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2010 AZ Sun Circuit

It’s over for this year but I thought I would share with you, some neat pictures I had a chance to snap at the 2010 Arizona Sun Circuit.

Jason Hershberger giving a pep talk to son, Wyatt prior to youth roping.

Held at Westworld in Scottsdale, AZ, the annual event is a fabulous circuit of AQHA Shows. Here, you can obtain the most AQHA points possible in one place, than you can at any other single circuit in the world.

Featuring 8 AQHA Shows, the AZ Sun Circuit truly offers something for everyone.

The shopping is fantastic! And yes, I behaved myself. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that my husband made me give up my credit cards when he heard I was heading towards the trade show…

“But Hon, I swear! I’m just going over to take pictures!”

Randy Paul caught in a smoking stop. He marked a 74 on this ride.

Clay visits with Bob Avila.

This show offers everything from showmanship, to western riding, to cow horse, to jumping and driving. Plus much more.

Don’t you just love horse shows?

Remembering Shannon

Photo courtesy Robyn Duplisea

“Some of us get dipped in flat, some in satin, some in gloss. But every once in a while, you find someone who’s iridescent, and when you do, nothing will ever compare.”
~ Wendelin Van Draanen
Shannon Burwash truly was one of the iridescent. A beautiful woman. Among those of us in the horse industry who knew her, she will be lovingly remembered as a mentor, horsewoman, ambassador for the Canadian western horse world, and most of all a friend and inspiration to so many.

Wayne and Shannon Burwash.

It’s difficult to express the sadness many of us feel, but as I read the notes of condolences and remembrances on Shannon’s Facebook page . . . all of us, in a way, sharing our collective heartbreak at the loss of her so unexpectedly . . . the common threads of her impression on those of us who knew her shone through. Stories and remembrances of her kindness, caring, integrity, love of her husband, Wayne, and her family, her joy of the horse and showing, her dedication to the horse world. She was truly, as many have stated, “a beautiful woman, both inside and out.”

Wayne and Shannon in the first Western Horse Review fashion shoot. We asked them to participate not only for they both exemplified the western lifestyle, with their many ties to the horse industry, but because we knew they’d be fantastically photogenic!

As long as I’ve known her, she was always involved in the Quarter Horse world, serving on many boards, always giving her time. She was an active board member and treasurer for the Quarter Horse Association of Alberta (QHAA), secretary/treasurer for the Canadian Quarter Horse Association (CQHA) and an Alberta director for the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA).

Shannon and Wayne at the Arizona Sun Circuit, where she earned a circuit championship. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Soderberg.

Shannon at the 2011 Canadian Quarter Horse Nationals, with husband Wayne and Cindy and Wayne Soderberg. Photo by Susan Noeller

Shannon at the AQHA World Select Championship Show – 2009.

I know I feel as many do . . . blessed to have known Shannon, and today, to be able to share in these remembrances.
Godspeed, Shannon.
Shannon will be forever missed by her loving husband Wayne, and her children, Holly Nicoll (Reiny Kristel), Mason Nicoll (Kim), Jarvis Nicoll (Jenny), Lori Burwash (Bruce Johnson), and Justin Burwash (Betty-Lynne). She is also survived by her mother, Melba Copithorne (Jim), sisters, Karon Baldick (Steve), Cher Menegoz and brother, Forest Estby (Renee). Grandma Shammy will be incredibly missed by her grandchildren, Saige and Cale Kristel, Carson, Maysa, Triston and Lucas Nicoll, Elliott and Annabel Johnson, Jake Gerrie, Molly and Madden Burwash along with several nieces and nephews. Shannon was predeceased by her father, Earl Estby and nephew, James Menegoz.
An open memorial service for Shannon Melba Burwash (November 2, 1953 – February 15, 2013), will be held tomorrow in the Congress Hall at Spruce Meadows (access via Tournament Lane) at 2:00 p.m. Condolences may be forwarded to the family by visiting  In lieu of flowers, donations may be given to the Alberta Children’s Hospital or STARS.

Arizona Western Go-Sees

By far one of the most prominent horse events in February is the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show & Shopping Expo, beginning February 14 and running through to February 24. It’s held at the beautiful WestWorld facility and whether Arabians are your breed of choice or not, this show is a must-see if you’re in the area.

