Skijordue

 

STORY & PHOTOS BY JENN WEBSTER

It’s official. Canadians might have a slight obsession with Skijoring. Because if Skijordue held on February 11, 2017 at the Calgary Polo Club was any indication, the concept just grew in popularity with hundreds of stoked fans in the country. Which later translated to thousands of photos, videos and all kinds of media coverage going viral across the globe.

By all accounts, Skijordue 2017, brought to us by the Alberta Skijor Socierty (check out the hashtag, #ASS) was an epic cocktail of speed, snow and horsepower. More than 600 people showed up to witness three events run over the course of the day; circuit, long jump and sprint.

Inside the polo cantina, a culinary delight of cheese fondue and adult bevvies were on hand, plus the grilling of more 300 Spolumbos Sausages wrapped in fresh baked Continental Rolls were available on the outside grills. Western Horse Review was proud to sponsor the day and as we predicted, Skijordue 2017 was the not-be-missed extreme sporting event of the year!

Congratulations to Sam and Graham Mitchell of Millarville, AB, and all the people behind the scenes who came together to put on such a fantastical day.

Make no mistake, this was a badass affair – with a hearty-serving of mind-boggling equine athleticism and skier mayhem at every glance.

There were also several moments of elation and pure greatness.

And if that weren’t enough, Skijordue might become the social and fashion event of the year too. Everything from the spandex and neon styles wonderfully anachronistic of the 80s, to fur and fringe of the modern West, were on display.

 

But one of our distinctly favorite parts of the event was the fact that people of all equestrian disciplines were brought together at Skijordue. Jumpers, team penners, polo players, ropers, trail riders, reiners, etc. alike, came to try out something new and as a result, benefited the Prairie Sky Equine Assisted Therapy Association.

It was a perfect day.

Stay tuned to the March/April issue of Western Horse Review for full coverage of the day!

Skijordue 2017

Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

There is an event happening in southern Alberta this February 11, that is more anticipated than the current blast of snow we’re receiving. With fast ponies, plus skiers or snowboarders looking for their next thrill, Skijordue 2017 promises to be the not-be-missed extreme sporting event of the year!

Held at the Calgary Polo Club and in support of the Prairie Sky Equine Assisted Therapy Association, Skijordue will feature sprint and circuit races, plus a long jump. Oh and there will be jaw-dropping trick riding stunts performed by Alanna Nolan and Western Horse Review’s own Sally Bishop!

There will also be Yodelling & Alphorn performance from members of the astonishing Yodel Club Heimattreu – Jodlerklub Heimattreu, Calgary Canada

Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

Gates open at 10:30am. Races start at 11:00am sharp.

Flaunt your fanciest furs & glammest glasses to win the most Stylish Spectator prize package from uber-chic modern western boutique Cody & Sioux!

Inside the Calgary Polo Club Cantina there will be a patio and heaters, bonfires, a Race Commentator, DJ and Cheese Fondue, Bratwurst & Beverage concession (*cash only*). PLUS! Freestyle ski/board exhibitions.

Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

Your $5, (cash only please), grants you entry plus a bunch of door prize draws throughout the day, so keep your ticket close & your ears open!  DJ G will be spinning mad techno yodelling mixes to get the patio dance floor bumpin’. This is set to be the most exciting snow-equine-fromage event of the season!

IT’S SNOWING, SO COME CHECK IT OUT!

Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

So much awesomeness coming together, here’s some of what the Alberta Skijoring Society #ASS has got lined up for you:

*FAAAAST horses & ninja skiers from far & wide.
*Groovy tunes & goofy door prize draws from DJ Graham Mitchell
*Entertaining erudite race commentary from the incomparable Alan Leys
*Jaw dropping trick riding from stunners Alanna Nolan & Sally Bishop
*Yodelling & Alphorn performance from members of the astonishing Yodel Club Heimattreu – Jodlerklub Heimattreu, Calgary Canada
*Epic images from Chad Rowbotham Photography
*Rad video coverage from Atomic10 Inc.
*Proficient paramedics Courtney Isbister & Radar Goddard
*Handsome handy marshalling by Dace Cochlan & Dave Callaway
*Judicious judging by Tracy Thorbjornsen & Anne Thompson

