Reflections of the Ride


Photo by Krista Kay

Eighteen years ago on a late summer’s afternoon, I stood at the sleek concrete counter in the kitchen of my friend and business mentor, David, and poured a set of Caesars on the steel grey surface; the Calgary steak house-invented variety, made with vodka, clamato juice, spices and a few dashes of hot sauce, the wet rim of the glass dipped in celery salt, and finally garnished with olives and a pickled asparagus stem. His home was in Britannia, an upscale neighbourhood of Calgary built and still inhabited by a high culture of movers and shakers of the West. With modernist architecture, powerful ties to the historical West, and home to some of the province’s boldest thinkers – just a few doors down, the leader of the former Reform Party of Canada was searing a couple of steaks on his barbecue – Britannia symbolizes the individuality, self-reliance and affluence that followed the 1947 Leduc crude oil discovery in the province.

My mentor was the consummate archetype of the quintessential rags to riches westerner narrative, having shaped up a sizable commercial construction fiefdom from a humble, if not penury start. As a still somewhat freshly minted magazine publisher, I found myself pointing the nose of my truck often to his corner of the West, inhaling the common sense acumens he belched out: Throwing yourself at it harder won’t magically make it successful, kid. (In reference to an ill thought-out new publication we kicked off). You gotta think about creating a demand, don’t wait for it! (This translated to a more viable trade publication we were lucky enough to bring in to our fold). Take a loan if you must, never lease, unless you like lining someone else’s pockets. (A practical observation that led to owning our own office space).

Somehow, being there, in that scene, listening to him reminded me that some things could and must be cooked up from scratch, and that these things were sometimes the most worthwhile, and that possibly, anything was possible. Back then, the fear of failure was potent within me, and after a week of pounding my head against it, I often craved a stiff reminder – in the form of Caesars and Davidisms – to that notion.

On this night we sat on the front porch, with our faces to the West watching the sun set into the Rocky Mountains, the peaks glowing peach-golden and the layers of range nightshades of bruised aubergines and blues. We clinked our glasses and picked the food out of our drinks, my dusty white dually that David liked to poke fun at, parked on the street in front of us reminding me – amid the curbside appeal of the resident Beamers – of a shy and big-hipped country girl at the debutante ball. We chatted about business and life, our usual small talk. I was idly musing over an intern hiring decision I had the weekend to mull over. I had narrowed the field down to two – I liked one over the other, but I worried my preference was overloaded. “She has her schoolwork, a part-time job and she’s a polo groom. I like her, David, but I mean, she’s already buried. Don’t you think?”

He shot out the classic old-school counsel I loved him for: If you want to get something done, give it to someone busy. It’s as simple as that, kiddo.

And so I hired Jennifer Schneider MacRae. After a successful internship, and completing her Equine Sciences Business Management diploma at Olds College, she came on fulltime as assistant editor, and rose up through the masthead (mag-speak for that ego-column of contributors and staff that falls in the first few pages of an issue). In the manner of a heady young filly she grew each year just a little bit more, coming into herself as a writer and finally, evolving into a real thinker of the western horse industry. She stepped back for a break, married a man the rest of us at the magazine collectively and wholeheartedly endorsed–trainer Clay Webster–and a few years later, made her own little contribution to the western world, a bright set of twins. She’s been Managing Editor for the past several years, and last week, we signed the papers that completed the sale of the magazine to Western Performance Publishing. Clay and Jennifer Webster now own Western Horse Review.

The truth is it feels much more like a succession plan, than a sale. Working with the Western Horse Review team has always been a privilege. I can’t begin to name people, there were simply too many, and we were all a part of the publication’s energy and chronicle. Over the years, we penned the stories of so many horses and people. We wholeheartedly went to bat for all the nuances of diversity in the western way of life. We championed the diamonds in the rough and heralded the grittiest competitors. We honored the builders and paid our sincere tributes to those who left our midst.

Sometimes I felt a little like the girl in the dually back in Britannia, a curious observer parting the tall grasses and peering into the backyards of a world I was still just beginning to comprehend the true significance of. Over the years of studying the people of the West, I gradually pieced together for myself just how unique and extraordinary our western culture, amid this open space and endless sky, and the horse central to it, truly is.