This year, the 58th edition of the show will host more than 640 colorful classes, which will collectively pay out over $1 million dollars in prizes. Check back to my post in 2011 for a few photos and words about the show. From the tradeshow, to the stall fronts, to the many classes, It truly is an amazing show.

One of the highlights of the show and a significant draw for western riders is the lucrative reining division. Watch for a Canadian representation in the Reining Futurity Classic, which offers a full and part-bred division and pays out $150,000. In addition there is a Non-Pro Derby and a Limited Futurity division.


Currently ongoing and through to Feb. 3 is the Arizona Sun Circuit, a fantastic Quarter Horse circuit which we featured in our Getaways section of the Jan/Feb issue of the magazine, and I believe a number of Canadians are competing at as well. There’s a number of excellent free clinics over the course of this show, definitely worth the entry gate admission.

Still in January, western lore aficionados can meander down to Mesa, Arizona and take in the massive High Noon Western Americana Collectors Weekend, Jan. 26-27. Covering all genres from antiques to cowboy chic, I’m guessing there will be interesting collections of both saddles and spurs, amongst other treasures.

Fan of horsemanship and cow sorting? Trainer Paul Dietz is hosting a horsemanship clinic Jan. 26 and a cow working clinic Jan. 27 at his Desert Hills facility. Team sorting practice is every Sunday afternoon.

Looking for something new to do with your horse for 2013. Western Dressage is taking off at Carefree Dressage in north Scottsdale.

Finally, we’ve been driving by these tents on our sojourns into Scottsdale. If you happened to miss Cavalia when it was in Canada, I imagine experiencing it in the desert would be equally magnificent. It’s running from now through to the end of Jan.


There’s a Blue Ribbon Horse Show Feb. 10 at the Arizona Horse Lovers Park. 

If you

haven’t experienced the town of Wickenburg, their annual Gold Rush Days, Feb. 8-10, might be a good time to take a drive there. The town celebrates it’s ranching and gold-mining heritage with a parade, rodeo, dance, arts and of course, a staple of Arizona’s Wild West – gunfighter’s shootouts.

If you are hankering for some desert riding, hook up with the Arizona Fox Trotter Gaited National Trail Ride, Feb. 28 to March 3. Held at the historic Boyd Ranch, near Wickenburg, this ranch is nestled in the gorgeous Sonoran Desert. The trails are said to pass magnificent saguaro cactus’s and historic sites from the 1800s along the Hassayampa River. I don’t believe it is a full 5 day ride, but rather day rides with hitching rails for horses, and showers and restrooms for riders. Saturday features a dance., contact Clare Ross at (928) 925-6595 or [email protected]

Dunn’s Arena, at Litchfield Park is a roper’s and sorter’s paradise with weekly events in both sports, as well as barrel racing. Check out the link for a full calendar of events.

The Scottsdale Saddle Club, Arizona’s oldest and one of its most active saddle clubs, has a Western Show on Feb. 17, more details at the site.

Cowboy mounted shooting offers up a vibrant culture in Arizona. Head down to the Ed Hooper arena in Casa Grande on Feb. 25-26 for what’s headlined as “not your Gramma’s shoot!” –  The Gunfight in Arizona.

In Germany, I happened to have a chance to attend a medieval jousting festival. Held on ancient castle grounds, it was a completely unexpected and fascinating side trip, learning and experiencing this vibrant equine sub-culture, which exists surrounding the Middle Ages and the sport of jousting.

Arizona also has it’s own Renaissance Festival. It runs every Saturday and Sunday from Feb. 9 to March 31, held near Apache Junction.

Finally, this year’s Carefree Indian Market and Cultural Festival, Jan. 25-27, features a rich display of native American art, music and dance.

January/ February 2013

January February Western Horse Review

Brook Buhler having a little fun with her western
roots on her big day, captured perfectly by Krista
Kay of Krista Kay Photography.

Price: $5.95



The Big Day, The Cowboy Way
Enjoy a look at the nuptials of three captivating couples and how they put just the right amount of western in their special day. Plus, 8 great venues for your big day.


Secrets of an Xtreme Cowboy
With reining roots, Jim Anderson has segued successfully into a champion cowboy challenge competitor.


Fifty Years of Paint Horses
The significant role that Canada has played in the history and growth of the Paint Horse breed.


