Beef Shanks

This holiday feast is juicy, full of flavour and will have your guests Ooo-ing and Ahh-ing all evening long.

If you’re up for a non-traditional Christmas dinner this year, this iconic dish is bound to become your next, family-approved classic. Slow-cooked to perfection, this show-stopping platter of beef is topped with a glaze reduction, vegetables and dainty truffle oil fries, then served on a bed of smoked blue cheese polenta. It’s a meal so filling and delicious that you may never go back to turkey dinner again.



There are two ways to obtain the off-cut of beef that is desirable for this recipe. Firstly, you can ask your local butcher for a whole beef shank tied, or you can have the butcher cut the meat into two to three-inch thick pieces. Cutting them into smaller pieces makes them easier to handle. For this recipe however, we cooked the shanks whole.
2 Whole Beef Shanks, Frenched and Tied.
3 Carrots, Chopped
4 Celery Stocks, Chopped
2 Onions, Chopped
5 Garlic Cloves
250 Grams Fresh Ginger, Chopped
750 mls Red Wine
5 L Beef Stock
5 Thyme Sprigs
4 Rosemary Sprigs
Ground Black Pepper
2 Cups Brown Sugar
In a large frying pan or Dutch oven heat canola oil on high heat. Generously season the shanks with salt and pepper. Sear all sides of the shanks and transfer to a large pan or Dutch oven. Add carrots, celery, onion, garlic and ginger to the pan you seared the beef in. Sauté until the vegetables start to brown. Add half the wine and scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the wine, beef stock, brown sugar, thyme, and rosemary. Bring to a boil and then pour into the pan with the shanks. Cover and braise at 35-degrees Fahrenheit for five hours or until tender.

Cover and braise your beef shanks for five hours, or until tender.

When shanks are done, strain out half the braising liquid into a separate pot to make a glaze. Leave the shanks in the remaining liquid and cover to keep warm. Reduce the strained braising liquid on medium heat, until it reaches a syrup consistency. To serve the shanks, you will need help to prop them up on a platter. You can use your favourite holiday accompaniments. For this recipe, we used a smoked blue cheese polenta, balsamic roasted shallots, roasted squash and grilled bok choy. Please see below for these recipes.

Drizzle the glaze all over the shanks.

Firstly, on the bottom of your platter, pour the polenta down as a base. Then, arrange half of the vegetables around the platter and gently place the shanks in the center – moving any vegetables around as needed, to aid the shanks in standing straight up. Drizzle the glaze all over the shanks. Scatter the remaining vegetables on the platter, and you are ready to impress your guests!

Creating the polenta.

6 Cups Chicken Stock
2 Cups 35% Cream
2 Cups Coarse Corn Meal
60 gm Butter
200 gm Smoked Blue Cheese
1 Cup Grated Parmesan
1 Tbsp. Kosher Salt
1 Tsp. Ground Black Pepper
¼ Cup Parsley, Chopped
¼ Cup Chives, Chopped
Bring stock, cream, salt and pepper to a boil, add the corn meal and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring constantly until thick and creamy.
Remove from heat and stir in butter, blue cheese, parmesan, chive, and parsley and you are ready to serve.

Dicing up shallots and bok choy.
Roasting the shallots, drizzled with balsamic vinegar.


10 Large Whole Shallots, Peeled and Halved
3 Tbsp. Butter
2 Tbsp. Honey
4 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves
Salt and Pepper
Pre-heat oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit. Melt butter in an oven-safe frying pan over medium heat. Add honey, balsamic, and thyme. Stir to combine. Add your shallots flat side down, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in oven for 20 to 25min.

Roasted with butter, olive oil and salt, these squash wedges make a delicious addition to the beef shank dish.


2 Kabocha Squash, Seeded and Cut into Wedges (leaving the skin on)
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Butter
Salt and Pepper
Pre-heat oven to 400-degreesFahrenheit. Heat oil, and butter in a cast iron pan. Place squash in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. After the squash has a nice golden brown sear on one side, flip them and put in the oven to roast for approximately 20 minutes, flipping every five minutes.

Grill bok choy on the BBQ for a nice finish.


Cut bok choy in halves. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place bok choy flat-side down on a very hot grill and sear for 30 seconds, ensuring each one gets a really nice grill mark. Flip and sear for another 30 seconds and they are ready to eat.

Creature Comforts

Photo by Krystina Lynn Photography.

Our Gift Guide for the beloved equines on your list!