Throughout my tenure, I kept a single piece of paper stuck to the inside of my desk drawer, on it the quote of an editor I idolized–Tina Brown: Always have something–be it a little or a big piece–in each issue that shocks your readership. That advice seeded some of our most poignant pieces. We didn’t always follow conventional magazine rules. We rather evolved into a set of our own, and frankly sometimes did just what we wanted, harboring a sort of quiet confidence in our ability to read the horse industry, and the magazine’s readership. I’ll admit it didn’t always fly with everyone. When we wrote about Canadian equine slaughter plants, readers renounced their subscriptions, wrote vehement letters, and called us irresponsible and swayed. We raised the ire of a particular eastern-based national equine association, when we leaked the news of their national horse identification plot, intended to be shoved down the throats (my words) of all Canadian horse owners. We mustered up our attitude, calling it a money-grab and un-western, likening it to the now infamous gun registry. We like to think the floodgate of protesting response was at least a teeny bit culpable for the stalling and eventual decline of the program.

These journalistic perks nurtured our creativity, but on an everyday basis it was a nose to grindstone attitude that finished off and sent to press each issue on deadline. It was a lot more about sweat and tears than it was about glory, but then the magazine also became simply a part of our extended families, on our kitchen counters, discussed late at night across the wavelengths, tossed into the mix of our everyday lives.

Western Horse Review now has a sagacious and dedicated new publisher. I can’t wait to witness what Jenn and her team will scheme up and pursue. The western horse world is in a wildly interesting period of reinventing itself, out of necessity and driven by a new generation. I have no doubt the writing the WHR team will do in the future will eclipse anything we’ve done in the past, as it should.

Thank you, all of you, for being a part of a neat and bright magazine. In a sometimes frighteningly homogenized world, thank you for continuing to embrace the western code of independence, attitude, grit and identity we at the magazine have become so proud to align with. I know you’ll continue to enjoy the ride.

Later this afternoon, I will take the dogs out for a walk, down the blind road to and along the backside of a small lake south of my log house, this time of year noisy with Canadian geese and other waterfowl on the run south. Quite possibly, Jake the cow boss from the nearby Hutterite colony will pass by in his black Ford truck, and he’ll stop and we’ll talk a bit – cattle and hay prices, horse ailments, the new neighbors, the ever-encroaching city – the usual roadside topics. Invariably he’ll get around to the magazine – he’s a fervent reader, and in his unruffled way likes to let me know he’s keeping up – and comment on a story from the past issue. I’ll tell him I’ve passed it on, and I imagine his pragmatic response will be something along the line of, “well, you’re gonna miss that for a while, I guess you will.” Yes, I will, and in my mind then, as I have often, I’ll mentally acknowledge the debt owed to having been a part of such an incomparable journey.

30 Years of Canadian Supreme

If there’s one enduring stream to what we’ve always strived for at the magazine, it’s championing the western way of life, and central to it, our competitive horse sports. This week, the pinnacle event for cutting, cow horse and reining happens at the Canadian Supreme in Red Deer, Alberta, running today through Sunday.

It’s tough to find a competition that has successfully showcased these three disciplines anywhere in North America, never mind one with the tenacious band of volunteers behind the scene, especially when you consider the factors that go into running a show of this caliber across three disciplines – the ground, cattle management and all of the various individual sport demands. Throw in a horse sale on the Friday night, a trade show, and special event on the Saturday night (by the way, Western Horse Review will be presenting a special award on this night, one close to our hearts!), and you can’t come away with anything but respect for the longevity and success of the event.

Core to the competition are the horses and people we’ve come to admire and look forward to cheering on each year. A decade or so ago, the organization gifted me with dozens of CDs of old photos. Since the event is just shy of 40 years I thought it’d be fun to look back at some of the highlights of the past sets of decades – 1985, 1995 and 2005. Enjoy and see you at the show.

2005. . .


paulismith jim&heather gary&dave brad&clay batty&hook

1995. . .

Bonnie Becker

Bonnie Becker

Gerry Hansma and Genuine Sand Flake.

Gerry Hansma and Genuine Sand Flake

Carl Gerwien and Got Pep

Carl Gerwien and Got Pep

Rick Hook and Genuine Ime Sure

Rick Hook and Genuine Ime Sure

1985. . .

Bill Speight and Lees Quest

Bill Speight and Lees Quest

David Hansma

David Hansma

Duane Latimer and Stylish Major

Duane Latimer and Stylish Major

Gerry Hansma and Docs San Badger

Gerry Hansma and Docs San Badger

Jason Grimshaw and Diamond Tiara

Jason Grimshaw and Diamond Tiara. Dave Robson presenting.