Equine Education
Special Advertising Section featuring the top notch schools for furthering your equine education.

See the secrets of Alberta’s wild horses through the lens of photographer Larry Semchuk.

The Arizona Sun Circuit – one of the premier winter destination horse shows.

Food of the West
A classic plate for entertaining is re-invented with top notch and local ingredients.

Real Lives of Trainer’s Wives
A humble and positive woman from Hanley, Saskatchewan wears many hats, not the least of which is wife to a successful cow horse trainer.

Turquoise Temptations
This season’s hottest colour entwines itself in all aspects of western life.

Bit of the Month
Keith Stewart pulls a handy, all around bit out of his tack room.

A southern Alberta vet takes charge of introducing a cutting edge treatment to the equine industry.

Equine Chiropractics
Roger Lewis demonstrates a few techniques and stresses the importance of a comfortable horse.

Farrier Files
Tips for an enjoyable and safe winter riding season.

Med of the Month
The uses and treatment options for Buscopan.

Blue Light Mares
New thinking about putting your mare under lights to promote a healthy cycle.

Watch out for the warning signs of an all too common winter ailment.

Ten Things You Didn’t Know…
Cutting; the horses and the history that grew the sport to where it is today.

Rising Star
A Nanton, Alberta outfitter and hunting guide takes the fast track to the top this fall.

All-American Quarter Horse Congress
A Pole Bending champion looks forward to her next challenge.

Team Roping Futurity
A Utah operation takes both titles in this thrilling Farmfair fall event.

20 Years
A nostalgic look at the western world through the pages of our past issues.

AQHA Goes Digital

There will be more than meets the eye with the April edition of The American Quarter Horse Journal. The annual AQHA high-points edition of the Journal marks the beginning of the publication’s special digital supplement, which can be found at

The April issue of the digital supplement will not be a complete duplicate of the April print edition. The digital supplement will include expanded information on all of the AQHA high-point award winners and their horses, as well as photo pages from the National Reined Cow Horse Association Celebration, the World’s Greatest Horseman, the Sun Circuit and a few other spring shows. In addition, there will be  longer features on the all-around youth and amateur and the open all-around title winners, as well as a special announcement on the AQHA Professional’s Choice Horseman and Horsewoman of the Year awards.

DOC WEST – Ranch Roping

Illustration by Dave Elston.

Doc West returns with his sage advice for the lost and lonely gunsel.

