Canadian Supreme in Growth Mode


7411_AK1I1710_This Cats Got Style (650x433)

Red Deer – It’s easy to say a long-standing successful show is ‘bigger and better’ each year, but it can be harder to achieve. Yet the Canadian Supreme has managed to do just that, in a time of economic uncertainty.

“Our entries have climbed ten per cent this year,” related Canadian Supreme Chairman Jeff Robson, about the event coming to Red Deer September 29th to October 4th. “We’ve got over 600 entries, with horses coming from as far away as Texas and California coming to compete.”

For almost 40 years, the Canadian Supreme has celebrated the equine disciplines of Cutting, Cow Horse, and Reining. All of the contests showcase the working cow horse of the western world. Trainers demonstrate how much these cow-savvy horses can learn, even at a young age.

7411_AK1I1789_Annies Playin Cat (650x433)

Another healthy growth sign for the Canadian Supreme is the addition of two new classes, to go along with the four added last year. All of them are designed to encourage newcomers to the sport to enjoy the thrill of competition.

“We reached out to competitors last year and asked them ‘what are other shows doing? Are we missing anything?’ They suggested we add more mainstream classes for less experienced competitors. We did, and have gotten a good response,” explained Robson.

As well this year, the Canadian Supreme debuts a bigger size for the main competition arena at Red Deer’s Westerner Park.

“This is a major step forward in both our development and in our partnership with Westerner Park,” stated Robson. “Expanding the cutting and cow horse arena to 110 feet wide and 226 feet long keeps us in step with the arena size competitors and their horses experience at other elite shows. This has long been a priority for the Supreme Board of Directors.”

Copy of Tyrell Smith & Okie Jo Wrangler action (650x433)

Last year, two of Alberta’s best in the western horse world managed to dominate their competitions at the Canadian Supreme, picking up both top prizes. Shawna Sapergia of Cochrane took two horses to the NRHA Open Reining Finals championship, splitting first with herself by posting two identical 147 point runs. Cayley based trainer Dustin Gonnet did much the same in the Open Classic Challenge Cutting Finals, when he rode two different horses to first and second place. Both those competitors will be back and eager to defend their titles. Others who are no strangers to the winners’ circle are Lacombe’s Brad Pedersen, Vince Kaglea of High River and Suzon Schaal of Calgary. Central Alberta’s own Kevin Baumann and Michelle Lund are hometown favorites, along with Geoff Hoar of Innisfail, Jim Dobler of Delburne and Bill and ElaineSpeight of Rocky Mountain House; while Dale Clearwater of Hanley leads a strong Saskatchewan representation. Keep your eyes on Clay Webster of Okotoks and young Austin Seelhof of Cochrane, as well as veteran Locke Duce of High River in the reining.

Friday night’s signature Western Horse Sale will see over forty horses offered, ranging from prospects to competition-ready mounts. More information on this year’s sale is available at

Cash and prizes totalling well over $410,000 will be paid out after the six days of competition, making the Canadian Supreme the event where every contestant wants to excel. For fans, it guarantees some exciting fence runs, daring equine dances with determined cows, and the sizzle of fast spins and sliding stops. Plus, the Saturday Cinch Night at the Supreme is back, with some of key Finals, as well as the popular Bridleless Cutting and last year’s big hit, the Team Doctoring contest. The Trade Show returns with a wide range of horse related and western lifestyle products, as well as western art. It opens daily Thursday-Saturday at 10:00 am. Best of all, admission to the Canadian Supreme is again free.

Enthusiasts can also keep up with the action thanks to the live webcast, which can be accessed, along with daily schedules, on the website

For further details contact Betty Kunka at 403-313-8673.

August in Photos

My Stable Life August in Pics

August. The month of horse shows and weddings. And ice bucket challenges, lol! I didn’t even have time to blink in the last 31 days. Our weekends ran nine-O. The first weekend was a horse show, followed by a wedding. Then a horse show, a wedding and finally, another horse show. However, it was a joyful, happy month and the two weddings I write about were for some of the most precious people in our lives. Here’s a photo summary of how August played out for me.

Breast Collar, My Stable Life

The beginning of August started with a horse show. It was my first time getting back into the pen after a 6- month hiatus. I love the cow horse folks and was happy to see them again. It was also lovely to feel the power of a cow horse underneath me again. Although I did have  a bit of a “hat issue” to start with…


The following weekend was the wedding of some dear friends to us – Kirk Shaw and Crissy Santangelo. Kirk has been a beloved friend for many years, was the best man at our wedding and is also our farrier. Many of you may know Crissy as one of the hardworking gals behind the scenes of Silver Slate Arena (check out Featuring a charming tiny white church, a long-stretch Hummer limo, black cowboy hats, hot pink dresses with cowgirl boots to match, horses for photos, and a fantastic gathering and pig roast at Silver Slate to celebrate with friends and family – this was one of the most beautiful western weddings I have ever had the pleasure of attending. Congrats to Kirk and Crissy and we wish you many blessings to come!