Show-stopping style is always a wise choice when it comes to gift giving and horse lovers. You will find a huge selection of cutting edge show pads, show shirts and other accoutrement at the Ranch by Design shop near Lacombe, Alberta. Luxx show pads are beautiful premium quality blankets made with 100% New Zealand wool. Oversized and just under nine pounds, these saddle pads come in a wide variety of colours and designs. $236. Online at:


The Equistro line of products is specifically designed to serve the needs of the equine athlete. With a range of supplements, their goal is to help your horse deal with the challenges of heavy training, frequent travelling and staying on top of the game. Use the promo code CLAY10 for savings on online purchases.

Use the promo code CLAY10 for savings on online Equistro purchases.

Not all gifts are meant to be under a tree! Put a big red bow on Conterra’s EquiGroomer-TR and watch them run (or drive) in circles with excitement!

Warm the bellies of your equine friends during colder days with locally-owned and operated. Equiboost Feed and Oil. Flax-based and made with zero soy products, this feed will have your furever friends feeling, looking and performing their best! $55 for a 30-day supply. Find them on Facebook @equiboost


Spread good cheer and good feels in every way, with Cavallo Pulse Therapy, based out of Cochrane, Alberta. Owner and practitioner, Keely Gibb, travels to her clients to help them feel their best. Specializing in equine bodywork and PEMF for the performance athlete. Gibb also offers massage therapy, K-Taping, myofascial release as well as stretching and mobilization services for your equine and canine companions. Find her on Facebook @cavallopulsetherapy

Why put gifts under a tree when you can put them in a barn? Make dreams come true with Affordable Barns, a company who has been building high quality barns for affordable prices for years! With base pricing starting at only $20,695, all barns come complete with finished 12×12 stalls, and many options to choose from.

Small Matters

Portrait of Charlotte Small. Artwork by Wandering Jayne Creatives.

On June 10, 1799, she became a child bride – married at the age of 13, to a man 16 years her senior. The girl was “…about five feet tall, active and wiry, with black eyes and skin almost copper-coloured”; the daughter of a Scottish investor-partner, named Patrick Small, and an unnamed mother.

She was Métis. Abandoned by her father at the age of six, her father left his family (two girls and a boy,) and returned to his roots in Europe. Her mother raised her children in relative obscurity. Here is Charlotte Small’s story.

By Debbie MacRae

During her lifetime, Charlotte Small would travel over 42,000 kms across some of the most perilous terrain in Canada. She and her husband, David Thompson, would unlock the mysteries of Canada’s unbelievable sweeping geography – and she would become one of the most significant female contributors to the development of Canada. Together, their cartographic accomplishment would become legend; the largest, most significant survey achievement in the history of mankind. Small’s contribution, until recent years, had been relatively unacknowledged.

Charlotte Small was born on September 1, 1785, to the “country wife” of a Scottish investor in the North West Company fur-trading partnership. Her siblings, Patrick Small, Jr., and Nancy Small, would also become part of the fur-trading business, with Patrick becoming a North West Company clerk, and Nancy, the first wife of North West Company partner, John MacDonald of Garth.

“Country wives” was a term coined when a marriage took place with little formality or documents, and the marriage was arranged in “the country” to enhance the standing or security of the wife, who might have mixed lineage. And also to enhance the trade advantage of the fur trader, as a result of an alliance with the woman’s Indigenous family, where she could assist by translating and trading on her husband’s behalf. Often the practical advantages of their alliance outweighed the opportunity for love, as men desired wives who could cook, clean, and sew for them. European wives were not well suited to the harsh elements and did not have the survival skills to compete with their “country” counterparts.

Small could speak French, English, Cree and multiple dialects. She could hunt and fish. Marrying a man employed by the North West Company would bring her stability and security, and perhaps status. The irony of their exchange would be that Small would bring her talents to the table, and on more than one occasion, it would be Small who would ensure they succeeded.

In June of 1799, Small agreed to marry Thompson, and they married in the Cree tradition at Ile-a-la Crosse, SK. Their marriage vows would be solemnized by clergy 13 years later at the Scotch Presbyterian Church in Montreal on October 30, 1812.

She would bear 13 children; seven boys and six girls. Small was 44-years-old when she gave birth to her youngest child, Eliza in 1829.

