CS Lightweight Horse-Pull Champions

Calgary Stampede Heavy Horse

Dennis Weinberger of Cochrane, Alta., and his Catalyst Accountants-supported Springbank Belgians duo of King and Kris won the Calgary Stampede’s lightweight division of the Heavy Horse Pull on Friday night under the Big Top. Victory is worth $3,000 to Weinberger.
Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

The Calgary Stampede has released the Heavy Horse Pull results: At this level, notes Dennis Weinberger, it’s about strength, fortitude, stamina . . . and the odd horseshoe, too.

Weinberger, of Cochrane, Alta., returned to the winner’s circle at the Calgary Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull on Friday night, knocking off rival Randy Dodge of Albany, Ore., in the lightweight division under the Big Top.

The two teamsters went to a seventh round before Weinberger’s Catalyst Accountants-supported Springbank Belgians team of King and Kris found an extra reserve of strength – pulling a 9,500-pound weight sled the full 14 feet, compared to the 44-inch effort turned in by Dodge’s Stampede Messenger & Express-supported Belgian duo of Red and Bud.

It’s the sort of Stampede hammer-and-tongs battle that Weinberger expects at Canada’s premier pull, and the richest pull in North America.

“We pulled down in Florida this year against the best in the world, I’d say, and on an eight-pull circuit, we were everywhere from first to seventh out of 12 teams,” said Weinberger, who co-owns his Stampede heavy horse teams this season with Scott Fisher of Edwardsburg, Mich. “It’s a little bit like stock-car racing. When you get the best of the best, it’s the tiny little things – how they set themselves up, how they feel the ground – that can move you around a few spots.

“You don’t ever want to get to that level and get cocky and think, ‘I’ve got it.’ Because you don’t.”

Weinberger, who won the first triple crown in Stampede Heavy Horse Pull history by sweeping all three divisions – lightweight, middleweight, and heavyweight – in 2010, pockets $3,000. Dodge, who followed that lead by winning the Stampede trifecta last summer, collects $2,500 for second place. Kim Hewalo of Pilot Butte, Sask., and his Sterling Western Star Trucks-supported Belgian team of J.R. and Nick finished third, good for $2,000, by lasting to the fifth round and pulling an 8,500-pound sled eight inches.

Frank Peters, who pulled all the way from Bright, Ont., placed fourth with his Befus Construction-supported pairing of Diesel and Doc, who pulled a 7,500-pound sled 78 inches, and stuffs $1,750 in his jeans for gas money and feed.

Dodge, who has replaced now-retired puller Rocky with five-year-old Bud, was satisfied with that reserve championship showing. “(Red and Bud) pulled good. I’d say the best team won. (Weinberger) was just better than I was all night,” said Dodge. “(Red and Bud) work good together as a team. They do pretty well. The young guy’s coming along pretty good.”

This year’s Stampede Heavy Horse Pull has drawn teamsters from as far away as Oregon, Michigan, and Ontario, with outfits primarily featuring Belgian and Percheron horsepower. The teams of the Stampede’s lightweight division, which drew a seven-team field this year, weigh in at a combined two-horse weight of 2,400 to 3,000 pounds.

Among the three Heavy Horse Pull divisions, the lightweights are the only equines that regularly pull three times their weight. Weinberger’s winning duo, which tipped the scales at a combined 2,893 pounds, ended up pulling 3.28 times their own weight during Friday’s seventh and final round.

The Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull will continue for two more nights under the Big Top. The teams of the middleweight division, weighing a combined 3,001 to 3,500 pounds, step into harness on Saturday, July 14 at 7 p.m., while the equine titans of the heavyweight division, tipping the scales at a combined 3,501 pounds and more, take over the spotlight on Sunday, July 15 at 7 p.m.

Owing to the Stampede’s 100th birthday bash, the Heavy Horse Pull committee is introducing a Centennial Trophy this year. The horse-pull hardware will bear the names of the winners in each weight class for 2012 and beyond.

Stampede’s Heavy Horse Auction

Calgary Stampede Heavy Horse Auction

The Calgary Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull Advertisers’ Auction was held under the Big Top on Wednesday evening, with all 26 equine teams finding suitors. 
Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

According to the Calgary Stampede, the heavy horse spectacle has plenty of pull.

The Calgary Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull regularly sets up shop in the Big Top during the final weekend of The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. And its annual kickoff event – the Heavy Horse Pull Advertisers’ Auction – got things started on the right hoof Wednesday night.