*Venue vistas with SNOW from Gordon Ross Remax

*Truck-Truck viewing experience extravaganza with uber host JR Cox of The Shooting Edge Inc & William Evans Canada

*Prizes prizes PRIZES!!! From: Little Monkey Metal Works, Smithbilt Hats Inc., SS Chaps, Bar T5 Agra Services, Country Living and Garden Centre, Monod Sports, LTD, Sporting Life, Cody & Sioux, Western Specialties, Cam Clark Ford, Water’s Edge Pub, Jane’s, Coffee shop, delicous food and fine art, Sweetgrass Deli & Eatery, Wild Rose Brewery, Knaughty Nets & Pets, Chuckwagon Cafe

Saskatchewan Equine Expo 2017

The sixth annual edition of the Saskatchewan Equine Expo is set to take place this upcoming February 16-19, 2017 at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon, SK. The park, in conjunction with volunteers from Saskatchewan Horse Federation, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and various equine breed groups work together to facilitate this annual event. The objective is to present equine related lectures, presentations, demonstrations, entertainment and opportunities focusing on the equine industry. As a participant or spectator, you can experience the newest equine products, techniques and technology.

Tickets are on sale now and the show includes the extravaganza, tradeshow, demonstrations and clinics. Tickets are available online and can be found here: http://saskatchewanequineexpo.com/

A schedule of events can be found here: http://saskatchewanequineexpo.com/schedule

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Organizers of the event realized there was a need within the Saskatchewan horse industry for a quality event that showcased the newest technological advances, the latest developments in equine health, and a demonstration of horsemanship excellence that was equally entertaining and educational.

The Saskatchewan Equine Expo was the answer. On February 16-19, the event will once again celebrate the diversity of the equine industry with live demonstrations, breeds on display, and outstanding horsemen and women. Make plans to be there!

www.saskatchewanequineexpo.com

 

Grit, Glamour & Goals Puts on a Big Night

Photo by Tara McKenzie

Grit, Glamour & Goals – The G3 organizers Brittany Forsyth, Cassie Hausauer and Rayel Daines with motivational speaker, Amberley Snyder. Photo by Tara McKenzie

By Cassie Hausauer, Photos by Tara McKenzie Fotos

RED DEER, Alberta — Ladies from the western community packed the house at The Harvest Centre at Westerner Park in Red Deer, Alberta on the night of October 22. A sold-out crowd enjoyed shopping from some of Alberta’s best western style boutiques, a fashion show, and guest speaker Amberley Snyder.

Snyder is a professional barrel racer who was in a rollover accident in 2009, that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Just months after the accident she was back on a horse, more determined than ever.

In a room full of nearly 400 women, one could hear a pin drop as Amberley captivated the audience with her story.

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Trish Fossum Granger drove three hours with two excited young ladies.

“My daughters best friend was in a car accident when she was four years old,” Granger said. “Hanna has overcome many obstacles over the last nine years. She rides horses, ski races, shows her 4-H steer just to name a few. Her dream was to meet her inspiration Amberley Snyder. Thanks to the G3 Event’s, not only did she get to hear Amberley speak, the amazing ladies who organized this event made sure that she was able to meet her.”

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Wendy Bunney from Edmonton is already looking forward to next year.

“Everyone I spoke to kept saying what a stellar event it was and the hosts should be commended for pulling it off! Amazing, fun night, and my credit card took a few hits, but I got some great deals! Sure hoping this is a repeat next year!” said Bunney.

Charlsey Whittemore, Owner of B & B Clothing Boutique was delighted to be a part of the event.

“Inspiration, friendship, and shopping describe the event to a T,” Whittemore said. “Not only did guest speaker Amberley Snyder captivate the entire room but the opportunity of being surrounded by other successful boutique owners was an inspiration on its own. The ladies definitely came to shop! On behalf of all of the boutiques we can’t thank the event organizers enough.”

Photo by Tara McKenzie

Taylor Cox came with nine other women, who were all looking forward to a night out.