Photo by Judy Doiron.

I think all kids love cowgirl, Kelin Doiron. Mine certainly do! Photo by Judy Doiron.


The following weekend, we were right back at Silver Slate arena, but with horses this time. A number of other “horse show kids” were there as well and many of them contend in the Future Stars class – one of our all-time favorite divisions to watch.

Photo by Natalie Jackman,

Photo by Natalie Jackman,

Warm August weather provided an ideal chance to snap a few shots of our upcoming yearlings. Taking photos of youngsters is an exercise in patience but we’re certainly glad Natalie Jackman has the know-how and tolerance to work with us in this venture <smile.>



Almost immediately following that show, I’m sure you can guess… we hit the road for another wedding. This time, we headed for beautiful Kelowna, BC – to attend the wedding of my beautiful sister. Along the way, there are many fabulous tourist places to hit. This year, we stopped at D Duchman Dairy – a farm fresh dairy store that kids can delight in the animal interaction as much as they can the ice cream at the end! Featuring exotic animals like llamas, birds and goats, D Dutchman Dairy also offers a hands-on approach to their calf barn. We tried taking our kidlets over to the other animals but they kept running back to the calves! I guess, you just can’t beat an up-close and personal interaction with friendly Holsteins.

Albino Kangaroo

Our son petting an albino wallaby at Kangaroo Creek Farm in Kelowna, BC.

However, just when I thought we couldn’t top that experience, my sister took us to Kangaroo Creek Farm – a farm that been breeding kangaroos and wallabies for more than 20 years in Lake Country near Kelowna. This is an incredible experience – operated entirely on donations alone. Guests are invited to walk into the farm and see wallaroos (a type of kangaroo, not a cross between a wallaby and a kangaroo) and Bennett wallabies roaming about, freely amongst the people! The animals are so friendly and tame, kids and adults alike can walk right up to them and pet them or offer a treat provided by farm operators! The farm also features emu, peacocks, fancy chickens, goats, parrots, a baby albino wallaby (*see the albino mother my son is petting above), baby kangaroos and potbellied pigs. There are also a pair of capybara, the world’s larges rodent (up to 150 lbs.)



And if you wait your turn, you can even have the chance to hold a baby kangaroo! This experience was worth posting a picture of myself (sans make-up) for…


We had one day of down time to visit with family and friends before the big day. But I definitely could have gone for a few more here… My sister Nicole and her husband choose a beautiful setting to host a wedding!

Next, it was on to the big day! Held at the historic Hotel Eldorado on the rooftop patio overlooking a marina, my baby sis and her new husband did a hilarious exchange of vows. My little family and I were truly honored to be a part of it and we watched with pride as she begins this new chapter in her life. The wedding was beautiful, the photos are insanely idyllic and the reception was all about the details. I should almost post a blog on that specifically <grin.> Congrats Nick and Jay – we love your dearly and thank-you for allowing us to be part of your special day!


The drive to Kelowna also provided us the perfect opportunity to pick up the newest member to our animal family – meet “Taylor,” a miniature gray-dun Donkey. I’m sure there will be more adventures about this little guy to come.

Cow-nightThe day after we returned from my sister’s wedding (at 2:00 am, I might add,) we unloaded Taylor, doctored a colt that had become injured over the weekend and headed straight for bed. For the following evening, Clay was hosting a practice cow night for over 40 people at our place. Cow nights make for a busy schedule but a great opportunity to practice for upcoming events. On this particular evening, a crop duster was hard at work nearby. It’s that time of year.


As I’m sure you can guess, the very next weekend we were back showing horses at the Back On Track Snaffle Bit Futurity hosted by the Alberta Reined Cow Horse Association.

Phew! August was a busy month.

Photo by Natalie Jackman

My husband, Clay riding “Bob” in a powerful fence turn. Photo by Natalie Jackman,






Last Month in Pics & Schleich Winner!


If you caught My Stable Life’s post last week – Schleich Giveaway – you’ll know I have been remiss in announcing the winner of a Schleich Quarter Horse and western tack accessory outfit. I’m also a few days late posting my last month in photos – so I thought I’d do both with today’s post! July was an insanely busy month and labelled recently as the second hottest July our area has seen since WWII, there were many reasons to go on road trips or just get outside and enjoy the sunshine.

West Edmonton Mall, pirate ship

Checking out the pirate ship at West Edmonton Mall.