Q. Doc West, explain if you will, the nuances of difference between ranch roping and team roping?

A. The answer to this question if asked a few years ago would have been as simple as team roping is what the cowboys do at the rodeo, and ranch roping is what the cowboys do back at the ranch. Today however, ranch roping has grown into a popular “off circuit” competitive event that has reached an almost cultish status complete with its own set of rules and even governing associations. As a general observation both competitive events are similar in the sense a team (usually two, but sometimes three) of cowboys (or cowgirls) on horseback armed with ropes or lassos embark upon the act of roping a bovine. However, that is where the similarities end and the many differences begin: for example, team ropers rope a single isolated steer, ranch ropers pick a target out of a herd; team ropers start in the box and blast forward in pursuit of a running target, ranch ropers meander at a walk through a herd. Team roping is a timed event where runs are won or lost on a fraction of a second, ranch roping is scored on a point system of bonuses and penalties, so long as you get your calf roped within the time limit – a generous three or four minutes.
Differences in rules and regulations do little justice to what is a truer answer to such a question – a long meandering tale that does not easily lend itself to this column’s short and glossy smartly edited words, as it finds its beginnings 500 hundred years ago when conquistadors such as Cortes and Coronado and De Soto were the first explorers to bury into the North American continent in search of gold to take, but paradoxically leaving a much finer gift, the Spanish horse. Spain’s colonization of the new world brought with it the hacienda system of ranching, which gave life to the pillar of that system, the vaquero. Of Spanish origin and Mexican blood, the vaquero trailed up the Baja travelling the El Camino Real into California, where the gentle climate over time molded the California vaquero into its own unique creation – the “California Tradition” of the American cowboy. Later yet, when the big ranches in California started breaking up, many of the California vaqueros moved northward once again and spread out into the “Buckaroo-dom” of the great basin region of Nevada, Oregon and Idaho where the traditions evolved once more. As a collective, the California Tradition – the vaqueros and buckaroo’s are first and oldest cowboys – Spanish in origin and Mediterranean in mentality.
In the California tradition, style rules supreme – flat hats, silvered spade bits, rawhide romel reins, bossels and hackamores, elaborately finessed loops, and a horse tuned as finely as a Swiss watch. A vaquero was not just a hired cowpuncher, he was a caballero, a citizen, a gentleman, an aristocrat of the saddle. An emphasis on form and lifestyle permeated Spanish cowboying where cattle were moved leisurely over the rolling green hills, “it took as long as it took” – if it didn’t get done today, there was always mañana or tomorrow. Modern day ranch roping is a derivative of the vaquero traditions and those high plains riders, and the nature of the competition is rooted in the west coast mindset that faster is not always better; cattle were roped slowly, methodically and with as little stress on the animal as possible – 60-foot lariats are dallied to a leather wrapped pommel which allowed a soft catch and the ability to let loose if things got hairy.
The second part of this story finds its genesis in the mid 1800’s when Anglo settlers moved westward into historic Spanish territory and took up ranching, initially in the great plains of Texas. The English adopted the many of the fine vaquero cowboy traditions, however many of these were modified to adapt to a much more unforgiving environment and gave birth to what is known as the “Texas Tradition” – or as modern lore has coined simply as “the cowboy.” Over time the Texan style also spread – following the great cattle herds driven north up the Rockies eastern slopes into the wilds of Wyoming, Montana and across the 49th into Alberta and Saskatchewan. Cowboys of the Texas Tradition were practical individuals, not as concerned with the “how” as with the “is.” By way of example where the California Vaquero enjoyed a pleasant climate they could work all day and mañana too, by contrast most cowpunchers were beat by the panhandle sun into sweltering goo by noon, as such most cowboying needed to be done quickly and efficiently in the morning hours – there was no mañana for the Texas cowboy. Tack was practical and tough, durable clothing that could take thorns, basic working bits, heavy leather split reins, plain saddles, gritty cowponies and maybe a saddle gun too. The Texan roped hard and fast. The big “purdy” open country throws favoured by the buckaroos were impracticable in prairie scrub, cowboys ropes were shorter, throws were tighter and faster, ropes were often tied on to the saddle horn as dallying was deemed too slow and according to the seasoned cowpuncher were reserved for those afraid to commit. The team roping that we all see in rodeos is all about two things, making the catch and how fast you did it. In the Texan Tradition that’s all that mattered on the range and that’s all that matters in the arena.

CQHA Scholarships


The Calgary Foundation is very pleased to announce the following scholarships have been awarded from the 2016 Shannon Burwash Memorial Fund. Qualified students from across Canada applied for the three available scholarships this past June.

Jenna Lambert awarded $2,000.

Jenna Lambert awarded $2,000.

Jenna Lambert was born and raised in Calgary, AB, and is entering her third year of study in the Veterinary Medicine Program at the University of Calgary. Jenna started riding at a young age, and her love and passion for horses has carried forward into a passion for veterinary medicine. Over the past four years, Jenna has worked on a research project alongside veterinarians from UCVM, with a focus on predicting disease severity and outcome in critically ill horses in Alberta. Being part of this study allowed her to work alongside numerous equine specialists and truly solidified her decision to become an equine veterinarian. Jenna has a strong interest in equine surgery, and upon completion of her DVM hopes to pursue the path of becoming an equine surgeon. In the future, Jenna plans to take the knowledge and skills she gains as a equine veterinarian abroad to help working equids in need.

In the past, Jenna has enjoyed the opportunity to become involved in her local horse community. One notable experience was spending one year as the Calgary Stampede Queen. She was able to participate in numerous community based charity and fund-raising events, and meet people from various horse communities. Jenna is actively involved in the UCVM Equine club, which hosts annual community events focused on horse health and educating members of the public, specifically 4-H and pony club. In addition to this, Jenna is also a team-lead on the equine committee for Vet-U-Can, an open house for UCVM which is hosted every two years.
Growing up riding Quarter Horses has left a particular soft spot for the breed. Currently, Jenna enjoys training her young Quarter Horse mare, Stella, during study breaks. In the past couple of years she began competing in the Extreme Cowboy Racing circuit, and hopes to continue this sport which promotes trust and partnership between horse and rider.


                                   Brooklyn Collard awarded $1,000.