Bidding reached a fever pitch under the Big Top, as prospective sponsors and supporters vied for three-day “ownership” of 26 horse-pull teams, which have arrived from as far away as Oregon, Michigan, and Ontario for Canada’s premier pull.

At the end of the night, the bids had totaled $59,000 – the second-highest figure in the auction’s 11-year history, following on the heels of last year’s total of $62,200 – with a record single bid of $6,000 in the heavyweight division.

“This event is all about raw power. People see these big horses doing things they can’t imagine big horses could do,” said Don Berglund, who chairs the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull committee. “Their size is unbelievable . . . our biggest (two-horse) team this year weighs nearly 5,500 pounds.

“The teamsters burn a lot of gas bringing those big horses here for us, and this auction is an essential component of the show – they take away 50 per cent of everything that’s raised. Because of that, we’ve managed to attract some pretty big pullers from across North America,” he added. “Bidding was great tonight. A large number of bidders, and a record bid of $6,000 for one team. This really keeps up the momentum that we started in a big way last year.”

The Heavy Horse Pull – the richest horse pull in North America, with division winners pocketing $3,000 and no competitor walking away with less than $1,000 in prize money during the Stampede’s Centennial year – will take over the Big Top for the final three nights of 2012 Stampede.

The lightweight division will kick off proceedings on Friday, July 13, the middleweights will take their turn in the spotlight on Saturday, July 14, and the equine titans of the heavyweight division will bring the curtain down on Sunday, July 15. Events get under way at 7 p.m. all three nights.

Since it was established in 2002, the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull Advertisers’ Auction has become a truly magnetic event for individual and corporate supporters, with attractive and affordable branding possibilities and a unique venue for entertaining clients and employees. For successful bidders, the Heavy Horse Pull advertiser’s package includes passes to watch their teams during competition from a private VIP section under the Big Top, signage on the horses during competition, stall signage in the barns, and an exclusive party in the Victoria Pavilion alongside the horses after the main events.

Wednesday night, that record bid of $6,000 came from Copp’s for the heavyweight Belgian pair of Jesse and Sam, co-owned by Dennis Weinberger of Cochrane, Alta., and Scott Fisher of Edwardsburg, Mich., and teamstered by Weinberger.

The Soderglen Ranches team of Simon and Mike, owned by Stan Grad of Airdrie, Alta., and teamstered by Randy Dodge of Albany, Ore., garnered the top auction bid in the middleweight division of $3,500 by individual supporter Terri Holowath.

Meanwhile, the duo of King and Kris, owned by Weinberger and Fisher and teamstered by Weinberger, earned the top bid among the lightweight outfits, at $3,000, from Catalyst Accountants.

The 2012 edition of the Heavy Horse Pull will consist primarily of Belgian and Percheron horsepower. Classes are based on the total weight of the two-horse team – lightweights from 2,400 to 3,000 pounds, middleweights from 3,001 to 3,500 pounds, and heavyweights tipping the scales at 3,501 pounds and up.

Dodge enters this year’s competition as the defending champion in all three weight classes. Dodge earned a Stampede trifecta in 2011, including a win in the heavyweight division using horsepower loaned to him by Grad’s Soderglen Ranches. Dodge then directed the Soderglen team of Belgians, Ben and Roy, to a new Stampede record in the heavyweight division, pulling a 13,300-pound sled the full 14 feet.

This year, thanks to the Stampede’s 100th birthday bash, the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull committee will be introducing a Centennial Trophy, which will bear the names of the winners in each weight class for 2012 and beyond.

Calgary Stampede Heavy Horse Pull Results

heavy horse pull

A heavyweight team from Airdrie’s Soderglen Ranches, the Antony Family-supported Belgian duo of Ben and Roy, sets a new Calgary Stampede Heavy Horse Pull weight record in the heavyweight division, pulling a 13,300-pound sled the full 14 feet on Sunday night under the Big Top. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

The “weight” was well worth it for Randy Dodge.

Dodge, the veteran horse puller from Albany, Ore., has enjoyed a strong friendship with the Soderglen Ranches outfit of Airdrie, Alta., since he began towing to Alberta for the Calgary Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull nearly a decade ago. Sunday night, that friendship paid off in spades – not only giving Dodge memories that will last a lifetime, but also rewriting the event record books as the 2011 Stampede drew to a close.