The month saw us in Edmonton to start and the kids and I had a great time visiting family and checking out the sights at West Edmonton Mall. The pirate ship and sea lion attractions are always big hits with my kids. I on the other hand, am just happy to get an opportunity to shop. At a place that is not strictly a feed store, lol!

The following week, we were back home in Calgary and took the chance to visit the Calgary Stampede. With all its new changes and as the first year to feature events inside the new Calgary Agrium Western Event Center, it was almost as though we were checking out the Calgary Stampede for the very first time. We loved the new midway created just for younger kids. And as that was located very close to Draft Horse Town, we spent countless hours meandering back and forth between the two.

Calgary Stampede, Calgary Tower

A team of Drafties set against the Calgary Tower in the backdrop.

Of course, the Agrium Ag-tivity in the City was a big hit too! With so many opportunities to get up-close and personal with life on a farm or ranch, the Calgary Stampede is a phenomenal educational opportunity for kids.

Alberta Chickens, Calgary Stampede

Agrium Ag-tivity in the City, Calgary Stampede

While we were checking out the numerous hands-on interactive activities, Dad meanwhile was watching the cow horse competition in the new Agrium Western Events Center. In between midway rides and trips to see the Draft Horses, I was able to sneak a glance of the cow horses too <grin>. And boy was the giant CERVUS screen located at the top of the arena a nice touch!

John Swales in the 2014 Calgary Stampede Working Cow Horse Classic.

John Swales in the 2014 Calgary Stampede Working Cow Horse Classic.

Watching all the events at the Calgary Stampede spurred a whole new spark for horses within our daughter.

Kids and horses

Our son on the other hand, was just happy to be helping Dad with the chores. Which is totally fine with us!


Following the Calgary Stampede, we received a letter from the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) this month questioning the registration – or more specifically, the markings – of a foal we have been trying to register for a long time now. Turns out, the  filly in question had a “white mark” on the right side of her neck. The AQHA wanted us to clip the horse in this area, right down to the skin and take another picture, so they could verify the color of her skin underneath.

When Clay and I looked closely at the picture that I had sent in electronically to register the foal, Clay realized she had a bite mark on her neck! (This is a detail I never even noticed during the online registration process). The AQHA in turn thought the white spot was simply that – an unusual white patch of white hairs on her neck and wanted verification. With a return phone call to the AQHA and some updated pictures showing the filly no longer has a white spot on the side of her neck, we were good to proceed with the registration process.

Good to know the AQHA takes registrations and markings very seriously!


July also afforded us the opportunity to watch the High River Air Show. With stunts performed by the Canadian Forces Snow Birds, the SkyHawks parachutists and an appearance by an a CF18 Hornet – we were in complete awe.

High River Air Show 2014

Last month we also watched many of our neighbors haying their fields and we got busy securing our winter hay supply as well. The word on the street is that hay prices are going up everywhere. If you have a moment, drop me a comment in the comments section below – because I’m super curious to find out where hay prices are currently at!


And now my friends, I need to tell you who the lucky recipient of a Schleich Quarter Horse figurine and western tack is…!

When I asked readers to tell me about their favorite tips / activities to keep kids busy at horse shows, Aaron Lucas wrote:

We take our mini pony to the arena with us, our son just loves to brush her and pick up her feet…over and over! Daisy is such a good pony! When he is tired of Daisy, we take out his “dirt” toys. He will play for hours with his Tonka trucks in the roping box. I love it, because I can see him and I know he is safe while I get some horses rode. He also loves his Schleich toys, however he is only 2 and still loses little toys, so we only play with them at home for now! We would love to add to our collection… I say ‘we’ because I love them too!

Aaron – please email us at with your mailing address and we’ll get your Schleich toys on their way to you!

Interviews – Dick & Brenda Pieper

Playgun, Pieper, Pieper Ranch

Brenda and Dick Pieper, with Playgun.

In my career, I have many perks. One of them includes the opportunity to interview people in the horse industry. People who making a difference. People who are famous. People who are exciting. And people who are just amazing with horses. In April 2008, I had the opportunity to visit Pieper Ranch in Marietta, Oklahoma. Pieper Ranch is home to the legendary Playgun and both Dick and Brenda are legendary breeders, riders and owners in the western performance industry. Here is the interview that resulted from that visit:


Q. Brenda, you are originally from Canada. When did you move to the States?

BP – I was born in Kitchener, Ontario. Dick was born in Ohio. I met him for the first time when he came to Ontario to compete in an AQHA show we were hosting. He was showing a horse named Mr Jim 45. It was a real boost for the reining industry in the province of Ontario. In that day, Mr Jim 45 was a really good reining horse. It was also a difficult era to make a living showing horses.