Jim Paradis and Fintry Mission

Jim Paradis and Fintry Mission


Les Timmons and Urban Cowgirl. Bill Collins presenting.

September/October Issue Survey



We would love to get your feedback on our September/October issue. To thank you for your time doing the survey, we are giving away a great prize – we will randomly draw one winner from all of the responses received.

The survey closes after a definitive number of responses, so don’t delay. It will only take five minutes, and we truly appreciate every response we receive.

Click here to take survey.

(Readers and subscribers to the print or digital magazine only, please).

September/October Preview


Our September/October issue is out, and with it, my feature with Ian Tyson – My Life in Seven Horses. It’s a piece I’ve been longing to write with Ian for some time. There are few iconic individuals in our western universe that I can think of that are seemingly as passionate, visionary, steadfast and bold as Ian Tyson is. He grew up riding “Indian” ponies, then broncs in the interior B.C., he’s shared trails and whisky with the best of the vaqueros, and ridden into the herd at the NCHA Fort Worth Cutting Horse Futurity. There is so much more to Tyson, of course, but a lot of what he is, relates through the telling of  his stories with horses . . . hence, My Life in Seven Horses.


By the way, Ian has a beautiful new CD out, a fitting addition to his library of work. It’s called Carnero Vaquero (Carnero is the Spanish word for ram, and Vaquero is Spanish for cowboy), his 13thalbum for Edmonton-based roots music label Stony Plain.

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As the weather gets colder, it’s a given your thoughts turn to making sure your horses are ready for winter. Given how much of the country experienced dry conditions this summer, many will be looking for suitable substitutes in the event of a hay shortage. Jenn Webster provides a number of options for keeping your horses healthy and in their best condition in “Hay Alternatives.” Winter preparations also include horse wear; we look at 12 styles of winter turnout blankets, made for varying temperatures and needs, to keep horses warm and protected from the elements.

Also appropriate for this time of year is “A Buyer’s & Seller’s Guide to Horse Sales,” written by Deanna Beckley, with Billy Williams. Williams, a professional horse trainer from Tioga, Texas, shares his expertise on preparing horses to get top dollar at auctions, just in time for the fall horse sale season.

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Our Futurity Road series ramps up as Quarter Horse trainer Lindsay Soderberg reveals a little surprise. Meanwhile there’s a few bridges to cross yet before Soderberg’s class of futurity prospects wind up “on deck” at the first of the shows.

Tara Muldoon was the only Canadian barrel racer to make it to the final four round of Championship Sunday at the 2015 Calgary Stampede. We visit with her about competing at the Stampede this year, her barrel horse, Revy, and how the team prepares for and approaches a run.

Photo of Archie McLean, George Lane and the Prince of Wales courtesy of the Calgary Stampede Archives.

Photo of Archie McLean, George Lane and the Prince of Wales courtesy of the Calgary Stampede Archives.

In late September, Calgary will host the first Canadian qualifier for The American, the richest one-day rodeo in the world. This stop on the road to The American will feature around $80,000 in prize money up for grabs that day. On the topic of Canadians breaking into the American spotlight, legendary rancher George Lane will be posthumously inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, the first Canadian to receive this honour. Find both these stories in our Out West department.

In the Health department, we look at the choices available in equine joint injections, and compare five different options based on ingredients, where they are injected and effects.

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Barkerville, B.C., is a National Historic Site of Canada, steeped in the history of the Gold Rush, and a perfect western getaway. With a number of trails in the area and plenty to see in this beautiful mountain setting, we give this adventure our “Best Canadian Trails” title for this issue.

Everyone has an opinion on this, and now Ron Anderson gives his take on Tuf Cooper’s controversial fall from grace at this year’s Calgary Stampede. Look for Anderson’s opinion in his “Over the Back Fence” column.

Enjoy the issue, if you don’t already, you can subscribe here, or look for it on the newsstand.

2015 Reader Survey

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We’d like you to please take a few minutes to complete this reader survey. We want to know more about you, the reader, so Western Horse Review can continue to bring you the content and advertising that matters to you.

The survey closes after a definitive number of responses, so don’t delay. It will only take five minutes, and we truly appreciate every response we receive.

To thank you for your time, we are giving away a great prize package – we’ll randomly draw one name from all the responses received.

Click here to take survey.

