the largest facility of its kind in Canada, the new Agrium Western Event Centre will be an incredible venue for education, entertainment and to showcase our agriculture industry.”

The Government of Canada and Government of Alberta each contributed $25 million towards the Agrium Centre as part of a series of recent agriculture infrastructure enhancements at Stampede Park that, together, cost $61.5 million. Agrium contributed as title sponsor of the building.

“We are thrilled that our partners shared in our vision of creating a world-class, year-round venue that connects urban and rural,” said Bob Thompson, President and Board chair of the Calgary Stampede. “This provides a gathering place for agriculture industries and associations, offers economic benefit to Calgary businesses, and ensures city residents have a regular connection to agriculture, horses and livestock all through the year.”

Agrium’s President and CEO Chuck Magro also spoke at the Agrium Centre’s grand opening, underlining how the building houses a unique global education program created by the Stampede and Agrium. “We’re thrilled to be part of making the Agrium Western Event Centre a reality at the Calgary Stampede,” said Magro. “This is a place to celebrate agriculture and to learn about sustainable farming practices, through the Journey 2050 program, as we work to feed 9 billion people globally by 2050.”

Journey 2050 coaches grade seven students to explore how the world will feed itself sustainably in the year 2050. Up to 70 students will gather at the building’s rotunda each weekday to experience an interactive inquiry-based personal and computer program that shows the results and impacts of their virtual farming choices.

Guests of the grand opening event marveled at the building’s size and the great sight-lines from the open concourse and seating areas. The behind-the-scenes features of the building were a hit with horse-owners who recognize the animal-friendly features built into every aspect of the handling, warm-up and performance areas.

“We are bringing the Arabian Horse Association’s Western Canadian show to Calgary because of this building,” Arabian Association representative Allison Mostowich told the crowd. “Our first priority is always our horses, and we can tell from the way this building was designed, animals are the Stampede’s top priority as well. We’re looking forward to being the first big event here after the Stampede (July 21-26).”

A current listing of the horse shows, competitions and championship events being hosted this year at the Agrium Centre are on the website. Many are new to Calgary, with three major events being created with this new facility’s capabilities in mind.

July/August Sneak Peek

This issue is about to hit the stands. Here’s a sneak peak of what you’re about to receive in your mailbox. (If you’re not a subscriber, you’re really missing out – subscribe here, and in the meantime look for it on your local newsstand.

JULYcover2014Our cover. Brought together by our own Dainya Sapergia, art direction by Kendra Roberts and featuring Niki Flundra and her fabulous trick horse, Ace. This talented duo will be performing at this year’s edition of the Calgary Stampede and succinctly represented on the cover, our feature piece on the Greatest Show on Earth.


Photo by Dainya Sapergia Western Lifestyle Photography

Within the Calgary Stampede feature, regular contributor Ted Stovin of Everything Cowboy takes a critical look at the rise of stand-alone rodeos such as the Calgary Stampede and the American.


Photo by Deanna Kristensen Photography

Still within the genre, Deanna Kristensen’s interview with with this issue’s chosen maverick, produced some candid thoughts from one of the most influential rodeo producers of all time, Winston Bruce.


Photo by Jenn Webster

Owner of the Rona store in Black Diamond, Alberta and shelter expert, Robbie McKay offers exclusive inside tips on building one.


Photo by Ingrid Schulz

Dr. Mike Scott, of Moore Equine, helps us decipher the real story behind stem cell therapy.

Photo by Dainya Sapergia Western Lifestyle Photography.

Photo by Dainya Sapergia Western Lifestyle Photography

Deanna Kristensen tackles the controversy behind this year’s government-driven cull of Alberta’s wild horses.

spwilljamesOne of our favourite photographers, and a true western folk herself, Mary Williams Hyde illustrates our Getaways guide to the Will James Round Up Ranch Rodeo in Hardin, Montana, with her spectacular photographs of the event.


Photo by Dainya Sapergia Western Lifestyle Photography

They say she’s an old cowboy soul in a young body. Extreme cowboy competitor, Obbie Schlom tells us about her favourite gear in this issue’s edition of Freeze Frame.