A couple of years later, Dick took a job with some folks around the Toronto area. He helped a lot of people. I knew him as a friend for 14 years before we ever were involved. We started seeing each other in 1986 and Dick was president of the National Reining Horse Association at the time. He had been since 1983 – the first year the NRHA Futurity paid $100,000 to the winner, when it was still held in Columbus, Ohio. 1986 was the first year the NRHA Futurity was held in Oklahoma City, so it meant we had to come to Oklahoma. Bob Loomis had moved here (Marietta) the prior year. He told us, “Bring your horses early to my place and that will make it handy to run back and forth.” We packed up four trailers, moved into Bob’s barn and went to work. We first arrived late in the evening and when we drove out in the morning from our hotel in Ardmore, I remember how beautiful it was down here. I loved it! We were able to purchase the ranch we live on today, in March of 1987.

Q. Both you and Dick have expressed that Playgun is the ideal horse to move the Pieper breeding operation into the future. You knew this from the moment you spotted him too. How could you both be so sure at the time?

BP – Looking at his conformation, you can see Playgun’s balance up close and from far away – it just hits you in the face. Dick and I are so fortunate that our eyes see the same things on a horse. I can’t think of one horse in 21 years that we didn’t agree on completely. Both of us had a very strong gut feeling when we looked at Playgun and got that “Wow!” feeling, as soon as we looked at him. His breeding is impeccable and his show and produce record have lived up to what his conformation and pedigree promised.

Q. Have you come across your ultimate broodmare yet?

BP – Oh lots of them! Many are our own and many are other peoples’ mares. There are many I look at that his me like Playgun did. Nearly all of our mares are like peas-in-a-pod. They’re similar to Playgun. They may be different sizes, but they all hold the same balance. It you apply that principle (breeding like-to-like) to your breeding program, your offspring are going to be very consistent as well.

What you can’t do is try to offset a flaw in one parent by going to the opposite extreme in the other. The best chance at consistency in the offspring is breeding like-to-like.

Q. Is there a horse from history you would like to ride?

BP – Many. But one that Dick and I both would like to ride is Miss Silver Pistol. She was so expressive, busy and frantic on a cow. Boy, it would be fun to try her out with today’s methodical approach to working a cow, with the Ferrari engine she had, speed expressiveness and big stop. Today’s cutters have to run and stop a cow more than they used to. Miss Silver Pistol always had the cow mesmerized in the center of the pen. It would be so cool to see if you could train that mare with today’s methods (end to end without letting her cow up so much), and having to show on today’s cattle – how great she would be now. Having had the opportunity to have that mare here at one point, studying her conformation and balance, I know she had all the great parts to be competitive today also.

Q. What has held your passion for the horse industry all these years?

BP – The pure, pure love of horses. We love the way they smell. Brushing them. Turning them out. The learning curve into cutting has kept our passion for the industry. Playgun has become the catalyst for our success in that industry. To have met all the people we have met, training, the pursuit of being able to do this event: Dick always had the passion, but Playgun was the ticket in. That horse made the relationships for us. He helped us meet the people.

Q. If you could sip coffee with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?

BP – I think it would be anyone who really loves horses. To talk and discuss and analyze horses. There’s such a huge list of people who like to do this! You get to Fort Worth and the person you look forward to sitting beside is the person you can do this with. Dick says he would love to be able to visit with Don Dodge for the same reason.


Experience Pays Off in Cow Horse Classic


Open Bridle Champion – Maximum Echo, Owner Flo Houlton, ridden by John Swales

Reserve Champion – Pure Latigo, Owner Bob O’Callaghan, ridden by Clint Swales

Limited Champion –Smart L’il Boonlight, Owned and ridden by Kent Williamson

Open Hackamore Champion – HR Chic Nic, Owner Bruce Bamford, ridden by Clint Swales

Reserve Champion – Red Hot Jade, Owners Bart & Terri Holowath, ridden by Cody McArthur

Limited Champion – Annies Playin Cat, Owned and ridden by Veronica Swales

Limited Reserve Champion – Me and Lena, Owned by Sanford Big Plume, ridden by Kent Williamson

Non-Pro Bridle Champion – Genuine Brown Gal, Owned and ridden by Suzon Schaal, Calgary, AB

Reserve Champion – Pickachiclet, Owned and ridden by Terri Holowath, Cayley, AB

Novice Champion – Smart Sassy Date, Owned and ridden by Greg Gartner, Sherwood Park, AB

Novice Reserve Champion – Mates Irish Hickory, Owned and ridden by Lorne Bodell, Cremona, AB


Photo by The Calgary Stampede

Calgary – Two volunteers, members of the Calgary Stampede Western Performance Horse Committee, watching from the sidelines in the Agrium Western Event Centre, summed up the domination shown by the Swales family in the Working Cow Horse Classic. “They really set the benchmark,” said one. “They sure do,” replied the other.