“Grit, Glamour and Goals-Night at the Marquis was a very well-organized, fun paced, exciting girl’s night out that myself and many others look forward to attending again in the future!” Cox said. “They also had wicked door prizes and great wine! Love my baseball cap and who doesn’t love free wine?!”

Event organizers had decided to create a scholarship for a deserving recipient. Ladies were encouraged to write an essay explaining why they deserved the scholarship and how they are helping the sport of rodeo. Entrants had to be an active member of the Canadian Intercollegiate Rodeo Association and be enrolled in a minimum six week course.

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This years Grit, Glamour & Goals scholarship recipient is Brittainy Smith who attends the University of Lethbridge taking her Bachelor of Science majoring in neuroscience.

“Two of my good friends, Hope Skoocdopole and Nikki Vanderlee were with me watching the live feed of the scholarship announcement,” Smith said. “I was beaming with joy and excitement after the incredible words from the ladies presenting the scholarship. My friends gave me a hug and said I deserved it. To be honest I cried a little from and the cheering and love I felt. I would love to thank each one of the organizers for putting on such an amazing event for women in the western community. I have received other scholarships but this one will be one of the most memorable.”

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Organizers of the show, Brittany Forsyth, Rayel Daines and Cassie Hausauer are thankful for the support of the western community for this event. Moving forward, they have some serious planning to do to for their next event.

“Overall, there is nothing I would change about how our first event went,” Forsyth said. “Attendees expressed their happiness and everyone was tickled to be there. G3 has a lot of wheels turning already and you can definitely expect more to come from us.”

To view more photos of the event, check out G3’s Facebook Page.

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About G3 Events:

Grit, Glamour & Goals;  G3 Events was created by Brittany Forsyth, Cassie Hausauer and Rayel Daines in the spring of 2016 with the goal in mind to create events which celebrates the modern western woman, to bring people together to encourage, celebrate and support one another, and for a night of fun and motivation.  G3 has also created the Grit, Glamour & Goals Scholarship. For more, visit G3 Events on Facebook or Instagram.

Equine Events at Farmfair International

northlands-br

Photo courtesy of Northlands.

 

 Blog by TJ NASH

Starting November 7, 2016, Farmfair International will be hosting several different equine events. Men, women and horses from all across Canada will be competing to showcase tomorrow’s champions! Exciting raw talent will take part in the Canadian National Team Roping and Northlands Barrel Racing futurities, as well as the new Rodeo Future Champions event.

In the futurities, four and five-year-old horses will work with their trainers to compete in the first or second year of their competitive lives.

hig-res-team-roper

Photo courtesy of Northlands.

Team Roping is based on the methods ranchers have used for doctoring cattle for thousands of years. Two competitors will race the clock to catch and stop a steer. In everyday life, once the steer is caught a rancher would then be able to safely medicate the animal or treat any of its injuries or ailments.

Barrel Racing is the fastest event in rodeo. It began when horse trainers started showcasing their abilities by having the animals complete a set clover leaf pattern at a fast pace. Like any great challenge this event has grown over the decades to become the event that we now know.

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And children take the stage at our Rodeo Future Champions event! Young rodeo athletes will come together November 12 to earn champion titles in seven different events. The 96 talented young athletes will range in age from 5 to 14!

northlands-sale-pic

Photo courtesy of Northlands.

For those looking to purchase top-of-the-line equine athletes, Farmfair International will also be hosting their Bloodstock Sale (five-year-olds and under), as well as their Ranch Horse Sale.

Guests to Farmfair International will also have the chance to attend many different seminars at their Horse Wellness Expo throughout the week. Here everyone will enjoy the opportunity to learn and see how to take care of our beloved animals!

We can’t wait to see you at Farmfair International, where you can cheer on tomorrow’s rodeo athletes—equine and human!

For more information, please visit:
http://farmfairinternational.com/heritage-ranch-rodeo/

Cow Up on the Coast

Cayley Wilson

Cayley Wilson and Drivin Stylish were the Open Futurity Champions.