Brooklyn Collard is a 17-year-old honours student from Calgary, Alberta. She will be attending the University of Calgary Honours Zoology program in the fall. After her undergraduate degree, she plans to attend veterinary school working towards becoming an equine vet.
Brooklyn has been in 4-H for eight years, completing the horsemanship and English jumping projects. Her passion lies in jumping horses, and she has attended weekly jumping lessons, as well as Pony Club for eight years. Brooklyn has been training her 14-year-old smoky buckskin mare, Zorra, for the last seven years. She competes with Zorra in English, western, trail, gymkhana and jumping events. She is an active volunteer for both 4-H and Pony Club and in the community, including flood clean-up at the Millarville Racetrack, cleaning tack for the Therapeutic Riding Association, and baking for families in need through the Made by Mama’s organization.


Alisa Brace awarded $1,000.

Alisa Brace was raised on a small farm east of Sundre, Alberta and spent much of her childhood either doing chores on a small beef operation or riding horses. Her first time on a horse was when she was three months old and even just as an infant she knew that her place in life was in the saddle. Alisa started small with just pleasure riding at home and around her property then branched out to competing in local Light Horse shows in both English and Western, and most recently she has begun to take part in the drill team for her hometown pro rodeo running sponsor flags between events.

As well as various horse activities Alisa was also an avid dancer at her dance club in Sundre where she danced for eleven years and got the opportunity to compete in various competitions as well as take leadership roles as both an assistant dance teacher in her younger years and a role model to the younger dancers in her last few years. She also played on both the Eagles and Scorpions basketball teams in middle and high school. Alisa is currently a student at Lakeland College and having completed her certificate as a Veterinary Medical Assistant she will be heading back in the fall to complete her diploma in Animal Health Technology. She looks forward to finishing school and starting her career in a clinic with a main focus on equine and bovine herd health and reproduction, as well as equine performance.

“We were extremely impressed with all of the scholarship applicants this year,” said Dr. Wayne Burwash. “This is the second year that The Calgary Foundation has awarded the scholarships since Shannon’s passing in 2013. We realized that there are differences in academic achievement, leadership and volunteer activities depending on the number of years a student has been involved in their studies. The changes we made in the qualification criteria have addressed these aspects and I am very pleased to say that the awards this year more clearly achieve the goals of the fund.”

In 2016, there were two different categories of scholarships. One going to first or second year students (2 – $1,000 awards). Click here for the The other goes to students advancing past their second year of studies ($2,000 award). Click here for the

Shannon Burwash was a leader and a lover of the horse industry across Canada. The scholarships are awarded to deserving students who are focused on getting a post-secondary education, and being involved in the horse industry in their future.

Big Country Farm Toys Sponsorship of Joe Frost

Joe Frost earns 83.5 points on Rafter H Rodeo Livestock’s Cowboy Cool in Round 9 of the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (Ric Andersen photo).

Joe Frost earns 83.5 points on Rafter H Rodeo Livestock’s Cowboy Cool in Round 9 of the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (Ric Andersen photo).


Big Country Farm Toys, the fastest growing line of 1:20 scale farm, ranch and rodeo toys in America, has partnered with Joe Frost and the Frost family to offer creative, interactive farm and rodeo life toys which promote great character and values.

Announcing the partnership during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, President and CEO for Big Country Toys, Greg Huett, said, “Joe Frost is a college graduate and avid rancher, who just so happens to be the number five bull rider in the NFR going into the Finals in Vegas.”

Joe Frost after the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Round 5 buckle ceremony at South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Pictured to Joe’s immediate right is Craig Latham, Joe’s college rodeo coach at Oklahoma Panhandle State University (OPSU), to whom he dedicated his round win. Also pictured: Clyde & Elsie Frost, as well as Joe’s parents, Shane & Lisa Frost (Sara Rempelos photo).

Joe Frost after the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Round 5 buckle ceremony at South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Pictured to Joe’s immediate right is Craig Latham, Joe’s college rodeo coach at Oklahoma Panhandle State University (OPSU), to whom he dedicated his round win. Also pictured: Clyde & Elsie Frost, as well as Joe’s parents, Shane & Lisa Frost (Sara Rempelos photo).