In the Open Bridle class, John Swales of Millarville won his ninth of the 14 Classics he’s entered, riding Maximum Echo, owned by Flo Houlton of Caroline, AB. More remarkably, Swales also qualified another mount for the five-horse final and had to ride them one right after the other. “You don’t have long to prepare the second horse,” he commented. There isn’t much time for the rider to reset for the different qualities of the next horse, either. “They all have their own strengths and weaknesses,” Swales observed. It was on his second ride, though, that the multi-time champion scored a remarkable 299 to take the buckle and $5,440. The Reserve Champion, just four points in arrears, was John’s younger brother, Clint, from Longview, AB, who earned a cheque for $4,080.

Clint’s Stampede was somewhat redeemed by his Open Hackamore win astride HR Chic Nic, owned by Calgary’s Bruce Bamford, earning $4,620 in the process. John had two horses in this class, too, but difficult cows sabotaged his runs. Cody McArthur of Strathmore, AB, rode Red Hot Jade, owned by Bart and Terri Holowath of Cayley to a $3,850 payday.

You don’t have to be named Swales to dominate a class in the Working Cow Horse Classic. Calgary equine veterinarian Suzon Schaal proved that when she rode her mare Genuine Brown Gal to earn her fifth Stampede buckle and $3,164. Every one of Schaal’s victories has been on the same mount. “She’s my first cow horse,” said Schaal, who has only been competing for seven years. “I was very fortunate to luck into a good one right off the bat.” Terri Holowath added another Reserve Champion title to her collection, taking home $2,486.

The Stampede’s Working Cow Horse Classic continues a tradition of skilled horsemanship dating back to the earliest days of working stock from horseback. Horse-and-rider teams are judged on their authority, discipline and precision in two distinct areas – reined work, or dry work, and cow work, also known as fence work. Reined work, labeled “Western dressage” by some, is based on a predetermined pattern of manoeuvres, including figure-eights, straight runs, sliding stops and 360-degree spins. Cow work, the exciting, action-packed portion of the show, sees the horse-and-rider team first box a steer, then send it at full tilt along the fence, heading it off and turning it both ways, before finally circling it once in each direction in the centre of the arena.

The Stampede’s Working Cow Horse Classic hosts bridle and hackamore divisions for fully-trained horses and four- and five-year-olds, respectively, with open, non-pro and novice designations for various levels of rider experience. Six championships were up for grabs — Open Bridle, Open

May In Photos


May was an awesome month. With the promise of warmer weather on the way, our family took to the spring days like bears thankful to be out of hibernation.

May was also an absolute whirlwind. It began with a clinic hosted by my husband and at our ranch with Teddy Robinson, a legendary working cow horse World Champion. A number of people took Ted’s instruction in over the three-day period to better their boxing and fence skills. My house started (somewhat) clean. I gave up on Day 3.

I also learned how truly expensive cattle are right now.


The kids and I got a chance to meet 2014 Road to the Horse World Champion Jimmy Anderson’s new partner, “Smoky.” Thanks Dainya Sapergia Western Lifestyle Photography for snapping this shot!


Then our dear friends, the Hickey family, took us on an impromptu tour of Calgary’s newest fire station. Pictured below is Tyler, Baby Saydee and Jen Hickey. Tyler serves on the Calgary Fire Department and you might also recognize Jen as one of the Santangelos – the family who works tirelessly nearly every weekend of the year to host western competition events at their Silver Slate Arena.

My kids had a brilliant chance to sit in a fire truck, push alarm buttons, hold a fire hose… you name it. We had a great time!


We took the kids to an evening performance of Odysseo and they loved every minute of it. With so much action, music and horses, this show by Cavalia is an absolute feast for the eyes. Our twins were clapping and squealing almost entirely to the end. And they loved the VIP treatment which included cookies and ice cream during intermission. (So did the Big Kids, grin).


May brought us the last foal of our foaling season. Healthy and bay, this one was a filly. Thanks to Natalie Jackman of for this shot.


Tired of losing precious hay bales to the elements, we started the excavating / building process on a new hay shed. More to come on this one.


Hubby put together some presents Grandma bought the twins a while ago, that have been sitting in the garage until the kids were old enough. Let me tell you… having two 3-year-olds who drive is enough to make you lose all your hair. And it’s quite the science experiment!

As you can see, our little man is a John Deere fan. He has taken to driving like a duck to water.

Our little girl, on the other hand, can often be spotted looking down at the radio.

Hope it’s not like that when she’s 16!