 

The saying goes, “There is a first time for everything” and in the case of the Cow Up On The Coast horse show it was an event of many firsts. This National Reined Cow Horse Association approved show was the first Futurity/Derby and Horse Show offered by the newest affiliate club, The Canadian Coast Reined Cow Horse Association (CCRCHA). The show held July 29-31, 2016, offered a full slate of classes for every level, great prizes, $15,000 in added monies, entertainment and even a sponsored steak dinner.

“We tried really hard to make this a fun show for everyone, from those new to cow horse, to seasoned competitors who wanted to try their hand at winning great prizes or testing out their futurity horses,” said Cayley Wilson the CCRCHA president. “Our mission, and reason for starting this affiliate club, was to bring more opportunities for cow horse enthusiasts to show their horses and grow the sport in our area. The Cow up On The Coast  Show was just the beginning of future events and efforts,” he added.

John Swales and

John Swales and Chics Made Me Do It in the Open Futurity.

The show was held at the Langley Riders Outdoor Equestrian Center, a small park-like facility just 40 minutes from the U.S./Canadian border. The facility gave riders a chance to show outdoors, camp, and sit along the banks of the arena while watching competitors and enjoying the beautiful weather. For some, it was their first time showing in an NRCHA approved event, others were debuting their three-year-old futurity horses, and for many spectators it was their first time seeing a cow horse event.

“I learned so much about cow horse”, said one spectator, “I had no idea there was a triathlon event like this for horses. These horses were amazing and so athletic!”
After the first day of showing on Friday, competitors were treated to a catered steak dinner and educational presentation by Dr. Ela Misuno of Vetoquinol and Zylkene, one of the show’s premiere sponsors. This gave competitors and family a chance to enjoy great food, learn about horse health, and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow riders. The entertainment on Saturday night was provided by fellow competitors,  who pulled out their lariats and participated in the steer stopping and team doctoring competition. These events seem to bring everyone together in a casual way.

“It was pretty fun watching!,” said Roxanne Sapergia as she surveyed from the grassy banks alongside the arena. An impromptu herding dog competition broke out as a few competitors took turns sending in their cow dogs to demonstrate their abilities in gathering and putting away cattle after each go around. Onlookers cheered, hooted and hollered as the dogs worked, and everyone enjoyed the evening’s events. “This is the best time I have had at a horse show in a long time” said Sapergia, who promised to come back next year for this event.

Bart Holowath and

Bart Holowath and SDP Blu Reys, the NP Derby Champions.

As with any show, sponsors and volunteers are the backbone for a successful event. “From donating cash, prizes, product, services and countless of hours of behind-the-scenes work, it took a village to make this show happen, for it to be so successful, and fun to boot!” said Katie Wilson, the CCRCHA treasurer and one of the powerhouses behind the event.

“We are very thankful for everyone’s support” she added, “I think this association is going to really grow the sport of cow horse in our area. This may have been our first show, but it is just the beginning of many more to come.”
Wilson also mentioned her hopes to ‘Co-Host’ a show next year with neighboring affiliate, The North West Reined Cow Horse Association. “It would be great to be able to draw more people from the US and make it a show that counts towards their World Show qualifications, too. It will give people a reason to come across the border to show in Canada and hopefully build more strength in our cow horse community.”

Mark Parson (right) accepts...

Mark Parson (right) accepts the reserve championship of the NP Derby from president Cayley Wilson.

The Association wanted to give a special thanks to Dean Tufton of DT Ranches for donating a breeding to his great Stallion, Hickory Holly Time and Chad Vanlandingham who donated a breeding to Spots Hot. These monies all went towards the payouts. The CCRCHA would also like to thank San Juan Ranch/Santa Cruz Animal Health for stepping up and sending not only cash, but amazing prizes and gift cards. Vetoquinol/Zylkene donated grooming bags filled with product, gave cash and sponsored the amazing steak dinner and presentation. Local Langley Realtor, Amy Brattebo reached deep in her pockets to help support the first show and get the association off the ground. Roger Brown gave not only his time, but his knowledge and expertise was, no doubt, an integral part of the smooth operations behind the scenes. Thanks to all who drove from far to support us at Cow Up On The Coast!

Said Wilson, “There are many, many others who gave support in so many ways. So from all of us here at the CCRCHA, WE THANK YOU!!”

