Calgary – There’s a reason why the Calgary Stampede’s posters usually depicts a horse, or horses. Simply put, the Stampede has its origins in the horse-powered agricultural world of over a century ago and it remains the world’s greatest celebration of the Western horse culture.
There has always been an unbreakable bond between cowboys and their horses. This year, in the annual Cowboy Up Challenge, the Extreme Cowboy Association’s annual big Canadian event, it was a cowgirl who won the big buckle. Kateri Cowley of Exshaw, AB, and her faithful steed Kokanee demonstrated the combination of trust and training that is the only formula for success in this most-challenging competition. Kateri, a former Stampede princess, was among the first competitors when extreme cowboy racing came to Canada and her victory came over a very strong group of riders, including some former World Champions.
The Working Cow Horse Classic is another test of the partnership between horse and rider. In the 15 classics to date, the name of John Swales of Millarville is listed as the winner of the Open Bridle Class an amazing ten times. This year Swales rode Maximum Echo, owned by Flo Houlton of Caroline, AB. Longview, AB.’s Clint Swales, John’s brother and perhaps his closest competitor, won Open Hackamore riding HR Chic Nic, owned by Bruce Bamford of Calgary. Another Calgarian, Suzon Schaal, rode her mare Genuine Brown Gal to the Non-Pro Bridle title for the fifth time.
When it comes to hard work for both horse and rider, there’s nothing quite like Team Cattle Penning. Finding three cows in a herd of thirty and then persuading them to move downfield and into a pen, when they don’t really want to go, makes for a real challenge, and some great entertainment. In the super-competitive 10 class, the Millet, AB father and daughter combination of Brian and Paige Cardinal teamed with Calgary’s Alex Hansen to take the buckle. In the 14 class, the multi-generational team of Pat Bolin from Stettler, AB, Lesley Marsh of Arrowwood, AB, and Josie Abraham of Carstairs, AB combined for the win. The top-ranked riders compete in the Open class, and it was Donna O’Reilly of Millarville, AB, Kirk Cottrell, also of Millarville, and Devin Antony of Calgary, AB, beating the best of the best. In the 7 class, Mason Cockx of Millarville, AB, Bruce Stewart of Canmore, AB and Mike Street of Penticton, BC, finished on top.
Stampede visitors wanting a little closer look at light horses were welcomed to Horse Haven presented by TAQA. There were 17 different breeds of light horse on hand, along with their passionate owners. There were also demonstrations of the capabilities of these remarkable animals in a Wild West Show format, presented four times during the Stampede.
Not too far from Horse Haven was Draft Horse Town, where the heavy horses hung out. There was more than horses there, however, as equipment from the age of horse-power was on display to illustrate the technology of days gone by. Each day in Draft Horse Town, Lady – the beautiful Belgian mare whose visage graced this year’s Stampede poster – made an appearance in Draft Horse Town to meet her public.
The Stampede’s oldest event, the Heavy Horse Show and World Championship 6-Horse Hitch happened for the 128th time. The Eaglesfield Percherons of Brian and Randi Thiel of Didsbury, AB won their fifth World Championship 6-Horse Hitch title as the musicians of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra played in the background. Y.E.S. Mystique, a Percheron belonging to Chad Munns of Garland, UT, won the class and was also Best of Show.
For those who like to watch the powerful heavy horses in action, the Heavy Horse Pull is a must-see. On Friday night, Randy Dodge of Albany, OR, drove Belgians Bud and Red to the Lightweight crown. The team is co-owned by Stan Grad of Airdrie, and was sponsored by Calmont Leasing. On Saturday night, it was another Dodge/Grad outfit winning the buckle. It took a pull of 11,500 pounds and 11 rounds of competition for Simon and Mike to take the win for New West Truck Centres. It was the same sponsor, but a different team that topped the nine-horse Heavyweight class. Martin Howard brought Joker and Sandy, the two biggest horses in the Stampede pull this year, down from Rocky Mountain House and took them home as the Stampede heavyweight champions on Sunday night after outpulling the outfit of Randy Dodge and Stan Grad by all of a foot.
For those who like their equine entertainment in smaller doses, there’s the Canadian National Miniature Horse Show and the miniature donkey exhibit. They may be little, but these little animals will really perform for their owners and never fail to win the hearts of visitors.
From cow ponies to draft horses, fans of horsemanship and horseflesh got a full helping of both at this year’s Stampede. The cowboys and teamsters have packed up for another year, but they’ll be back with their beautiful horses in less than 51 weeks.