(Readers and subscribers to the print or digital magazine only, please.)

Carnero Vaquero


Ian Tyson. (photo by Karyn Scott Drake)

“Way out West, on the lonesome trail, where a man and his horse seldom ever fail, they ride the range, from sun to sun, for a cowboy’s work is never done,” sings cowboy music troubadour, Ian Tyson in Doney Gal, a traditional cowboy ballad, and sweet lead-in to Tyson’s newly released Carnero Vaquero.

If it rings of an ancient ballad, it is, with Irish-Scottish roots, he explains, during an interview for my feature about him and a cast of his favorite horses in the next issue of Western Horse Review.

“The great cowboy songs all are. You see, those people mainly came from Tennessee and Kentucky, after the Civil War, Scots-Irish mostly. And they adapted them. Doney Gal’s kind of a mystery, because it wasn’t from that Charles Goodnight cattle driving period. Those boys couldn’t have mares on the drives. So it was all geldings, no mares. Doney Gal is from the earliest of times, and usually refers to a woman. Maybe it somehow slipped over to be a horse.”

So, it’s a metaphor?

“Yes, a metaphoric thing. But it’s a beautiful song; I love that song. I asked Catherine Marx to come up from Tennessee and play on it, and she just totally smoked it. She’s superb; she just knows what to do.”

There aren’t many who can match Tyson for authenticity. Just as Charlie Russell – who Tyson admittedly still idolizes – more than a century earlier, painted and understood that his work would be essential depictions of the last of a way of life in the West, so Tyson understands that what he writes and sings about represents the last of his generation’s West, with another reinvented version, constructed by “downtown cowboys” in big hats and fancy trucks, just over the rise.

He points to Will James, the master of the phenomena, a Quebec wannabe who reinvented himself as a cowboy of the West. His 1984 tribute to James is included in this collection.

I love Tyson’s approach to song writing, for it’s often a strange brew of old and new, such as in Jughound Ronnie, composed with Calgary writer and musician Kris Demeanor. He casts the character of an unfaithful wife who leaves her babies at home with the nanny, and returns her “high heeled boots made of embroidered leather” and “white Escalade,” to her husband, in favour of running off with her lover, all an adaptation from Woodie Guthrie’s, Gypsy Davy, and can be trailed further back in time to Raggle Taggle Gypsy, a traditional Scottish folk song.

“There are many, many variants of it,” Tyson explains. “In all the versions, and they go back, way back, she never comes back to the babies, and none of them are his. You’d think there’d be variations of these old songs, but no, not with Gypsy Davy.”

Call it a few centuries old, but I love Ian’s “oil and gas” version of it.

Ballads such as the telling Wolves No Longer Sing, co-written with his longtime friend, Tom Russell show he has no interest in mellowing out his disappearing West message as he sets into his 80th decade on this earth.


Now the old man sold his horses, and his children sold the ranch,

And there’s roads all through that valley, where his ponies used to dance,

The dry wind sings a lonesome tune, a longing for the Spring,

And love no longer matters, and the wolves no longer sing.


The Old Man sold his kingdom for a song,

What’s happened to the music? Where have the wild ones gone?


Not that it’s all parabolic fire and brimstone in this collection. There’s The Flood, also co-written with Demeanor, which speaks to the Alberta floods of 2013, but also feels metaphoric of other, perhaps all, things lost, as well as Cottonwood Canyon, which has been picked up as an environmental ode.

It’s fitting it all came together at the stone house, a mile or so up the road from his ranch, and it could be said, on the edge of the passing West, a spectacle he told me he never quite expected to see in his lifetime.

The other day I stepped into the truck and flicked on Outlaw Country radio, to hear Cottonwood Canyon playing. Neat. I couldn’t help thinking how Tyson, just like his West, has reinvented himself from his Ian and Sylvia days to an important canon of solo work. Lucky for us.

Be sure to check out my piece with Ian Tyson in Western Horse Review. You can’t miss the issue – he’s on the cover.