Dale Clearwater.

Dale Clearwater.

Heather McLevin rides Have A Drink On Me in the NP Bridle Spectacular.

Heather McLevin rides Have A Drink On Me in the NP Bridle Spectacular.

Seth Abrahamson Level 1 Open Derby Champion aboard PG Thunderstruck.

Seth Abrahamson Level 1 Open Derby Champion aboard PG Thunderstruck.

10 Year Anniversary of The Mane Event

K & K Livestock Booth

K & K Livestock Booth at The Mane Event, Red Deer.

 

Western Horse Review attended the 10th anniversary of Mane Event Expo at Westerner Park from April 21-24, 2016. The Mane Event had speakers and clinicians from multiple disciplines, from dressage to trick riding to reining, all different breeds and don’t forget the very popular trainers challenge. The trade show had a little something for everyone, from booths with cute little nick-knacks, to tack of all disciplines, ponies to pet and even some of the trailers we dream of owning were there.

 

Gyspy Vanner

Gyspy Vanner horse being petted by a happy little girl.

 

 

JT Heritage Sales and Services Trailer Booth

JT Heritage Sales and Services Trailer Booth.

 

On Sunday afternoon of Mane Event we had an awesome visit from the Calgary Stampede Royalty, who help draw names for our daily give-away of the day. They also stuck around to help give out little Western Horse Review goodie bags and had pictures taken with little kids who dreamed of meeting a queen and princesses.

 

Calgary Stampede Royalty draws a name for out Country Thunder Prize

Calgary Stampede Royalty draws a name for our Country Thunder prize.

 

Later that day we stumble upon one of Pat Parelli clinics with two girls between the ages of 12-15, where he taught them the natural approach to horsemanship. He teaches them how to control their horse with body movements and motions. He teaches these through 7 games: friendly, porcupine, driving, yo-yo, circling, sideways and squeeze. He introduces the ball to show the horse that the tools he uses aren’t a threat and to get them use to the motion of objects.

 

Pat Parelli, with demonstration of circling in the background

Pat Parelli, with demonstration of circling in the background.

 

 

Parelli teaching the game of friendly, teaching the horse that the tools are not a threat

Parelli teaching the game of friendly, showing the horse that the tools are not a threat.

 

After Parelli’s clinic, the final of the trainers challenge was about to commence. Over the past four days, four trainers – Doug Mills, Patrick King, Scott Purdum, and Steve Rother put their skills to the test to show their method of training the unbroke horse. The trainer’s progression is not normally this fast, they usually take 30-60 days to do what they are demonstrate in 4 days. After the final session, Steve Rother was announced the winner of the Trainers Challenge.

 

Doug Mills demonstrating his training

Doug Mills demonstrating his training.

 

The closing of the well attended Mane Event followed shortly after the Trainers Challenge. The next Mane Event is being held in Chilliwack, British Columbia from October 21-23, 2016

Good Advice

HBOC-lead-in

Sensible counsel prevailed at this year’s Alberta Horse Conference, hosted each year by the Horse Industry Association of Alberta. In the April issue of Western Horse Review, we featured 44 notes of advice curated from those two days of lectures. Here are 16 more.

Billy Smith (speaking on transitions in the horse industry)

Billy Smith grew up in the western part of Texas and is the current executive director of the American Paint Horse Association (APHA). He spent eight years as a practicing journalist before accepting a teaching position at West Texas A&M. Smith later joined the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) where he served as executive director of information technology and various marketing roles for 13 years.

1. One of the chief challenges we have today in equine organizations is that information is instant. At board meetings we know significant information has gone out before the meeting even ends. We live in a world in which information moves instantly.

2. Over the last 75 years of developing equestrian organizations we’ve done a lot of things right in the marketing and grooming of our breeds. We’ve also fallen into some traps that have left us short-term gains but have seasoned the horse community with long-term challenges.

3. We ought to take a very hard look at what our cattle guys have done in their industry. We should invest in the genetic evaluation of our horses. There probably are some performance genetics out there that we can tie into in the quality of our animals. We’re exploring that in the Paint breed now. The reality is that there are genetics out there that can allow us to be much more predictable, with some of the genetic tools that are available to us.