Dodge had already won Friday’s lightweight division and Saturday’s middleweight division at the Heavy Horse Pull, sponsored by Soderglen Ranches, UPS, Burnco, and Wrangler. But he was at a distinct disadvantage for Sunday’s heavyweight divisional showdown under the Big Top, with his Belgian team of Jack and Michael tipping the scales at only 3,876 pounds, about 1,200 lighter than some of the eight other outfits entered.

The Soderglen team, owned by Stan Grad, kindly put the reins of its two teams – Ben and Roy, weighing in at 5,134 pounds, and Rex and Lane, weighing 4,882 – in Dodge’s hands, while Soderglen teamster Nicolas Pouso took over Dodge’s pair. And wouldn’t you know it – with Dodge driving, and Pouso setting the hook, the Antony Family-supported team of Ben and Roy won the heavyweight belt by pulling a 13,000-pound sled the full 14 feet, earning a winner’s cheque of $3,000.

And then, for good measure, they eclipsed the existing heavyweight division weight record of 13,200 pounds by going right back out and performing another full pull at 13,300.

“Stan Grad wanted to give me a hand and have me drive his ‘A’ team, so I gladly agreed,” said Dodge. “This is an amazing feeling. This is great. I didn’t think it would ever happen, but it did. That’s hard to do, win three (divisions) at Calgary.”

The feat is not an official Stampede Heavy Horse Pull triple crown, like the one pulled off in 2010 by Dennis Weinberger of Cochrane, Alta., and his Springbank Belgians outfit, because the winning team was not Dodge’s. But that didn’t prevent grins in the Soderglen stable from being a mile wide.

“Randy is a top teamster in North America. They don’t build ’em any better than Randy. I think the world of him. And I think this is spectacular,” said Grad. “(Prior to the Stampede), Randy comes up and helps us work horses, and works his horses at the same time. We’ve been doing that for quite a number of years.

“Being successful in this game, it’s not only the horses. A lot of it is driving. If you don’t do everything just right, especially on those last loads . . . the horses are so hot and wired up, if you don’t get ’em working together, you’re in trouble,” added Grad. “It’s being smart enough to know when they’re ready to go . . . it’s all split-second timing.”

The nine-team pull had been whittled to just two by the time the sled was loaded to 12,500 pounds. And if not for a great second effort, Ben and Roy would have been forced to take a measured pull at that weight.

But they dug deep and found the few inches required for a full pull. And one round later, at 13,000 pounds, Weinberger’s Belgian pair of Uggh and Jesse, supported by the We’ve Got Pull syndicate, was flagged for a line violation and disqualified.

“(The sled) was in a bad spot, a loose spot, and in a bit of a hole. It just had to go three, four inches to get it across,” said Dodge. “They handled really nice and did a nice job for me.”

Weinberger took the reserve champion’s prize of $2,500. He also picked up third place, worth $1,500, after his Catalyst-supported pair of Doc and Dan managed a 91-inch pull at 12,000 pounds.

This year’s Stampede Heavy Horse Pull, the richest in North America, drew teamsters from as far away as Oregon, Washington, and Saskatchewan, with outfits primarily featuring Belgian and Percheron horsepower.

The teams of the Stampede’s heavyweight division tipped the scales at a combined two-horse weight of 3,501 pounds and more.

Heavy Horse Pull Auction

The gentle giants of the equine world were on show Thursday night at the Victoria Pavilion during the Calgary Stampede’s 10th annual Heavy Horse Pull Advertisers’ Auction. The Heavy Horse Pull will take over the Big Top on Friday, July 15, Saturday, July 16, and Sunday, July 17. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

The Calgary Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull got a mighty push on Thursday evening.

The annual Heavy Horse Pull Advertisers’ Auction, which acts as the annual kickoff to the Stampede pull, featured plenty of auctioneer patter and bidder banter at the Victoria Pavilion. And when the dust had settled, a whopping $62,200 had been raised – a dramatic leap from last year’s bottom line of $39,300, and a total that’s believed to be the highest in the 10-year history of the auction.

“We had a lot of registered bidders out tonight . . . probably the most we’ve ever had,” said Bill Nelson, chair of the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull committee. “And there was really spirited action between bidders, back and forth.

“The per-team totals are as good as we’ve ever had. Our group spent a lot of time prior to the event finding good-quality sponsors, and friends of the Heavy Horse Pull, which really contributed tonight,” added Nelson. “We’re getting more bidders, but we’re also getting people who are really enthused about the program, and willing to support it.”