On their marriage day, Thompson made a notation in his journal – “Today wed Charlotte Small.” He would honour that commitment for 58 years; travelling over 42,000 kilometers with her and their children by his side, at a time when most European men retired and returned to their prestigious European lives, leaving their Canadian country wives and families behind – like Small’s own father. The marriage of David Thompson and Charlotte Small is the longest recorded marriage in pre-Confederation history.

Thompson was born in Westminster, Middlesex, and his father died when Thompson was two-years-old, leaving his mother in dire financial hardship. She was forced to place him in the care of the Grey Coat Hospital, a school for the disadvantaged of Westminster, where he then graduated to the mathematical school, renowned for its survey and navigational training. That training would prepare him for the prodigious survey work he would achieve in later life.

Thompson was indentured to the Hudson’s Bay Company, working as a clerk, and was dispatched to various regional inland locations, learning the language of the people as he went. After seriously fracturing his leg in a sledding accident near North Battleford, SK, it took two years for him to recover, during which he studied mathematics, survey and astronomy. At the end of his apprenticeship, he asked the company to pay him with a sextant and navigational equipment, instead of the traditional Hudson’s Bay coat. They provided him with both, and hence began his next career in surveying. He was 27 years of age.

Two years later, after their marriage, Small would assist with the literal “groundwork”.

“[W]ith black eyes and skin almost copper-coloured” – a description later rendered by her grandson, William Scott, Small moved easily among the First Nation’s people. Her coloring, language fluency and ability to decipher related dialects assisted in securing trust when travelling and trading.

Thompson wrote, in an 1874 manuscript, “….my lovely Wife is of the blood of these people, speaking their language, and well educated in the English language; which gives me a great advantage.” Although not much is known about their relationship, he wrote in a language of love and respect.

The expanse of Rupert’s Land was unknown; the rivers raging and perilous. Travel was arduous for fur traders, completed on foot, by canoe, and horseback, often in unfriendly territory. Seasons were harsh, and winters particularly cruel. The elements (fire, wind, and water), injured or took lives indiscriminately, and starvation was always a consideration. During the winter of 1805 and 1806, while wintering at Reed Lake House, the Thompson party was in much need of food. Small’s hunting experience would be their salvation, providing nourishment from the meat she secured snaring rabbits and shooting birds. Thompson journals Small as having snared eight rabbits between November 1805 and February 1806, hardly sufficient nourishment to sustain a whole party – yet the group survived.
The extent of her contribution is barely appreciated – yet significantly more commendable given that she had two small children, Fanny and Samuel, and was expecting their third child, Emma, in March of that year.

Small first explored the Rocky Mountains in May of 1807, when a trade route was opened over the Howse Pass, west of Rocky Mountain House, AB. Ascending and descending the crossing was dangerous and nearly fatal on several occasions.

“The water descending in innumerable Rills, soon swelled our Brook to a Rivulet, with a Current foaming white, the Horses with Difficulty crossed & recrossed at every 2 or 300 yards, & the Men crossed by clinging to the Tails & Manes of the Horses, & yet ran no small danger of being swept away & drowned.” Notes the David Thompson, Travels (unpublished manuscript): iii, 34a,ca. 1847; quotation courtesy of William Moreau as noted in the essay David Thompson’s Life of Learning among the Nahathaways by Jennifer Brown.

Although Thompson’s journal entries are limited with respect to his family life, it is imperative to appreciate that they travelled together. The journal entries, provide insight and glimpses of the challenges Small faced as a woman and mother, with three young children to nourish and protect. She faced the same cruel conditions as the men, yet except for a few notations, her challenges remained nondescript and unrecorded.

On one occasion, Thompson wrote, “One of my horses nearly crushing my children to death with his load being badly put on, which I mistook for being vicious, I shot him on the spot and rescued my little ones.”

A day later, he added, “… 3 P.M. we reloaded, but missing my little Daughter & nowhere finding her, we concluded she was drowned & all of us set about finding her – we searched all the Embarrass (log-jams) in the River but to no purpose. At length, Mr. McDonald found her track going upwards. We searched all about & at length thank God at 8 ½ P.M. found her about 1 Mile off, against a Bank of Snow.” (Sources of the River, Nesbit.)
Small was no doubt, frantically assisting in the search for her child lost in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains. It was June of 1808, in the mountains, with high water, and snow still likely on the ground. The wildlife were recently out of hibernation and hungry, and the group were constantly under threat of attack by the Peigan people. She was seven months pregnant with their fourth child, John, at the time.