4. No matter where you go in the horse community, the hue and cry is the same. How do we get more youth involved with horses?

Dirk Stroda.

Dirk Stroda.

Dirk Stroda (speaking on mental coaching in equine sports)

Dirk Stroda, from British Columbia, is the High Performance Mental Coach for Equine Canada. He currently coaches the Canadian Dressage, Para Dressage and the 3-Day Eventing teams on their way and at the 2016 Rio Olympic Summer Games. He has helped international athletes and national teams towards 11 Olympic Summer and Winters Games, many world championships, and PanAm Games and countless national championships.

5. I’ve coached athletes towards some major awards. And what I discovered was there was a blueprint I was able to see in highly successful people, vs. the blueprint of an average person. I thought, “there must be something there we can all learn to help our own businesses and careers, because these are principles. We can really get towards success more directly, with less struggle and be happier.”

6. There are seven principles to success: Context Vs. Content. I’m not giving you content, I’m giving you context. You create the content and I give you the framework.

7. When you change your emotions, everything changes. It’s that simple.

Dr. David Wilson.

Dr. David Wilson.

Dr. David Wilson, DVM (speaking on the laminitis vaccine)

Dr. David Wilson (Saskatchewan) is a 1980 graduate of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. After completing an internship at Iowa State University and residency in large animal surgery at the University of Florida, he was on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for 15 years. His research includes implant biomechanics, development of orthopedic disease, minimally invasive surgical techniques and equine laminitis.  

8. The fact that pretreatment with the antibiotic, virginiamycin will prevent the development of laminitis, implicates microbial involvement in the disease.

9. Australian researchers have recently confirmed an overgrowth of streptococcal species in the hindgut and ex vivo studies have confirmed that bathing the hoof tissue in Streptococcus bovis exotoxins results in dissolution of the basement membrane and separation of the hoof wall from the underlying sensitive tissues.

Dr. Camie Heleski.

Dr. Camie Heleski.

Dr. Camie Heleski (speaking on using learning theory in everyday life)

Dr. Camie Heleski is coordinator of the two-year Ag Tech Horse Management Program at Michigan State University. As well as recruiting for the program, she also teaches and advises. Dr. Heleski earned her Ph.D. from Michigan State University.

10. Operant / instrumental learning is when an animal learns to operate on its environment.

11. Signal learning or classical conditioning is the example of Pavlov’s dogs. Ring a bell, the dogs would salivate and they would get food.

12. There are fundamental key factors; consistency, predictability, contingency, appropriateness of reinforcements, and precision of cues.

Jim Anderson.

Jim Anderson.

Jim Anderson (speaking on developing the versatile horse)

Jim Anderson’s lifelong involvement with horses began with him starting colts and taking clinics with legendary trainers Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt. As a professional trainer, Jim has lifetime earnings in excess of $200,000 in several events. He has won the Canadian Supreme Reining Futurity, the Calgary Stampede’s Cowboy Up Challenge, and the Extreme Cowboy Association World Championships. Recently the Albertan won the Road to the Horse first ever Wild Card Champion, Fan Favorite and the Colt Starting World Championship.
13. In order to gain success with our horses we must prepare the horse to learn and this is a three-step process; 1) the horse wants to focus on you and learn; 2) the horse understands pressure and looks for the release and reward; and 3) the horse joins up.

14. I use outside riding a lot! Confidence to ride alone comes from the horse taking confidence from the rider, rather than another horse. My favorite thing is riding with friends outside but then I lope away from them. Then I’ll lope back towards them, but go straight past the group.

15. How long do I work with a horse per day? About10-20 minutes of groundwork if I’m going to also ride him. It depends on how the horse is being that day – he might need more, he might need less. I can feel the horse out, if he’s not being good on the ground he probably won’t be in the saddle. I need his mind in the state of “wanting to learn.” I do think you can overdo your groundwork and the horse can became grumpy.

16. I don’t numb my horse out with any tools or cues. I want to keep that “feel” in my horse. Confidence in the horse comes from understanding, rather than by numbing due to repetition.

