Calgary Stampede's 4-H's Rodeo

The kids may be champing at the bit, so to speak. But organizers of the Calgary Stampede’s Invitational 4-H Rodeo make sure to combine enthusiasm with education.

The Stampede’s 15th annual Invitational 4-H Rodeo, sponsored by Westcan Bulk Transport, Bayer CropScience and Lammle’s Western Wear and Tack, will set up shop at Olds College, in Olds, Alta., on Saturday, Aug. 25 and Sunday, Aug. 26. About 100 youngsters, aged 9 through 20 and representing about 30 4-H clubs across Alberta, will climb into the saddle — many of them entering the rodeo ring for the very first time.


And that’s why education is priority No. 1 at the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo, with the mornings of Aug. 25 and 26 chock-a-block with seminars and clinics, conducted by some of the sport’s finest and most erudite practitioners. The weekend clinic schedule includes everything from yoga tutelage to trick riding demonstrations to breakaway roping lessons. And, in the interests of keeping equine companions happy and healthy, there’ll be some extremely important instruction on horse care — from head to toe.

Master bit maker Dave Elliott, owner of Elliott Bits and Spurs in Fort Macleod, Alta., will provide critical advice on bits and bit fitting on the morning of Saturday, Aug. 25 — heavy on the anatomical perspective, and free of various industry influences.

“Through an emphasis on anatomy, and a non-marketing-based approach, we try to help owners be better to their horses. Because the simple fact is that the wrong bit, or the wrong fit, can not only hurt a horse — it can traumatize a horse,” says Elliott. “Bitting, really, is a process of elimination, based on a horse’s likes and dislikes in terms of pressure on the tongue, or the bars (gums), or the palate, and so on.

“We talk about neurological connections and muscle connections. We talk about the nerves in the tongue, and how they affect the ear, the stomach, and the eye directly. Can you create ulcers in your horse’s stomach by the way you use your bit? Definitely,” adds Elliott. “And because of the relative age and experience of our audience, we’re building a philosophy, not trying to change a philosophy.”

Veteran farrier Marshall Iles of Calgary, meanwhile, will be leading Aug. 25 morning seminars on basic equine hoof care from an owner’s perspective.

“It’s just like a car. It doesn’t matter how expensive your car is — if you’ve got a flat tire, you’re not going anywhere,” says Iles, a volunteer with the Stampede’s annual World Championship Blacksmiths’ Competition for more than three decades. “We’ll be discussing the reasons why horses need shoes, identifying parts of the horse’s foot so they have an educated point of reference, and covering off different shoes and tools, as well as basic anatomy and physiology.”

This year’s Stampede 4-H Rodeo is expected to draw participants from the Montana border all the way up into the Peace Country.

Over the years, various rodeo careers have been launched at the Stampede 4-H Rodeo, with some devotees moving on to Wrangler (junior high), high school, college, amateur, and even professional rodeo. Given that tradition, organizers of the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo are always seeking top-notch expertise, with lessons to last a lifetime.


The 2012 edition will also feature Aug. 25 seminars on yoga by Strathmore, Alta.-based Becky Stone, a certified yoga instructor with an extensive rodeo background. Meanwhile, Niki Cammaert Flundra, an internationally recognized trick rider now based in Pincher Creek, Alta., will be giving trick riding demonstrations with her students and discussing liberty horse training.

On the morning of Aug. 26, Dave Shields of Okotoks, Alta., an owner of the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame’s Legendary Achievement Award, will conduct a roughstock clinic while Lindsay Miller of Dalemead, Alta., a competitor in the Canadian All Girl Rodeo Association, will present a goat-tying seminar. The same morning, Lorne Lausen of Strathmore, Alta., and colleague Bryan Mandeville will conduct a breakaway roping session.

“I think things are just getting better and better on the educational front, with quality clinicians every year. We feel, as a committee, that this is extremely important, because generally speaking, kids don’t get the opportunity to learn from the experts — the guys and gals who’ve been there,” says Laura Frank, vice-chair of the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo committee. “We bring in the fundamental aspects of rodeo — the discussion of animal care, body care, even mind care. I think that’s what is really unique and exciting for the kids at the Stampede 4-H Rodeo — they get to test the waters in a safe environment.”

The participants in the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo get turned loose in the afternoon, with timed events (barrel racing, pole bending, and thread-the-needle) scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 25 and roughstock events (goat tying, steer daubing, breakaway roping, and cow riding) slated for Sunday, Aug. 26. The afternoon rodeo begins at 1 p.m. both days.

This year’s Stampede 4-H Rodeo is being held off-site in Olds, and about a month earlier than usual, because of work on the Agrium Western Events Center, one of the most significant infrastructure projects in Stampede history. For details and artistic renderings of this magnificent 150,000-square-foot agriculture showcase and competition venue, scheduled for completion in 2014, visit


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