Photo by Rod Honig.

Photo by Rod Honig

Vaquero aficionado, Rod Honig takes us through a historical tour of the origin of the spur. 

spscarfslideThese nifty scarf slides by Tom Balding are just one of seven new pieces of western gear featured in our regular Magnificent Seven western product profiles.

Photo by Dainya Sapergia Western Lifestyle Photography.

Photo by Dainya Sapergia Western Lifestyle Photography

Cutting horse trainer Dustin Gonnet continues our cerebral tour through the year of a cutting horse prospect with this issue’s discussion of keeping the minds of his three-year-olds in futurity training fresh and sharp for the aged event season just around the corner.

spkirstyKirsty White discloses her own, personal favourite barrel bloodlines in our Bloodline Buzz column.


Photo by Krista Kay Photography

A Texas-inspired recipe for rib rubs.

Amanda Brumley talks about the success of executing the runaway success of such shows as Reining By The Bay, a full recap of show scenes from the late spring, a horse called Red Hot Jade who’s taking the cow horse world by storm – just a few more hot items in the issue.

Photo by Krista Kay Photography.

Photo by Krista Kay Photography

You might think of enjoying our Wild West cocktail of the month, the Bakon Vodka Caesar, as you peruse it.

Canada’s largest 4-H event at Stampede Park


It’s the largest 4H gathering in Canada, and it’s coming to Stampede Park on May 30 to June 1. The Calgary Stampede welcomes more than 600 young participants to 4-H on Parade, presented by Cervus Equipment, the crowning event of the year, representing months of effort and preparation for members to display their projects and talents.


4H provides young leaders with experience and mentorship in a broad spectrum of agricultural and life skills. The more than 800 projects will be shown, including farm animals such as cattle, sheep, horses, canine and life skills, plus life skill projects that range from archery, welding, photography and more. This year’s 4H on Parade features archery demonstrations on Friday and Saturday afternoons, a canine first aid clinic Saturday morning and the unique Cleaver Kids Program held Saturday afternoon.

Cleaver Kids is the fastest growing program at 4-H on Parade, growing annually to nearly 50 participants this year. This program is designed to get children under the age of nine excited about 4-H by interacting with animals and participating in life skills activities.

Auctions are expected to draw great crowds on Sunday at 4-H on Parade with exciting live auctions of the sheep and steer projects. This sale gives buyers a unique opportunity to buy livestock directly from their sellers, while also supporting Alberta’s youth who put their hard work into raising the animals.

Starting Sunday at 11 a.m., the live auction leads off with the auctioning of a charity lamb and steer. Clubs take turns raising these projects each year, and auctioning off the animals to raise funds for a charity of the club’s choice. This year the charity auction projects are donated by Foothills Sheep and the Irricana Beef and Multi Club. The proceeds will go to the Ronald MacDonald House in southern Alberta.

Stories of Bill

It can be said that horse people, while deeply attached to the trappings of our West, are not overly nostalgic about many things, except perhaps a favorite horse, faithful dog, or particularly memorable run down the pen. Maybe it’s the cowboy in us. We seem to lay our courses through the decades, nodding fondly to good old horses when they leave us, and acknowledging with great respect the work of our kin in the industry, yet always with an eye to the present, and moving on down the trail. Much in the way an old cowboy on the range would bury a good friend who may have come to an untimely end, offering up with a kind of direct sincerity a quote from the Good Book or memory, before swinging himself back into the saddle to complete the day’s journey.

But when it comes to Bill Collins, it seems even the toughest of the cowboys among us can get teary-eyed and wax poetic on the subject of our personal acquaintance with this iconic figure of our West. Perhaps it is rightfully so, as our love affair with Bill has spanned over decades and even generations of our collective western roots.