A total of 23 teams from as far away as Oregon, Washington, and Saskatchewan have arrived for the Stampede’s “tight-tug” pull that is developing a sterling reputation across the continent — and ranks as the richest horse pull in North America, with the winner receiving a cheque for $3,000.

The 2011 Heavy Horse Pull will take over the Big Top for the final three nights of Stampede. The lightweight division gets things underway on Friday, July 15, the middleweights take centre stage on Saturday, July 16, and the gentle giants of the heavyweight division bring the curtain down on Sunday, July 17. Start time all three nights is 7 p.m.

Since it was established in 2002, the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull Advertisers’ Auction has become a truly magnetic event for individual and corporate supporters, with attractive and affordable branding possibilities and a unique venue for entertaining clients and employees. For successful bidders, the Heavy Horse Pull advertiser’s package includes passes to watch their teams during competition from a private VIP section under the Big Top, signage on the horses during competition, stall signage in the barns, and an exclusive party in the Victoria Pavilion alongside the horses after the main events.

Thursday night, the Springbank Belgians team of heavyweights, owned by Dennis Weinberger of Cochrane, Alta., garnered the top auction bid, $4,700, from the We’ve Got Pull consortium.

Stan Grad and the Soderglen Ranches team from Airdrie, Alta., commanded the top bid among middleweights, at $4,200, from Lantz Farms Ltd. And Bob McGowan’s team from Lebanon, Ore., earned the top bid among lightweight outfits, at $2,100, from Lone Wolf Wireline.

Also Thursday night, a total of $4,075 was raised for Stephanie Ross, an equestrian rider and 2012 Paralympic hopeful from Vancouver, through the auction of blacksmith art and other items.

Last year, Weinberger and his Springbank Belgians outfit made history by winning the triple crown for the first time in Stampede Heavy Horse Pull history — claiming all three divisions. And Weinberger capped his triplicate win in dramatic fashion, as his gargantuan duo of Dan and Jesse set a Stampede heavyweight division record by pulling a 13,200-pound sled the full 14 feet.

This year’s teams primarily feature Belgian and Percheron horsepower. Outfits compete in three classes based on the total weight of the two-horse team – lightweights from 2,400 to 3,000 pounds, middleweights from 3,001 to 3,500 pounds, and heavyweights tipping the scales at 3,501 pounds and up.

Heavy Horse Pull

It’s never tough sledding, says David Lockhart, when you’re performing in front of a crowd like this.

Lockhart, of Melville, Sask., is relatively new at the heavy horse pull game. He only made his teamster debut last November at the 22nd Grain Miller’s Harvest Showdown in Yorkton, Sask., and had previously set the hook for a big Belgian team when his stepdad Wayne Nagy made his first horse-pulling foray two years ago.

But the pair’s inaugural showing at the 2010 Calgary Stampede Heavy Horse Pull, under the Big Top, isn’t something that Lockhart will soon forget.

“We’d never been to Calgary before, and it was an amazing atmosphere. I had a great time. Lots of people, and a good, supportive crowd,” says Lockhart, who farms Diamond Horseshoe Ranch, near Melville, with Nagy.

Lockhart, with his lightweight pair of Belgians named Stony and Sage, and Nagy, with his middleweights Colonel and Clyde, will both be in the mix at this year’s Stampede Heavy Horse Pull under the Big Top. The action begins Friday, July 15 with the lightweight division, continues Saturday, July 16 with the middleweights, and winds up Sunday, July 17 with the gentle giants of the heavyweight division. Start time all three nights is 7 p.m.

The Calgary Stampede’s 10th annual Heavy Horse Pull Advertisers’ Auction, which goes Thursday, July 14 at 7 p.m. at the Victoria Pavilion, has become a truly magnetic event for individual and corporate supporters, with attractive and affordable branding possibilities. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

A total of 24 teams from as far away as the U.S. Pacific Northwest and the American Midwest are arriving for a “tight-tug” pull that is developing a sterling reputation across the continent — and ranks as the richest horse pull in North America, with the winner receiving a cheque for $3,000.

Last year, Dennis Weinberger of Cochrane, Alta., and his Springbank Belgians outfit made history by winning the triple crown for the first time in Stampede Heavy Horse Pull history — claiming all three divisions. And Weinberger capped his triplicate win in dramatic fashion, as his gargantuan duo of Dan and Jesse set a Stampede heavyweight division record by pulling a 13,200-pound sled the full 14 feet.