They would traverse the Blaeberry River through the Kootenai mountains and follow it to its junction with the Columbia. Because the Columbia flowed north at this junction, Thompson did not believe the river he viewed was the Columbia – and instead, headed upstream to Lake Windermere. Near the south end of the lake they built Kootenae House. Now they had another addition to the family, with four children under seven.

Between 1808 and May of 1812, the family would journey from Canal Flats, BC, into Montana and Idaho, back up to Fort Vermilion at the confluence of the North Saskatchewan and Vermilion rivers, and back down into Montana and Idaho on Lake Pend Oreille, where they established Kullyspell House and Salish House on the Clark Fork River. Because the Piikani (Peigan) people were blocking access to their southern passes, a different route had to be established to bypass their lands.

Ultimately, they would cross the mountains through the Athabasca Pass over a treacherous route along the Athabasca, Whirlpool and Wood Rivers, arriving at the forks of the Columbia and Canoe rivers on January 18,1811.
The men refused to go on, and they wintered at Boat Encampment. Small remained at the side of her husband with her four children, despite the harsh crossing. The survey of the Columbia River was completed in May of 1812.

A copy of the navigator’s sextant used by David Thompson.

The family returned to Fort William on the shores of Thunder Bay, on July 12, 1812. They had made the decision to leave the employ of the North West Company, and made their way eastward toward Montreal, surveying the North shore of Lake Superior as they went.

After their return to Terrabonne, north of Montreal, Small and Thompson formalized their marriage vows in the European tradition and baptized their five young children. Ironically, in 1813, after surviving some of the harshest conditions of their young lives, two of their young children, John (age five) and Emma (age seven) would die, as a result of round worms, a common parasite. Small ultimately did not adjust well to life in Quebec, choosing to reside in Montreal while her husband travelled. Another child, Henry, would be born in 1813, followed by seven more siblings between 1815 and 1829.

In the years following, Thompson would complete his greatest achievements; his map of the North-West Territory of the Province of Canada in 1814 – so accurate it was still being utilized by the Canadian government 100 years later; survey of the newly established Canadian/US borders from Lake of the Woods to the Eastern Townships of Quebec; and his atlas of the region from Hudson Bay to the Pacific Ocean.

They would lose two more children. Despite financial hardship, and ultimate ruin, Small would remain by his side, even after being forced to move in with their daughter and son-in-law.

When the North West Company and the Hudson Bay Company merged in 1821, Thompson’s work was treated with indifference – likely because he had left the employ of the HBC and was never truly forgiven for his transfer to the North West Company. His survey data was sent to Aaron-Arrowsmith of London, and was used without proper credit to the surveyor – leaving his family impoverished for lack of payment, as well as the bankruptcy of a company in which their life savings had been invested. The maps they had developed, and the atlas completed in their later years, was never returned nor paid for.

David Thompson died in 1857, at the age of 86. His “lovely wife”, Charlotte Small, followed him to the grave three months later, at the age of 70. They were buried side by side, in obscure, unmarked graves, until geologist J.B. Tyrrell resurrected Thompson’s notes, and published them as a narrative and part of the General Series of the Champlain Society in 1916. Tyrrell’s efforts, in partnership with the Canadian Historical Society, resulted in the placing of a tombstone to mark his grave. In 1917, David Thompson was recognized as a National Historic Person by the federal government. However, Small’s contribution went singularly unnoticed.

In the 28 years of his travel, Thompson had traveled over 88,500 kms and surveyed 4.92 million square kms of wilderness. Small and her children accompanied him on over 42,000 kms – three and a half times further than the expedition of Lewis and Clark. Many of Thompson’s maps would be used on the Lewis and Clark expedition in their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase and the Pacific Northwest between August 1803 and September 1806.

However, on July 1, 2014, Charlotte Small was eventually recognized in a special ceremony at Rocky Mountain House, AB, by the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada. She was acknowledged as an, “Acclaimed wife, mother, explorer and Metis daughter of the fur trade” “…for her contributions to the fur trade and exploration of western Canada. Charlotte Small exemplifies the contributions of Aboriginal women to the building of Canada, and …, we celebrate her as a person of national historic significance.” Ironically, at the time of her death, women were not recognized as persons, an achievement that would not take place until October 29, 1929; 72 years after her death.
Theirs was a partnership which lasted through the most strenuous of tests. Her commitment and devotion to her husband and family, his work, and their purpose is immeasurable and unparalleled.