 

Cowboy Challenge Through Cooperation

Photo by Cyndi Rowat.

The teeter totter is a common obstacle at a cowboy challenge. Mastering it requires horsemanship, timing and feel.

STORY & PHOTOS BY GUEST BLOGGER Cyndi Rowat

The Wheatland County Cowboy Challenge (WCCC). That is quite a moniker. But this ‘grass roots’ series is growing rapidly into its britches and what a boon for horse enthusiasts East of Calgary and in particular for the Strathmore Region.

The brainchild of three local arenas, Lausen Arena and Whispering Spirit Stables South of Strathmore, AB, and Hat Creek Performance Horses just a short drive further east, has exceeded the organizers’ expectations.

Cowboy Challenge is an equine sport originating from the Texas region through Craig Cameron’s Extreme Cowboy Racing.  Touted as a sport for the whole family and all riding levels, the premise being to encourage quality horsemanship skills and a partnership with the horse to enable them to overcome sometimes difficult, seemingly impossible and sometimes crazy obstacles.

Melanie Lausen, one of the organizers of the WCCC, riding coach and a competitor puts it succinctly, “It (cowboy challenge) terrified me and I wanted to try it. The first time was a blast.” She grins, “You need great horsemanship, control, good hands and it drew me in.” Lausen first got started racing in Cochrane – “I was competing against myself, cause they are really good there.”

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Upon starting a family, Lausen looked closer to home for somewhere to compete and found Hat Creek Performance Horses with Sonja Pfeiffer-Alves.

“My husband, Alex, is a great roper,” explains Pfeiffer-Alves, “So there was no way I could compete there. But cowboy challenge was something I could work on with my horsemanship and have fun and be competitive.”

Whispering Spirit too, had been hosting similar events in the past couple of summers where Rob Charette co-owner and coach was also drawn to what the sport offered. “I was interested in it – not necessarily even competing, but to expose them (horses) to it. What I love about it is that anything goes. There are, of course, certain boundaries for the element of safety.”

So, the idea was spawned to work together to introduce the sport to the Strathmore region equine community in a fun and encouraging atmosphere.

The first event of the season saw 12 eager competitors. The next couple of events saw an explosion of interest  – 30 to 45 people. “We were not expecting that many!” laughs Pfeiffer-Alves.

Hosting any kind of equine event series in an Alberta winter has its’ own challenges, but this devoted group of organizers’ biggest issue was dealing with so much interest! It became clear in the next couple of events that the format of a three-hour morning practice followed by the three divisions, youth, novice and open was no longer working.
“We were still learning too. Watching it grow. We needed to change the format. It was too busy in practice and riders had to wait too long between their practice and actual competition.”

Now, each division has an hour and a half time slot for practice prior to their competition. The 100% payout on the competition entry fee portion stayed the same. The real benefit of the joined forces of arenas and bevy of organizers though, has been the spirit, energy and enthusiasm toward the sport, the people in it and the collective imagination of the organizers; Each competition has introduced new elements to challenge the competitors. Donkeys, goats and cattle have creatively been called upon to assist with increasing the challenges’ complexity.

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Buck Buchanan navigates through the tunnel at Whispering Spirit Stables, one of three host venues in the series.

Halfway through the series, strong leaders have emerged in all three of the WCCC divisions. Nolan Yaskiw heard about the series through Facebook and attended his first ever Cowboy Challenge at the start of this series and hasn’t looked back. He and his 16-year-old appendix Quarter Horse are topping the leader board just ahead of organizer Sonja Pfeiffer-Alves. Yaskiw figured it would be exciting to try something new. The fact that it was local and supported local arenas, was an additional bonus.
“Anybody would be surprised to win,” he claims of his first-time success. “It’s just good to have an all around horse.”

Yaskiw and ‘Big Guy’ have shared nine years together, team roping and bush riding and believes that experience makes a horse. “To do this (cowboy challenge) and to be able to put kids on, to shoot a gun off of. To me, it’s worth a lot. The more a horse knows, the better off you are.”