Wild West Cocktail – Pear Stagecoach

pearsc2When I bartended at a Calgary lounge in the late 90’s, and at the tail-end of an epic oil boom, it was all about the cocktail hour. Mixing up a precise combination of a whiskey sour, old-fashioned, fizz or martini – which, whether shaken or stirred, was always made with gin, never vodka – was a bit of an art form to those of us who proudly considered ourselves classic drink masters. The regulars who seated themselves at the smooth dark leather barstools of our horseshoe-shaped bar had discerning palettes and we prided ourselves on fixing a cocktail with deliberate perfection. The citrus fruit combination of a lemon, lime and orange, as well as maraschino cherries and a bottle of bitters was never far from hand, and it should be said, though the bar menu featured a half dozen pages of unique combinations, we would have rather walked barefoot on the contents of the evening’s broken glass pail, than be caught having to look up the ingredients of any cocktail ordered out of the well-worn, leather-bound menus.

I thought that sort of bartending artistry had long been forsaken in the mundane flavored-bottle offerings of today’s establishments, which have all but lost the classic Western cowtown vibe of those idyllic lounges. That is, until I travelled to Seattle to meet a friend with the sole intention of catching up on each other’s lives, whilst working our way through two full days of exceptional restaurants and drinking establishments along the wharf. There, what I had long considered to be a lost art in cowboy town was a thriving ingredient of the Seattle dining scene. Bartenders were mixing their own house bitters, creating amazing tinctures and fusing these ingredients all into a new generation of vintage-like cocktails, serving it all up behind the sort of white aproned and black tie pride I remembered from another place and time.bittersThe entire experience filled me with a nostalgic longing and inspired me to envision a return to the idea of a classic cocktail with a western twist. Hence, the Wild West Cocktail column, and my starter spring cocktail, the pear stagecoach. In another world, this might be referred to as a “sidecar,” but I’m striving for a western rift here, so I’ve taken a few liberties. Of note, no matter how precisely I’ve poured this recipe, it doesn’t take kindly to doubling. If you’re serving more than two, be patient, and revel in the art of the creation of each set.

Pear Stagecoach

Serves two.

Four ounces (120 ml) pear brandy

Two ounces (60 ml) triple sec (such as Cointreau)

One ounce (2 tbsp) freshly squeezed lime juice

Lime zest to garnish

Combine all into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into two chilled martini glasses. You may want to sugar rim them if you decide the drink is too puckery on its own. Garnish with twisted lime zest.

May/June Issue Survey

MayJune15CoverWe would love to get your feedback on our May/June issue. To thank you for your time spent doing the survey, we are giving away a pair of Professionals Choice splint boots as a prize – we will randomly draw one winner from all of the responses received.

The survey closes after a definitive number of responses so don’t delay.

The survey only takes five minutes to complete, and we truly do appreciate your feedback!

Click here to take the survey 

(Readers and subscribers to the print or digital magazine only, please)

Wild West Cocktail – Bakon Caesar

South of the border, the flagship cocktail of this savory bacon-infused vodka may be the Bakon Mary, but here in Canada, we tastefully defer to the Caesar.

South of the border, the flagship cocktail of this savory bacon-infused vodka may be the Bakon Mary, but here in Canada, we tastefully defer to the Caesar.


Could there possibly be an alcohol-based potion more redneck than a potato-stilled vodka infused with bacon? We think not. Which is we found it mildly surprising that Bakon vodka, first developed in 2009, has quickly become the new rage in flavored vodkas and is a fast favorite at high end lounges all over the world. Perhaps even the best mixologists in the world have found that the savory aspect of bacon makes a great dominant profile in a vodka cocktail, and particularly one, which has a meal-in-inself character, such as our Canadian standard, the Caesar.

Distilled from potatoes, you’ll find Bakon vodka to be perhaps surprisingly smooth, and slightly sweet with a well-rounded flavor and very little aftertaste.

Should you be inclined to search out further cocktail recipes employing this unique vodka, you’ll be delighted to know an entire culture of Bakon vodka inspired lore has sprung up on the internet, including recipes for inventive cocktails such as the Irish Boar, Pizza Shot and Bacon and Egg Martini. Try a BLT Martini featuring crushed croutons and a cherry tomato and romaine lettuce spear. Or, a CoCo Pig, a chocolate martini in which the smokiness of the bacon enhances the chocolate.

Now who said you can put wings on a pig, but you can’t make it soar?


Our version of the Bakon Caesar begins with a tall, thin cocktail glass, filled with ice, and rimmed with celery salt.

  • 1½ oz Bakon Vodka
  • Clamato Juice
  • a squeeze of lime juice
  • ½ tsp horseradish
  • a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 dashes of Tabasco

  • celery salt and pepper, if desired.

Stir and garnish as desired – we like a celery stalk, green olive and either a pickled bean or asparagus stalk.