And finally, May ended for us with a bang. Tired of the long winter we decided to venture out on a vacation. As many of you with livestock may know, it’s hard enough to leave your property and horses for horse shows, let alone a vacation. You must put all of your trust and the care of your animals in the hands of someone else, take a deep breath and actually step away to make a vacation happen.

Because of these reasons (and the fact that we were busy raising two little babies), it’s been several years since our last one. My hubby drug his heels a bit and my kids battled a virus and an ear infection on the departure, but we finally did it!

The Webster family vacation 2014 took place at Atlantis in the Bahamas. Sugar white sands, endless swimming pools, turtles, sharks (in tanks), piña coladas. Life is good :)


By a chance meeting, we even ran into the rock group Paramore in our hotel lobby.

Obviously my kids don’t know who Hayley Williams is just yet, but they will. Because Mommy is a big fan.


Atlantis features so much. Activities outdoors, kiddie pools, up-close-and-personal encounters with sharks, dolphins, stingrays, pottery classes, fine dining, make your own stuffed animal adventures, movies under the stars, or the chance to just be a family again… That’s what we found – and that’s what we took from Atlantis.


May also held some other great thrills for us as well, but those are things I can’t share with you just yet – not until a future issue of Western Horse Review! Stay tuned to My Stable Life!!

The Year of the Horse has been shaping up nicely. I hope May was wonderful for you too!

Horse Showing With Kids

Cartoon by Dave Elston.

Cartoon by Dave Elston.

Bring your family along with you on the journey. Don’t feel like you’re somehow shortchanging them. They’re going to have a different experience than other kids do, but it’s not necessarily a lesser experience. You have to stop judging yourself by other people’s standards. Let go of the guilt and embrace the messiness of what you’re doing.” – Arlene Dickinson

I came across this quote in an article recently, stated by my favorite Dragon.

And I thought, “Wow! I can’t believe how applicable this quote is to being a horse show mom!”

For the purpose of this blog, by “horse show mom,” I’m not referring to the super-heroines who haul their kids to 4H and Pony Club and various other shows on the weekends. Toting grooming supplies, and helmets, and lawn chairs, and kids and their ponies to the competition ring. You ladies, are an entirely different group of super humans and my hat goes off to you! I’m just not quite there yet because my children are only 3.

So by “horse show moms” I’m referring to the ladies who – with children in tow – still get themselves out to the show arena in pursuit of their various disciplines and goals.

When my husband first approached me with the idea of getting back to the show pen last year, I thought he was crazy. I’d been out of the scene for so long, I couldn’t even remember what my saddle felt like. And then, I was overtaken by a hint of excitement.

How wonderful it would be to get my body back in shape after the hiatus of having children! It had been three years since I last showed competitively but how fabulous it would feel to once again run down for a sliding stop – that feeling comparable to a freight train melting into the ground at a breakneck speed… And the exhilaration of putting my mount face to face with a cow and mirroring its every move with great velocity. Reining. Cow Horse. Whatever. It would be so great to ride again!

Soon after, however,  those excited feelings were quickly replaced by anxiety and guilt.

“How can I possibly drag our children to horse shows, for me?” I thought. “They wouldn’t enjoy one minute of it…”

It’s one thing to go watch their Daddy at shows – but it would quite another for me, the Mother, to be in the arena this time as well. Especially since I would be out riding my horse and not including either of our twins in my fun. They love to ride horses! But our kids would have to wait on the sidelines until I was finished. There would likely be tears.

What if someone had a diaper that needed to be changed?

What if they ran to play under the bleachers?

What if they came back with gum… from under the bleachers??

Since my husband and I don’t have the luxury of a nanny and babysitters have been somewhat hard to secure (especially during shows), we would have to do things the old fashioned way. We’d have to take our kids with us and work together to get it done. And since we don’t own living quarters AND my hubby would also be coaching several clients during the same shows I would be riding in, we’d have to plan ahead, pack several key items, and basically just be prepared to take whatever the horse show days handed to us, in stride.

If I was serious about getting on a horse again, there would be no doubt – it would be difficult. But not impossible.


After a year of showing again, there are several things I’ve learned. They go something like this:

• If you’ve got young children – from the toys, to the diaper bags, to the changes of clothes necessary when your kids become little dirt-balls from playing in an arena corner – lots of “stuff” must accompany you to the show arena. Get used to it. It is what is and although some people might give you a raised eyebrow here or there, having a content child on the sidelines is extremely helpful when you are trying to show. You likely have enough emotion to deal with in terms of show nerves.

• Show concessions get old really fast, so a cooler packed full of healthy foods that your kids are used to eating goes a long way.

• The long nights and early mornings in the barn sometimes make for sick kids. It happens. And when you’re out of the comfort zone of your house, having a family affected by the flu or something else is heartbreaking. Travel insurance (for when attending shows outside of Canada) is a must.  Children’s Advil, Polysporin, band-aids, a thermometer and soft, comforting blankets are additional don’t-leave-home-without items.