There’s another important reason the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull is held in such high regard . . . and it has to do with the event’s official curtain-raiser — the annual Advertisers’ Auction, celebrating its 10th edition on Thursday, July 14 in the Victoria Pavilion at 7 p.m.

Since it was established in 2002, the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull Advertisers’ Auction has become a truly magnetic event for individual and corporate supporters, with attractive and affordable branding possibilities. The Heavy Horse Pull allows supporters a great opportunity at promotion, a unique venue for entertaining clients, and the chance to view some top-notch agricultural entertainment. “It’s a real up-close and personal experience with the gentle giants of Stampede,” says Bill Nelson, chair of the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull committee.

For successful bidders, the Heavy Horse Pull advertiser’s package includes passes to watch their teams during competition from a private VIP section under the Big Top, signage on the horses during competition, stall signage in the barns, and an exclusive party in the Victoria Pavilion alongside the horses after the main events. Last year, all 22 entries found suitors as the Heavy Horse Pull Advertisers’ Auction pulled in a total of $39,300 in bids.

“We keep getting the same (sponsors) back, and adding a lot of new ones,” says Nelson. “The event is a real fan favourite; we pack the house every night. The teamsters do a great job of looking after their team buyers and their guests — showing ’em around, giving ’em a tour of the barns. And we have a great party after each night of competition, with a live band and some food and refreshments.

“It’s a real Stampede experience.”

This year’s teams primarily feature Belgian and Percheron horsepower. Outfits compete in three classes based on the total weight of the two-horse team – lightweights from 2,400 to 3,000 pounds, middleweights from 3,001 to 3,500 pounds, and heavyweights tipping the scales at 3,501 pounds and up.

As for Lockhart, he and Nagy finished seventh in last year’s Stampede middleweight final, incurring an unfortunate line infraction at 8,000 pounds. As a teamster, Lockhart will truly be in his element under the Big Top this weekend.

“I’ve been around horses all my life, ever since I was a baby,” he says. “And it is amazing to see how much weight they’ll pull, how hard they’ll work.”

Potential bidders looking to attend the 10th annual Heavy Horse Pull Advertisers’ Auction can contact Erin Bartlett in the Stampede’s agriculture administration office at ebartlett@calgarystampede.com

The Stampede will be webcasting all events being held in the Scotiabank Saddledome and the Big Top this year. Visit http://ag.calgarystampede.com/saddledome-ustream-2011 for live streaming of Saddledome action, and http://ag.calgarystampede.com/big-top-ustream-2011 for events under the Big Top.

Six Horse Hitch Title Decided

Their secret weapon is girl power . . . though it’s not much of a secret anymore.

“There’s a little good-natured ribbing in the barns,” admitted Brian Coleman with a wide grin. “I always tell ’em to go easy on us, because we’ve got a stable full of girls, and they’ll say: ‘Hey, you take it easy on us!’ ”

The Calgary Stampede’s prestigious World Champion Six Horse Hitch Competition, held Sunday afternoon at Scotiabank Saddledome, drew 14 outfits from across North America vying for the $10,000 top prize. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

They didn’t . . . for the second year in a row. The Jackson Fork Ranch outfit of Bondurant, Wyo., powered by a sextet of Percherons, had made Calgary Stampede history in 2010 as the first hitch of mares to win the Stampede’s prestigious World Champion Six Horse Hitch Competition.

And on Sunday afternoon at the Scotiabank Saddledome, they defended their title in fine fashion – fending off 13 other rigs from across North America, and prevailing in a four-outfit redrive. Victory is worth $10,000 to the Jackson Fork Ranch hitch, owned by J. Joseph Ricketts, whose family also owns Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs.

“We had a couple of young horses that I thought really rose to the occasion,” said Coleman, the trainer and driver of the Jackson Fork Ranch outfit, who’s originally from Didsbury, Alta. “Last year (the ranch’s first with a six-horse hitch program), we didn’t have as strong a roster as we have now. We were working some horses around, filling some holes.

“This year, we have all the holes filled, and it’s a case of making everything work smoothly. We have the talent now; we just want to ensure they don’t make any mental errors.”

Coleman now has four Stampede titles under his belt, after leading the Strawberry Lane Percherons of Oconomowoc, Wisc., to victory in 2002 and 2004.

Second place at this year’s World Champion Six Horse Hitch Competition – the pinnacle of the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Show, presented by Halliburton – went to Red Oak Farm of Kahnawake, Que. Carson Farms and Auction Services of Listowel, Ont., was third, the Rocky Bar Belgians of Esterhazy, Sask., placed fourth, and the Prins View Belgians of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., were fifth.