“I noticed common elements in working with both Clyde and Elsie Frost as well as their nephew, Joe. All are interested in creating a positive message for our kids, and both are generous with their own charities,” Huett, explained. “The Frost family giving 100% of their proceeds from the Lane Frost figurine to the Lane Frost Scholarship fund, and Joe Frost donating all of his proceeds from his Frost Fever line of T-shirts at the WNFR to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund.”

Joe Frost on his family’s ranch in Randlett, Utah (Sara Rempelos photo).

Joe Frost on his family’s ranch in Randlett, Utah (Sara Rempelos photo).

Huett and Big Country Toys introduced the figurines “Challenge of the Champion’s” in 2015 featuring Hall of Fame legend Lane Frost as well as John Growney’s Hall of Fame bull, Red Rock. The successful introduction of the toy and a growing relationship with the Frost family led to the partnership with Joe, second cousin to Lane.

“Although Joe is his own man, and does not want to live in his cousin’s spotlight, the comparisons are there,” Huett said. The two share more than just a last name. Joe Frost will be competing, like his cousin, for the prized championship buckle. But deeper than talent, Joe Frost carries the known and respected name and character of the Frost family.

Joe Frost receives the 2014 Linderman Award from PRCA Media Director, Kendra Santos, and PRCA Commissioner, Karl Stressman. Joe won $26,624 more than his next closest competitor, 2013 Linderman Award winner Trell Etbauer, the largest margin in the history of the award (Sara Rempelos photo).

Joe Frost receives the 2014 Linderman Award from PRCA Media Director, Kendra Santos, and PRCA Commissioner, Karl Stressman. Joe won $26,624 more than his next closest competitor, 2013 Linderman Award winner Trell Etbauer, the largest margin in the history of the award (Sara Rempelos photo).

Joe Frost won his first national bull riding title in March 2015 at the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo (RNCFR) in Kissimmee, Florida (Sara Rempelos photo).

Joe Frost won his first national bull riding title in March 2015 at the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo (RNCFR) in Kissimmee, Florida (Sara Rempelos photo).

Big Country Farm Toys is excited about having Joe Frost be a part of the Big Country team. His values of integrity, education and generosity have always been a key part of the western lifestyle and will help the company fulfill its mission of providing wholesome products and role models for today’s youth.

Parents are tired of the imagination lacking, technological culture that their young kids are being immersed in, and the poor role models that are all too prevalent in today’s media. Big Country Farm Toys promotes the alternative to the disappointment of parents when dealing with bad role models and children being consumed with the tech culture that has consumed this generation, leading to a lack of creativity and imagination brain drain.

Joe Frost earned his degree in Agri-Business from Oklahoma Panhandle State University (OPSU) in May 2015 (Waymen Trujillo photo).

Joe Frost earned his degree in Agri-Business from Oklahoma Panhandle State University (OPSU) in May 2015 (Waymen Trujillo photo).

Big Country Farm Toys products are cobranded with some of the top Ag brands including Ford Super Duty Trucks, Sundowner trailers, Aermotor windmills, the PBR and the PRCA.  Their line of over 30 products includes hand painted animals, figurines, vehicles and all the great accessories kid’s need to build their own farm, ranch or rodeos. The toys are both collectible and playable.

Big Country Toys - "For the Country in all of us."

Big Country Toys – “For the Country in all of us.”

For more information about this topic or to schedule an interview with Greg Huett please call 1-888.801.4391.

Days Like This

Not a great scene to start your day...

Not a great scene to start the day…

Ever start your day off with a scene like this? There’s nothing more gut-wrenching then walking out the pasture in the morning to witness something like the broken fence above. As you look around and try to make sense of it all, you take a good count of all the ears and tails bopping around. Is everyone accounted for? Were the geldings simply trying to mingle with the mares? Are there animals out near the road? Is anyone hurt? And if so, is it serious?

If you own animals, the time will eventually come that you will lose one. If you love horses, you will undoubtedly feel the emotional sting that accompanies the grief.

As a trainer’s wife, the owner of a boarding operation and a breeder of horses, I have seen a fair amount in my trips around the sun. I have witnessed beautiful births of foals and I have witnessed tragic outcomes of horses getting caught in fences.

I don’t say this to garner any kind of pat on the back. It’s just part of life on a horse farm.

Those experiences have toughened me somewhat over the years – much like I imagine veterinarians and other industry professionals must. However, this past weekend was the first time I experienced the loss of an animal with my own children present. And that experience was one that left me reeling.