• There are so many great people involved in western performance horse sports that if you’re struggling, either with a kid, a horse, a pattern… someone will likely step up and help you. Heck, I’ve even had some ladies change a diaper, without so much as a word from me. If someone offers you help, take it.

How do you fit a set of twins on a horse?

How do you fit a set of twins on a horse?

When I made the decision to enter the show pen last year, I thought I was embarking on a fool’s mission. So did others, I know. Last year was a journey that saw Clay and I in shows spanning two provinces, working long hours, and climaxing with an intense trip to Texas. But in the end, I was so completely proud of what we had accomplished and the fact that we had done it as a family.

Stay tuned to My Stable Life! In honor of Mother’s Day this month, I will return with more installments of Horse Showing With Kids, with tips on what to pack, ideas for handling long road trips and advice from my trainer and (tor)mentor husband <grin> for mental focus in the pen.

NRCHA Celebration of Champions Wraps Up


The 2014 National Reined Cow Horse Association Celebration of Champions wrapped up today in Fort Worth, Texas. At the Celebration of Champions, the top horses and riders from each of the NRCHA’s eight geographic regions competed for World Championship titles in 14 events. Held February 14-22, the weather was beautiful and the historic Will Rogers Memorial Center was a perfect venue for the event.


The event also features the World’s Greatest Horseman contest – an event about one horse, one rider and one very impressive title. In one bit, horses compete in four contests: herd work, rein work, steer stopping and cow work. Since the family, myself and some friends attended the show in person this year, I had the opportunity to snap a few candid shots that I thought I would share:


Jay McLaughlin makes a reining run in the World’s Greatest Horseman.



Boyd Rice and Oh Cay N Short were crowned as the 2014 NRCHA World’s Greatest Horseman champions. The showdown ended with Spearman, Texas, professional Boyd Rice capturing the $25,000 World’s Greatest Horseman Championship by a half-point aboard Oh Cay N Short (Oh Cay Quixote x Bit Of Shorty x Shorty Lena). His composite 877.5 score on four events (226 herd/214.5 rein/221 steer stopping/216 cow) earned the coveted World’s Greatest Horseman title. Rice has won both the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Championship and the World’s Greatest Horseman Championship on the same horse.

Photo courtesy of NRCHA.

Boyd Rice & Oh Cay N Short, World’s Greatest Horseman Champions. Photo courtesy of NRCHA.

The NRCHA Celebration of Champions also includes the Aaron Ranch Cow Horse Classic Derby for 4- and 5-year-old cow horses.


Cody McArthur & Bart Holowath (both riding Red Hot Jade) in the Aaron Ranch Derby earned top honors. Cody won 3rd in the Int. Open & Res. Champion in the Ltd. Open. Bart was Reserve Champion across the Non Pro, Int. Non Pro & Novice Non Pro divisions. Red Hot Jade is owned by Bart & Terri Holowath of Cayley, AB, and this great gelding carried both riders to very exciting finals fence runs of 220 (Bart) & 222 (Cody). To see their stellar ride, check out this video:

However, that wasn’t the only Canadian success at this show! Congratulations also to Keri Hudson Reykdal and Cadilac Rey and Mark Parsons aboard Just Enough Shine who shared the 4th & 5th place cheques in Amateur division of the Aaron Ranch Derby.

In the Celebration of Champions portion of the show, there were several Canadians who bested the preliminary rounds to become one of the Top 10 Finalists in the World. Congratulations to John Murphy and HR Players Trista along with owners Eugene and Maria Murphy for their third place win in the NRCHA Celebration of Champions Non-Pro Two Rein (with high fence score honours)! To see their fantastic go, check out this video:

The Murphy family earned more congratulations in the NRCHA Celebration of Champions Non-Pro Hackamore class when John and Pepto Pepermint finished tied for 6th place in the finals!

Congratulations to Geoff Hoar on brother Greg Hoar’s good mare High Output Dually making the finals in the NRCHA Celebration of Champions Ltd Open Hackamore. They finished 8th in the finals after a gutsy fence run with a unfortunate near fall.

Robbie McKay and his mare Caught Ya Lookin Too were tied 6th place in the NRCHA Celebration of Champions Int. Non Pro Bridle Championships. In the same class, Terri Holowath and her great gelding Pickachiclet added to their many accolades finishing with a strong 8th.

In the Novice Non-Pro Bridle finals, McKay and Caught You Lookin Too collected a 5th place cheque. Congratulations Robbie & Molly on a great show placing in two Championship Finals!

And likewise for Terri Holowath, who aboard Picachiclet placed eighth in a really tough Non-Pro Bridle Championship class (their second Championship Finals as well)!