“How can you not be any happier?” said Ricketts. “We’ve got a group of magnificent animals. A lot of thought went into acquiring them. And we’ve got wonderful trainers, some of the best. And they work. All the time. Twelve-hour days are not unusual.

“They’re lovely animals. When I see them all hooked up and pulling that wagon, my heart just beats faster. And the people we have work so hard to make them perform well, and take care of them. They call ’em ‘our girls,’ and it’s really something special.”

The next major event on the calendar for Coleman and Co. is the annual National Percheron Show at the Indiana State Fair in August.

For the 12th straight year, the six-horse hitch final featured live musical accompaniment by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra – with 38 musicians, led by the CPO’s resident conductor Melanie Leonard, providing a selection of light classics.

A panel of three judges rated Sunday’s 14 entries for conformation, presentation, driving, and reinsmanship. “The judges look for how the horses act as a hitch, whether they move in sync,” said Lorne Hammer, vice-chair of the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Show committee. “They’re also watching the driver. How much control does he have over his horses? You can tell what sort of training he’s put into the horses by the amount of control he’s got to use; some people will muscle the horses, where others are very light on the lines.

“Are they crisp and precise in their patterns, or a little loose? And they’re also keeping an eye on showmanship. How do the driver and team present themselves? What does the wagon look like? It’s not a competition for the fanciest wagon, but care, detail, and attention are important.”

The Jackson Fork Ranch outfit of Bondurant, Wyo., using Percheron mare power, won its second straight World Champion Six Horse Hitch Competition at the Calgary Stampede on Sunday afternoon. Victory was worth $10,000 for the rig from the Cowboy State. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

The Stampede’s Heavy Horse Show, presented by Halliburton, sees Belgians, Clydesdales, Percherons and Shires competing in more than 100 classes over four days. Classes include cart-drawn single horses, two-horse teams, three-horse unicorn hitches, and four- and six-horse hitches. The affair concludes on Monday, July 11, with breed Supreme Champions and the overall best in show crowned at 1 p.m. in the Saddledome.

The Stampede will be webcasting all events being held in the Saddledome and the Big Top this year. Visit http://ag.calgarystampede.com/saddledome-ustream-2011 for live streaming of Saddledome action, and http://ag.calgarystampede.com/big-top-ustream-2011 for events under the Big Top.

9/11 Tribute

Though it is sure to be one of the most watched videos of the day through many venues, I’m reproducing it here as well – just one more small voice in the world, saying: “Yes, 9/11, we pay tribute and remember.”

Western Elite Rider Awarded

Sir Winston Churchill once opined that the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a person. Well, that’s rarely more evident than during the 10 midsummer days that make up the Calgary Stampede.

Equine events constitute an integral part of the fabric of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. The Stampede’s Heavy Horse events and trio of Western Performance Horse events – the Team Cattle Penning Competition, the Cutting Horse Competition, and the Working Cow Horse Classic – attract big crowds and draw elite competitors from across the continent, and 2010 was no exception.

“Through all of our events, we presented the best of the best to a Stampede audience,” said Christine Sowiak, chair of the Stampede’s Western Performance Horse committee. “We were fortunate enough to field a very deep pool of competitors, and that included our own regional competitors. We showed that the quality of Canadian trainers and riders, Canadian horses, and Canadian-bred horses is every bit as good as Texas and California, Oklahoma and Montana.”

Brad Pedersen of Lacombe, Alta., won the Calgary Stampede’s second annual Elite Western Rider Award, which honours excellence and versatility in the Western Performance Horse arena. Pedersen was seventh in the Open division of the Cutting Horse Competition, and fifth in the Open Hackamore division of the Working Cow Horse Classic. Photo: Calgary Stampede

Brad Pedersen of Lacombe, Alta., emerged as the second winner of the Stampede’s Elite Western Rider Award, introduced in 2009 to honour rider excellence and versatility in the Western Performance Horse arena. All riders who compete in at least two of the three disciplines are eligible for the Elite Western Rider Award, and all competitors earn points toward the title with Top-10 finishes in at least two of the events.

Pedersen posted a seventh-place finish aboard Hicks First Player, owned by Dr. Geoff Thomas of Red Deer, in the Open division of the Cutting Horse Competition on Thursday, July 15. He followed it up with a fifth-overall placement on Have a Drink On Me, owned by Jim Dobler of Delburne, Alta., in the Open Hackamore division of the Working Cow Horse Classic on Sunday, July 18.

