SUBMITTED BY TODD KIMBERLEY
The Calgary Stampede’s Elite Western Rider Award, a nod to versatility and accomplishment in the saddle, will be presented to one very worthy rider at the conclusion of the 2011 Calgary Stampede.
From a potential pool of several dozen candidates, the Elite Western Rider Award will go to the competitor proficient and dexterous enough to handle the challenges of at least two of the Stampede’s three Western Performance Horse events – the Calgary Stampede Team Cattle Penning Competition (which runs from July 8 to 11 at the Scotiabank Saddledome), the Calgary Stampede Cutting Horse Competition (July 12 to 14 under the Big Top), and the Calgary Stampede Working Cow Horse Classic (July 15 and 17 under the Big Top).
“As a Western rider, there’s a lot of work involved in just doing one event. But to combine two or three of them, and do well in each, it’s really indicative of well-rounded a rider is,” says Hans Kollewyn, who chairs the Stampede’s Western Performance Horse committee.
“The winner of this award will show a pretty thorough understanding of a working horse . . . in our case, a working cow horse,” adds Kollewyn. “It’s that ability to read your horse. The horse and rider have to be a unit, and flow together.
“And even though all three of these events involve cattle, it’s three totally different concepts. So to be able to switch gears, to go from one into another and possibly a third, that’s a pretty unique set of skills – and worth celebrating.”
All riders who compete in at least two of the three events are eligible for the Elite Western Rider Award, which demands no separate entry requirements, and all competitors earn points toward the title with Top-10 finishes in at least two of the events. The third annual Elite Western Rider Award will be presented on Sunday, July 17 after the Working Cow Horse Classic wraps up under the Big Top, with the winner receiving a handcrafted Stampede champion buckle.
Calgary’s Ron Mathison won the first edition of the award in 2009, placing fourth in the 14 Class final of the Team Cattle Penning and fourth in the Non-Pro Bridle category of the Working Cow Horse Classic on Another Hot Chic. Last summer, Brad Pedersen of Lacombe, Alta., barely nudged out the legendary Les Timmons, of Kamloops, B.C., for the elite crown. Pedersen was seventh on Hicks First Player, owned by Dr. Geoff Thomas of Red Deer, in the Open division of the Cutting Horse Competition, and added a fifth-place finish on Have a Drink On Me, owned by Jim Dobler of Delburne, Alta., in the Open Hackamore division of the Working Cow Horse Classic. Timmons was reserve champion in a dramatic Open final of the cutting, barely bowing out to Tom Lyons of Grandview, Texas, but didn’t place well enough in the Open Hackamore class of the Working Cow Horse Classic to unseat Pedersen.
“It is a challenge,” Pedersen said in the wake of his victory. “Cow horses have to be quite a bit more versatile, but as far as going back and forth, when you do it every day, you get into a routine. One’s a cow horse, one’s a cutter, and you get out there and ride appropriately.”
Given the sheer physical demands and the logistically narrow 10-day window, it would likely be a rare accomplishment indeed for an Elite Western Rider Award champion to post Top-10 finishes in all three Western Performance Horse disciplines.
“There is a certain amount of luck involved, in terms of the type of cows you draw,” notes Kollewyn. “But to a certain extent, your better riders are able to increase the luck they’re going to have.
“Last year, as an example, on the Working Cow Horse side, John Swales (of Millarville, Alta.) won the Open Bridle division with a huge (aggregate) score (301) . . . and the reason he had a huge score was that he had a really tough cow, but he read it right, and put extra training on it, per se, when he hemmed it up against the south wall. And as a result, the cow did more of what was asked of it.”
Should no rider qualify with Top-10 qualifying points in two of the three Western Performance Horse events, the Stampede will take all those riders with one Top-10 finish and rate their second-best performance, in terms of a percentile, to come up with a winner.
The Stampede will be webcasting all events being held in the Scotiabank Saddledome and the Big Top this year. Visit http://ag.calgarystampede.com/saddledome-ustream-2011 for live streaming of Saddledome action, and http://ag.calgarystampede.com/big-top-ustream-2011 for events under the Big Top.