The Youth division is in full battle mode between 13-year-old William Sharpley of Rockyford, AB and his 11-year-old sister Taya with only a three-point spread. Coming from a riding family both have a fair bit of experience in the saddle. Enjoying family rides in the hills and participating in rodeo together, neither of them hide their competitive nature when it comes to Cowboy Challenge.

Riding ‘Andy’ his older brother’s horse, William is not frazzled by his sisters’ hunt for top spot. “If I just keep gaining points, I can beat her.” He states assuredly from beneath the brim of his cowboy hat. Sharpley has gained a variety of riding experiences thus far in his young life including barrels, breakaway roping and steer dobbing. ‘But I don’t like the jumping.” He shakes his head. It is an obstacle, which oftentimes is included in a cowboy challenge.  “I like roping though.” He says with a smile.

When Taya isn’t trick riding on her horse ‘Mickey,’ she is likely participating in a vast array of rodeo events. Mickey is her dependable partner for cowboy challenge and the pair has been slowly gaining points on her brother. “I’ve been beating him lately,” she states proudly. Taya ‘stole’ Mickey from her Dad last year and admits that the trust she is gaining with him and he with her is helping them win more challenges. “I like the teeter totter and the tarp.” She admits, “But not backing through the obstacle. I am not good at it.”

Like her brother, she enjoys roping and pretty much everything in rodeo. “I’m working on my roping. I rope the dummy and my brother.” She says, “It’s easier to get something that is moving.” I guess we’ll know in a few more challenges if young Taya is able to rope that top spot from her brother.

In the Novice division, Linda Harten of Strathmore, AB, raised the bar on the day with her ten year-old Quarter Horse partner Indy. Masterfully tackling each obstacle they really shone on the teeter-totter, showing control and calmness as they demonstrated balancing and counterbalancing the teeter-totter, gaining maximum points on the obstacle.

Proudly, like many competitors in this sport, Harten says the biggest challenge is against yourself. “Our biggest nemesis at the beginning was the teeter totter. She would just vibrate when she tried it at first. It is the one obstacle that I am most proud of her for,” beams Harten.

“It’s fun meeting people with a similar interest, making progress and competing with one another and still cheering each other on. I love it. ”

Harten and her mare have gained confidence as a team. “We’ve been fairly consistent and attended them all. Good thing too or I would be chasing Beth.” She says with a laugh. Friend Beth Vergowen and fellow riding student of Lausen currently sits in the number two spot.

“I like the fact that everyone (each venue) has different obstacles. It’s awesome.”

It is this very fact that sets this series apart and potentially what is making it so successful.

“It started off as a grass roots series,” explains Lausen. “To get people interested. We had hoped that the 100% payout on the competition would be one of the draws but really it was just about enticing people to try it.”

Pfeiffer-Alves agrees, “This is really affordable. It really is for someone to come and compete and practice.” And the formula appears to be working with the organizers’ estimating that approximately 75% of the competitors are completely new to the sport and have come from across the disciplines.

So, with so many ‘green’ competitors, how is the competition stacking up against their expectations?

“I am very happy. Every time we come out, the riders are getting better every time. It’s exciting to watch them too!!” says Lausen. “In my mind it is great to gain confidence and push themselves a bit.”

Nolan Yaskiw tackles the tiered bridge on his horse Big Guy. Yaskiw is the current leader in the open division.

Nolan Yaskiw tackles the tiered bridge on his horse Big Guy. Yaskiw is the current leader in the open division.

The WCCC set out to provide a venue for Cowboy Challenge competitors east of the city. To expose riders to a sport they are keenly passionate about and in turn, the camaraderie and enthusiasm is growing and taking on an even bigger life than ever first imagined.

In order to qualify for finals – including prestigious belt buckles sponsored by all three venues, contestants must compete at a minimum of five events (down one from the six due to a weather cancellation) and must compete at least once at each venue. Additional sponsors are always welcomed. Organizers, however, are encouraging all youth 15 years and younger to participate in the finals regardless of whether or not they have been competing this season. One more regular competition is coming up the end of March at Whispering Spirit.

The finals competition will be held April 9th at Hat Creek Performance Horses.