“It’s very much an honour to be recognized for competing in both of these events, and doing relatively well in both of them, I’m lucky enough to have some good horses, and that makes a world of difference,” said Pedersen, who’s won the Open Snaffle Bit title 10 times at the Canadian Supreme in Red Deer.

Pedersen’s closest rival in the chase for the Elite Western Rider Award was Les Timmons of Kamloops, B.C., who was Open reserve champion in the cutting, but didn’t place high enough in Open Hackamore during Sunday’s Working Cow Horse Classic to keep pace with Pedersen.

Lindsey Thorlakson of Carstairs, Alta., was part of the winning team in the Calgary Stampede’s 14 Class Team Cattle Penning competition on Friday, July 9. It was Thorlakson’s third team penning title in two Stampedes. Photo: Calgary Stampede

Lindsey Thorlakson of Carstairs, Alta., earned her third Stampede Team Cattle Penning championship in just over a year on Friday, July 9, winning the 14 Class along with Russell Armstrong of Armstrong, B.C., and Pete Molnar of Langley, B.C. The Open Class was won by Lonnie and Skylar Hanson of Calgary, along with Jody Elliott of Lacombe, on Sunday, July 11. Husband-and-wife tandem Steve Sigouin and Deja Iannone of Abbotsford, B.C., along with Katy Kosinski of Williams Lake, B.C., claimed the 10 Class crown on Saturday, July 10, while Ron Vogel of Strathmore, Alta., Denise Guzowski of Millarville, Alta., and Debbie Myslicki of Calgary teamed up to win the 7 Class title on Monday, July 12. In all, 481 teams from across the Western half of North America vied for more than $225,000 in prize money.

The Stampede’s 38th annual cutting competition was, for the second straight year, a participating event in the Mercuria/NCHA World Series of Cutting. Tom Lyons of Grandview, Texas, scored a dramatic win in the Open division, scoring 231 points aboard Thomas E Hughes to edge Timmons and Smart Frele Cat, who’d posted a 230. Dan Hansen of Nampa, Ida., nudged his career earnings above $1 million by winning his second Stampede Non-Pro crown in three years aboard Woody Be Lucky. Calgary’s Andrea Rudkin, riding Anita Steady Date, won her second consecutive Youth crown.

In the Working Cow Horse Classic, John Swales of Millarville, Alta., scored a breathtaking, two-round aggregate score of 301 on Maximum Echo under the Big Top to win his sixth career Stampede Open Bridle title on Sunday, July 18. John’s brother Clint, of HighRiver, Alta., won Open Hackamore on The Mask with a 291 aggregate, while Bart Holowath of Cayley, Alta., took Non-Pro Bridle with a 292.

The Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull attracted 22 teams from as far away as Michigan, Oregon, and Washington, but it was a local puller who really found his niche under the Big Top. Dennis Weinberger’s Springbank Belgians outfit of Cochrane, Alta., won the lightweight division on Friday, July 16, and followed it up with victory in the middleweight division on Saturday, July 17. Sunday night, Weinberger’s mammoth duo of Dan and Jesse set a new weight record of 13,200 pounds while winning the heavyweight division – allowing Weinberger to sweep all three classes for the first time in Stampede Heavy Horse Pull history.

During the World Champion Six Horse Hitch Competition, the highlight of the Heavy Horse Show, Brian Coleman of Didsbury, Alta., earned his third Stampede driving crown on Sunday, July 11 in the Pengrowth Saddledome, leading the Jackson Fork Ranch outfit ofBondurant, Wyo., to victory. For the first time in recent memory, five wagons were called back for a drive-off, with the Jackson Fork Ranch hitch emerging victorious.

In 2010, heavy horses celebrated their 125th anniversary as part of Calgary’s annual agricultural fair, dating back to the Stampede’s predecessor, the Calgary Industrial Exhibition. As a species, they’re the longest-running agricultural component of the Stampede and its predecessors, and the only livestock class consistently presented throughout that period.

During the 30th annual Canadian National Miniature Horse Show in the Agriculture Barns, FirstKnight’sHotChildintheCity, owned and bred by Calgary’s K.C. Pappas of First Knight Miniatures, was named Supreme Halter Horse, or overall champion, on Tuesday, July 13. Horse Haven, also in the Agriculture Barns, featured 18 breeds of light horses, with 10 days’ worth of exhibitions and presentations.