As I blogged about in August, we became the proud owners of a miniature donkey named Taylor. In fact, we drove out to my sister’s wedding in British Columbia with a trailer in tow, to bring the little guy back. Taylor had lived the entire 19 years of his life up to that point in BC, and we offered him a forever home at our place in Alberta. Our kids were ecstatic. Our farm consists mostly of horses, cats and buffalo – so a donkey added a little more exotic flair to the atmosphere.

RIP "Taylor"

RIP “Taylor”

Taylor’s predictable “braying” and friendly nature was something the kids truly delighted in every day, during our outdoor adventures. Without fail they would run over to his pen, sometimes squeezing through the rails before I got there, to scratch his bum and pet the soft hairs at the base of his long ears. Every day, I had to remind Taylor that he was not allowed to “rub into” my kids, but once I had a halter on him, we were good. And both our son and daughter loved showing Taylor off to any of their little friends who came to visit.

As it turned out, our time with Taylor was limited. With the help of an emergency veterinarian we discovered Taylor had fractured one of his hind limbs this past Saturday. There were no signs in his paddock. No ice. No mud. No broken fences. (As a sidenote, the picture I began this blog with is an unrelated incident we had with a horse earlier this year. Needless to say, it’s been a tough year.)

Taylor also had a giant paddock all to himself – there weren’t even any other horses to chase him around. The closest animal was another horse located in a paddock that shared only an auto-waterer and offered Taylor companionship through the fence at times. Therefore, I am still at a loss, as to what could have caused him such a fracture.

Standing in Taylor’s paddock on that cold day with the kids buzzing about in overalls, winter coats and toques, I was shocked to hear the diagnosis. My attention turned to the cat that walked across my path in the paddock. My daughter needed a Kleenex. My son, contemplating jumping off the top of the cattle chute, came to his senses when I called over to him. My sister came out to see how things were going, her hair still wet from a shower. I was worried she might catch a cold.

A fracture?? I squinted at our emerg vets.

How could that possibly be..?

I felt a little like I was short-circuiting.

Still, I did my best to appear stoic. Times like these, you have to be strong and work your way through hard decisions. If not for yourself, for your family at least.

Through much discussion with my husband (who was away at the time), and our vet, we decided the humane thing to do would be to have Taylor euthanized. At 19 years of age, there was no telling if he could withstand surgery, nor did we know if he could properly be rehabilitated once it was all done.

That’s when I realized the kids would need to say their Goodbyes. Or the next time we would walk by Taylor’s empty paddock, the situation would likely be emotionally confusing and possibly traumatic for them. We each took a turn scratching his neck and rubbing the base of his ears and as they would on a normal day, the kids were keen to return to playing. But it was at that moment that I let them know that Taylor was going away and would not be coming back, due to his injury.

Or when you’re explaining something like to this to 3-year-olds – his “big boo-boo.”

As a parent, this was a defining moment when I could have pretended like everything was okay and used the power of distraction to keep diverting my children to a less-sensitive subject than the loss of their beloved donkey. But in that moment I felt like it would be wrong to lie to them. I’m definitely no child psychologist but I think I would rather dry their tears and take them for ice cream and balloons when they’re grieving the loss of something they love, than to tell them, “It’s all going to be okay.”

Because life just doesn’t work like that. And especially, life on a farm.

In fact, sometimes life on a farm just downright sucks.

The lucky thing is, we truly had only known Taylor for a short while. And perhaps that wasn’t enough time for the kids to become completely attached. But I have to admit – I was angry all the same. Angry with the limited choices and the responsibility that befell me on Saturday. I was sad too… I came to pieces later on that night when the kids started asking me about Taylor again. (You think you’re really strong until it’s all over and your children want to know, “Why the doctors just can’t make him better at the hospital…?”)

But I realized afterwards that both of these emotions were phases a person can go through when dealing with the loss of an animal. It’s normal. And in the end, I can find peace with myself that we did the right thing. A good friend and Taylor’s original owner wrote me that night and I found solace in his words: “Anyone who has animals knows that at any time you may be faced with the possibility of losing them and we have a final responsibility to not see them suffer. He was loved by us and your family and that is the best gift that any animal can have.”

Here’s to all those beautiful creatures.