Bill was born in 1924 into a ranching family and grew up working cattle and horses north of Drumheller, Alberta. It was a neighbor, Phil Bischoff, who became Bill’s mentor, teaching him the nuances of livestock trading, and taking the wide-eyed young man to his first Calgary Stampede in 1945. Soon after, he began to compete in calf roping, winning several Canadian championships in the 50’s, as well as trying his hand in chuckwagon racing, as both an outrider and driver. But it was in 1955, when fate appeared to step in – in the form of a friend who asked him to help out at a cutting demonstration in Bassano, Alberta.

The rest truly is history. The stuff of legends.

Bill’s legacy in cutting spanned over half a century, and he may very well be Canada’s most unanimously considered hero of the sport of all time. It is simply quite unimaginable what the sport might be today, had it not been for Bill’s devout hand in it. As one of the country’s esteemed trainers of today, Gerry Hansma tells it, “There will never be a more devoted man to the sport of cutting in Canada.”

Longtime cutting enthusiast, and much admired for his work with Canada’s pinnacle western performance events, Dave Robson enjoyed a steadfast relationship with Bill over many decades. He recognizes, “Bill made several contributions to the cutting industry. Firstly, he truly was a pioneer to the sport and worked very hard to become good at it. He fostered relationships with many of the greats in the industry to advance his knowledge. Secondly, Bill had a very strong value system. His integrity and passion for the sporty was unwavering. And anyone who deviated from these areas would be dealt with directly or indirectly.”

Bill and his wife, Pearl are largely credited for bringing cutting to the Calgary Stampede in the mid ’70s, while a decade prior, his cutting escapades with Prince Philip and the 1964 Royal Cutting Horse Tour in Great Britain are well documented.

As profound as his influence on the sport was, he remained a steadfast critic of the three-year-old futurities in Canada. Any spectator sitting next to Bill and Pearl in the stands of a cuttin’ might soon find him or herself on the receiving end of a tremendous insight – or as Pearl would teasingly call it, with a twinkle in her eye, “Bill’s lecture.”

At the heart of his objection to the Canadian three-year-old futurity stood the athlete. Bill didn’t believe our young horses could stand up to the same pressure as their Texas counterparts, and there were several facts of climate and country supporting his side in this philosophical debate. He explained them in this excerpt from the 1990’s book by author Maggie Glynn-Jensen – Alberta’s Best.

“The three-year-old futurities are one of the biggest disasters we’ve ever had in the country. Tom Fox and myself and several of the older cutters fought the three-year-old futurity in our country for so long that finally the younger people come on and voted us out. If you stop and analyze it, a lot of our three-year-olds are six months younger in maturity and work than the ones in Texas that go to the NCHA Futurity in December. We have our colts born in May and June up here, sometimes July. We work in indoor buildings with these colts for six or eight months of the year when we can’t be outside, and in Texas they work 10 months of the year outside, and their colts are born in January, February and March. They already have three months over ours. Then our management start having these futurities in September and October, which is three months earlier than the big one in Fort Worth. Now we’ve got six months off them (Texas) colts. It just isn’t reasonable.”

Collins believed that one of the greatest cutting horses of his career, Peponita – two-time World Champion under Matlock Rose, would never had made it if Bill had asked the three-year-old futurity of him.

“I won the Four-Year-Old Futurity [Canada originally began with a four-year-old futurity, later evolving to the three-year-old aged event] on him [Peponita] in 1973 and went on and won the Novice and Open Championship on him in 1974. It was the first time it had ever been done by one horse. I did it again on a daughter of Peppy San that I brought along in the same way. Peponita was sold to Matlock Rose in 1977, and he won the NCHA Open World Championship, and an American Quarter Horse Association Championship in the same year. They used him for breeding in 1978, and in 1979 he came back and duplicated it again. It’s never been done before. There again, it’s those babies not being pushed and just doing with the horse what they are capable. Things come full circle, but for me this has never changed.”

If the movers and shakers in the association boardrooms had any grievances with Bill’s quiet outspokenness on the subject of the futurity, they sure didn’t show it, placing him in nearly every Hall of Fame known to the western horse world; the Canadian Cutting Horse Association (1987), Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (1994), National Cutting Horse Association (1995), and the American Quarter Horse Association (2007).