Trifecta Win in Heavy Horse

Six teams from across North America squared off Sunday night under the Big Top during the heavyweight final of the Calgary Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull, the richest horse pull in North America. Photo: Calgary Stampede

The Calgary Stampede’s annual Heavy Horse Pull is a three-day affair. But for this kind of immortality, it’s a year-round proposition . . . and Dennis Weinberger should know.

A year ago at this time, the veteran heavy horse pull teamster from Cochrane, Alta., was silently fuming back at home on his Springbank Belgians ranch after finishing second in each of the weight divisions at the 2009 Stampede Heavy Horse Pull.

For the previous nine years, Weinberger had won at least one of the pull’s three weight divisions, be it lightweight, middleweight, or heavyweight. He vowed things would change . . . and did they ever.

Sunday night under the Big Top, Weinberger made history by winning the triple crown for the first time in Stampede Heavy Horse Pull history. And he did it in dramatic fashion, as the mammoth pulling duo of Dan and Jesse set a heavyweight division record by pulling a 13,200-pound sled the full 14 feet, eclipsing the old mark of 13,100 set last year by the Airdrie, Alta.-based Soderglen Ranches outfit owned by Stan Grad and teamstered by Nicolas Pouso.

“I feel pretty good. This has been my goal for a long, long, long time. And last year, it looked further away than ever,” grinned Weinberger, who’s been participating in the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull since 1997. “We changed trainers. We changed programs. There were lots of days when it was cold and rainy, and we wanted to be a little lazy. No . . .way. We were going for the win.”

The Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull, the richest horse pull in North America, is sponsored by Soderglen Ranches, The Posse, and Wrangler.

During Sunday’s six-team final before a packed Big Top house, Weinberger’s New West Truck Centres-supported team was the only two-horse outfit that managed a full pull at 13,000 pounds. The Size Matters-supported duo of Billy and Ben, teamstered by Scott Fisher of Edwardsburg, Mich., finished second by pulling 13,000 pounds a distance of 107 inches. Pouso’s Light Speed Trailers-supported team of Ben and Jim, the same horses that set the old heavyweight record of 13,100 pounds last year, had hauled the 13,000-pound sled more than half the mandated distance before stepping out of the pulling lane and committing a line infraction, placing third.

Weinberger’s horsepower had already gone two-for-two heading into Sunday night, with the duo of Spike and Kris snaring the Stampede’s lightweight title on Friday while Davey and Dillon captured the middleweight crown on Saturday.

Fisher ended up runner-up, or reserve champion, on both Saturday and Sunday, collecting a $2,500 cheque each night – and, as it turns out, was instrumental in Weinberger’s Heavy Horse Pull trifecta. Fisher trained all of Weinberger’s heavy horses from January through June down in Michigan.

“There is a secret weapon here, and his name is Scott Fisher,” said Weinberger, who won $3,000 on Sunday, pushing his weekend earnings to $9,000. “He deserves a lot of the credit. Scott spent a lot of hours building muscle on these horses, training them to behave, training them how to get under the load.”

Fisher is a third-generation puller who competes at horse pulls all across the American Midwest.

“No one’s ever got the hat-trick here in Calgary, and that’s what Dennis wanted more than anything,” said Fisher. “He got three seconds last year, and this year he got three firsts. That will sure brighten a guy’s day. Makes it worth it.”

Weinberger’s team of Dan and Jesse outweighed Pouso’s pair by more than 200 pounds, at 5,326 pounds compared to 5,099, but the Uruguayan expatriate wasn’t using that as an excuse.

“That might have helped them a little bit, but they’ve still got to pull,” said Pouso, who earned $1,500 for third place. “Jim and Ben pulled as much as they could. I’m happy with their effort.”

Rick Byrne of Regina, Sask., teamstering the Bar U Ranch-supported team, finished fourth after managing 97 inches at 10,500 pounds. Bill Martson’s West Nile Farms-supported outfit from Pullman, Wash., bowed out after a 9,500-pound full pull, placing fifth. Randy Dodge’s team from Albany, Ore., supported by Glover International Trucks, was sixth after pulling a 9,500-pound sled 19 inches.

Heavy horses have been part of Calgary’s annual agricultural fair for 125 years, dating back to the Stampede’s predecessor, the Calgary Industrial Exhibition. As a species, they’re the longest-running agricultural component of the Stampede and its predecessors, and the only livestock class consistently presented throughout that period.