In the $5K Limited Non-Pro finals, two Canadians made the Top 10 cut. Congratulations to Farrah McArthur and Lightning Hits Twice for their great dry work! Unfortunately they had a difficult cow but this duo still earned a ninth place pay cheque. And it feels strange to mention this in my own blog, but I’m happy to report that myself and the little mare my husband and I own, MS Tyson Chic N Nic, took home a Reserve World Championship. (Insert big smiley face here!) Thanks so much to everyone who helped make it possible – especially my mom who flew to Texas to watch me compete in the Finals, only to stay behind in the hotel room to look after our twins because they had become ill following a grueling week. But also to Jamea Minue, Karen Matlo and Helga Roh and my hubby Clay, for the unfailing support system they provided for me. I could have never done it without them!

Dunning’s Cow Horse Words of Wisdom


Photo by Cappy Jackson.

If you’re in the Scottsdale, Arizona, area this winter, it may be well worth your time to check out Almosta Ranch – home of 37-time World Champion and Reserve World Champion, Al Dunning. As an American Quarter Horse Association approved judge for 27 years and serving on numerous association boards since 1970, Dunning’s expertise in reining, working cow horse and cutting is extensive. We had a chance to catch up with Dunning at a Canadian cow horse clinic where he shared several of his tips for choosing “pay” cattle, taking control of the cow and proper rider positioning to increase a cow horse score. Here are nine of the top tips we picked up on:


Photo by Deanna Kristensen.


#1 – The principles of cutting and boxing are the same. The horse should always move in straight lines, approaching in a straight line, stopping, turning and advancing with the cow again in a straight line. Ideally the horse should “mirror” what the cow does, hitting the stop at the same time as the cow. Then as the cow changes direction, it should essentially “pull” the horse with it through the turn.

“The goal is to hit the stop, stop straight and wait for the cow to turn. Turn with it and then get straight again,” says Dunning. “You donʼt want to run at the cow. Let the cow pull you. Hit that stop and ensure you have equal rein pressure in both of your hands while doing so.”

#2 – Stopping straight is key in both boxing and cutting for maintaining position. If the horse stops crookedly, he puts more stress on one side of his body instead of distributing it evenly through both hocks. Stopping straight also allows the horse to be in an optimal position for lifting his cow-side shoulder to turn quickly with the cow. If a horse tends to drop its cow-side shoulder into the cow, he will have trouble hitting the stop and sweeping through himself.


#3 – “The hardest part about cutting out a single cow from a herd is getting them far enough up away from their buddies. The horse and rider need to move that cow into a good working position to mark some points. Make a plan for advancing towards a cow, then execute it. Choose which side of the cow you are going to go, then proceed. Think about what you want to do with that cow.”

#4 – “I donʼt like a cow that looks like it is going to go to sleep or run you over and go back to the herd. I like a cow that when you say, ʻbooʼ to it, it wants to go away. Conversely, I donʼt like cows that want to get too close to you either. I want the cow that will get away from you and move and will give you some work. Those are the ones that you can win something on.”

#5 – “When the cattle come into the arena and during all the previous works before me, I pay close attention. I will mark all the cows on on a sheet. ʻGAʼ is a go-again cow – one that I like. GA means that someone just cut that cow a little bit and I saw how it moves. This is a cow that is really good and attentive and didnʼt push on the rider. This is a cow that will not run you over, will give you a little room and work really well.”

#6 – “I like to see if thereʼs a cow in there that kind of walks out and walks back to the herd, but still looks attentive. Thatʼs the cow that I want to cut. Then again, If you go to cut a specific cow when you walk out and a cow goes to the top and you know it is fresh, you have to remember: Itʼs better to cut a bad cow good, than a good cow bad. That is a really famous term by Buster Welch.”

Photo by Natalie Jackman.

Photo by Natalie Jackman.


#7 – “When going down the fence, the rider can actually shove the cow ahead faster. Which makes it difficult to get the cow turned at the marker or before the arena corner. Schooling oneʼs horse at home while working a cow down the fence is key to show ring success. Make sure you are relating your dry work practice to fence work with keeping a focus on body control and softness while chasing after a bovine.”

#8 – “Don’t confuse activity with excellence. When your horse gets too busy, he may not actually be doing anything.”

#9 – When I go around the corner I set my hand down temporarily before we go down the fence. My hand might not stay there as I may pick it up again but it gives my horse a chance to breath and “get there” instead of me hanging on his face the whole time. We need to turn the head loose! I want to ensure the rider is not balancing themselves on the reins or the horse’s head as they prepare to go down the fence. If so, they won’t have the proper riding position for a safe turn when the cow decides to go another direction.