In 1997, he joined the ranks of one of his admirers, musician Ian Tyson, when he became a member of the Order of Canada, and in 2000, the Horse Industry Association of Alberta bestowed its grandest award on the man – the Distinguished Service Award. Peter Fraser, President of the HIAA, discloses, “The truth is, Bill was given so many distinguished awards and honours during his lifetime that it’s hard to imagine he was shortchanged, unless they break tradition and finally issue Sainthood to a cowboy.”

When this magazine interviewed Bill in 1997, he let the writer know his most prized possession was not an accolade from the competitive ring, but a bronze sculpture commanding a prominent position in the Collins’ then Bearspaw home. Titled Pro Talk and created by British Columbia sculptor and cowboy, Len Monical, the bronze depicts Bill’s life in all its glory – cowboy, cutting horse trainer and stewart of the horse. It was presented to Bill in the ‘80’s during a casual steak-fry amongst friends and colleagues, who wanted to honor Bill “while he still had his boots on.”

Long after his competition and judging days were over, Bill continued to impart what affectionately became known as his “Collinisms” – valuable lessons, cherished advice, a little banter and friendly torments – always projecting in that soft-spoken demeanor, often beginning the invitation to sit down and prepare to be party to some invaluable lesson with the words, “well, folks. . .”

Trainer Brad Pedersen recognizes Bill as the ultimate gentleman, who “was never afraid to offer advice if you were struggling with training a horse. He always approached you in such a manner as to never make you feel like a fool, and he always made sure to tell you when you were doing something right too.”

It’s hard to imagine anyone arguing with Bill, for he backed up his lessons not only with the empiricism of a lifetime, but proving his training methods consistently in the arena. Trainer and founding member of the Canadian Supreme, Gary Coleman recalled in a 1997 interview, “We all know the great things that Bill has done on some great horses, such as Peponita. But as I’ve watched him over the years, I’ve always marveled at what Bill did with the average horse. Bill beat a lot of us on a lot of horses that were average, and to me that’s a great credit to his training methods.”

Trainer Kevin Tienkamp concurs, “I always admired his ability to get a really rank horse trained. I can recall a few that he showed that nobody else wanted to be around.”

Above all the accolades and awards, the horses and strength he bestowed upon a budding horse industry, most will remember the consummate gentleman. In an industry often marked with a cliquish standoffishness, we could count on Bill to greet each of us with a smile, and as sincere a handshake as we’ll perhaps ever know. Competitor Heather Pedersen reminisces. “I personally will never forget how he always grabbed my hand with both his hands and would look directly at me. I even remember the look on his face. I would always walk away wiping tears from my eyes because he was always so nice to me.”

Bill Collins passed away on Dec. 31, 2013 at 6:00 a.m. in the morning, a timing that somehow fits the quintessential Bill; his final assignment, flawlessly taking his leave before a minute of daylight was to be wasted. He would have been 90 on March 25. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Pearl, his children: Russell, Billie-Lynn, Philip and Gary Coleman, as well as numerous grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

It’s said the good ones never live long enough, but a few of us in the equine world can honestly say that several generations of our families were given the opportunity to be present for the accomplishments and teaching of this great Master firsthand.

That’s a pretty good lifetime.

Excerpted from the March issue of Western Horse Review.  A Celebration of Bill’s life will be held this Friday, May 9 at 2:00 p.m. at the Palomino Room, at the Calgary Stampede grounds. Friends and admirers of Bill and his lifetime of accomplishments are welcome. 


Bill Collins and Peter Fraser enjoying a moment at the Horse Owners and Breeders Conference.


Bill exemplified the cowboy way and ethics.


The iconic photo of Bill bridle-less cutting in England, during the 1964 Royal Cutting Horse Tour. The mare he is riding is Bonita Tivio, dam of Peponita.


Bill and Marion Stav at the Canadian Supreme in 1981.


Bill cutting at the Canadian Supreme in 1990.


Bill and Pearl at the Canadian Supreme.


Bill Collins and Peponita in 1973.