Calgary – No matter where you go during The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, you won’t get too far from an image of a horse. There is no festival on the planet that honours and demonstrates the horse culture of the North American West like Stampede.
One event that exemplifies the highest level of horsemanship is the Cowboy-Up Challenge, the Extreme Cowboy Association’s annual Canadian event. This year, Jim Anderson of Strathmore and his mare Picasmokenlittlelena topped the invitation-only field for the second year in a row. “It was, without doubt, the most spectacular group of 11 riders that had ever been assembled for the Extreme Cowboy race,” asserted Peter Fraser, one of the two judges for the event. “There were six World Champions, three former Stampede Champions and the two most-honoured riders in the sport.”
Damage to the Saddledome meant that a new venue had to be found for the popular Team Cattle Penning presented by Calfrac Well Services event. Held at the Okotoks Agricultural Society on July 3rd and 4th, the competition was still hot and heavy. When the dust had settled and the cattle were all rounded up, the team of Larry Cressman of DeWinton, Wallace McComish of Stettler and Vern Hamilton of Innisfail had captured the Open title. In the 14 class, it was Megan Bond of Calgary, Will Hanson of Fort Saskatchewan and Dusty Wegemyr of Arrowwood topping the standings. In the 10 class, Scott Fraser, Tom Thorlakson of Carstairs and Naomi Fraser were the winners. Sandy Price and Larissa Price, both from Airdrie, and Laura Bird of Crossfield prevailed in the 7 class.
Another competition that calls for the utmost in communication and co-ordination between horse and rider is the Working Cow Horse Classic presented by Tesla Exploration Inc. John Swales of Millarville rode Have A Drink On Me, owned by Jim Dobler of Delburne, to his eighth Open Bridle class victory in 13 tries. Cody McArthur of Okotoks on Red Hot Jade, owned by Bart and Terri Holowath of Cayley, took the Open Hackamore win. Suzon Schaal of Calgary won Non-Pro Bridle for the fourth time in five years on Genuine Brown Gal. Taylor Douglas of Yellow Grass, SK was the Limited Open Bridle champion on Majors Smoke Signal, owned by Barry and Brenda Clemens of Lumsden, SK. Chance Harman of Okotoks rode Hot Wired Hickory, owned by Jackie Miller of Okotoks, to top the Limited Open Hackamore class. The Novice Non-Pro Bridle winner was Robbie McKay of Black Diamond on Caught Ya Lookin Too.
The Elite Western Rider Award presented by Parsons recognises outstanding horsemanship. To win this award, a rider must be strong in more than one of the Western Performance Horse events at the Calgary Stampede. This year Ron Mathison of Calgary had good finishes in both the 14 Class in Team Cattle Penning presented by Calfrac Well Services and the Non-Pro Bridle division of the Working Cow Horse Classic presented by Tesla Exploration Ltd. Mathison’s Elite Western Rider title is his second, as he also won it in 2009.
Visitors to the Stampede had lots of opportunities to get close to some of the 17 different breeds of light horses that were on hand this year. Horse Haven presented by TAQA was a huge hit with horse lovers of all ages – especially the Wild West Show that revived one of the most popular entertainments of a hundred years ago.
As usual, there was a feast of entertainment for those who like their horses big and powerful. For the 127th year, the Heavy Horse Show presented by Halliburton exhibited the heavy haulers of the equine world. After each breed had been shown and judged, the coveted Best of Show award was made to the Eaglesfield Percherons of Didsbury. In the World Championship 6-Horse Hitch presented by Halliburton competition, a handsome, high-stepping team from Yukon, OK – the Express Clydesdales – captured the crown on Monday, July 8th.
Heavy horses aren’t just pretty faces. They can do the work, too. That was the whole point of the Heavy Horse Pulls held on the final Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Stampede. Randy Dodge of Albany, OR added to his impressive pulling resume with wins in both the Lightweight – with horses Bud and Red – and Middleweight divisions. Dodge’s Middleweight duo were Mike and Simon. New West Truck Centres bought the right to have both of Dodge’s teams wear their signage in Wednesday night’s Stampede Heavy Horse Pull Advertisers’ Auction. Nick Barney made his first visit to Stampede a memorable one with a win the Heavyweight pull. His Catalyst LLP team of Tug and Spy were the two heaviest horses in the competition.
Draft Horse Town was an outdoor display that allowed fans of heavy horses to get a good, close look at examples of the various breeds appearing at Stampede. Exhibitors were on hand to answer questions, and there was also The Big Shoe Too, a dramatic narrative that exposed the vital role of draft horses in building the West.
Some people prefer big horses, but everybody likes little horses – and the miniature horses were out in full force for the 2013 Stampede. On Thursday, July 11th, at the end of the 33rd Canadian National Miniature Horse Show, the Supreme Grand Champion was Hot Child in the City, a 4-year old mare owned by First Knight Miniatures of Calgary.
There were a lot of adjustments that had to be made because of the difficult conditions that preceded this year’s Stampede, but, Fraser says, “It was a very good year for horses. It’s a ‘rally round the flag’ thing. “Come hell or high water!’ was the rally cry. People saw what the Stampede employees, and all the companies that came in, did. They made it all possible. Once we got here, we were going to have a spectacular show to pay the Stampede back for all their efforts.”