“Standing in the silence, Charlotte Small was an important figure, giving a voice to the many multi-skilled women who were unpaid and nameless in the male-dominated fur trade that was highly dependent upon Aboriginal and Metis women acting as guides, translators, confidantes and expert wilderness survivalists. Charlotte Small performed all these roles as a wife, mother and daughter. Her courage and achievements will withstand the test of time and serve as encouragement for the generations of Aboriginal women to come, and recognition of the many silent women of the fur trade,” (Pat McDonald, historian and author, Rocky Mountain House).

Gifts Out of the Ordinary


A unique selection of curated gifts, for the hard-to-buy-for. As it is more important than ever to shop local, many of the amazing gift ideas on this list are from local, small businesses.

Unique western style area rugs that convey your western style within your home, are like artwork for the floor. Find a number of interesting shapes and designs at Cody & Sioux. Inquire for pricing.

A gift that embodies the best of Alberta: solid, bold, rich, authentic, and spirited. Alberta Whisky Cakes come heat-sealed and most elegantly packaged, ready for gift giving, and with a lithographed ‘Artist Card’ promoting the work of a local emerging artist. True local spirit and taste in every sense. $40.

The greatest gift you can give someone is time. Better Than Home Coin Laundry located in Okotoks, Alberta is a drop-off dry cleaner depot that caters to customers with western roots! Custom ironing and alterations for cowboys, cowgirls and cowpokes alike. They have designated machines for your pet and horse blankets, saddle pads, Navajo blankets and heavily soiled attire – perfect for those hectic days on the ranch! Leave the heavy cleaning to them. (403) 938-7788

Better Than Home Coin Laundry can handle the toughest laundry jobs, including heavy winter horse blankets.

Just in time for the holidays, the all new ROMAL RAIN candles from Shannon Lawlor Galleries are ready for the giving! This thoughtful pairing of leather and Cuban cigars will offer you memories of the West through a luxurious scent, as the candle burns with great ambiance. Snuggle up and appreciate the sensory delight curated by one of Alberta’s foremost western virtuosos. $45-$70

It may be frightful outside, but wine is always delightful! Toast your host or the ones you love most with horse themed wines this holiday season. Everyone will be trotting up to the bar for another glass of these fun and naturally festive selections of holiday cheer! Find them at your favourite local liquor purveyor.

Don’t know what to get the people who have everything? Memberships and subscriptions make wonderful gifts that keep on giving throughout the year and come with a host of benefits for all the people on your gift list. Alberta Equestrian Federation? Reining Alberta? American Quarter Horse Association? Subscription to Western Horse Review Magazine? Support local clubs, publications and your loved one’s passions all with one thoughtful gesture.

Holiday Side Dishes

If you saw our recent Western Foodie post about the Holiday Beef Wellington, these are the perfect side dishes to go with. And if the Beef Wellingon doesn’t steal the show, these side dishes definitely will!




  • 1 Bulb Garlic,
  • Intact Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 6 Large Russett Potatoes, Peeled and Cut into 1-inch Chunks
  • 4 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, at Room Temperature
  • 1 Tsp. Salt, Plus More as Needed
  • 1 Cup Milk, Plus More as Needed
  • Minced Chives, for Garnish (Optional)

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F. Use a sharp knife to slice off the top end so that the bulb remains intact and all of the cloves are exposed. Place on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fold the foil around the bulb so that it is completely covered and bake until the cloves are tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool at least 10 minutes before handling. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the bulb so that the softened cloves fall out. Discard the peels. Use the tines of a fork to mash the roasted garlic into a paste. Set aside.

Place the chopped potatoes in a large stockpot and cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil. Continue to cook uncovered until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 15-18 minutes. Drain well.

Return the potatoes to the warm pot. Add in the butter, salt, milk, and the roasted garlic paste. With an electric mixer, beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, adding more milk as needed. Avoid over-beating. *Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Garnish with minced chives. Serve warm.


1 Bunch Asparagus Stalks
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
Large Pinch Sea Salt
Black Pepper to Taste


Preheat oven to 400. Meanwhile on a baking sheet, toss asparagus with the olive oil. Arrange stalks evenly on the pan, then sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.

Roast for 20-25 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through for even, delicious browning.


2 Egg Yolks
1.5 Tsp. Lemon Juice
1/4 Cup Butter Melted
Pinch Sea Salt
Pinch Black Cracked Pepper


There are lots of methods to use when making Hollandaise Sauce. While I want to be a purist and use a double-boiler, I must admit – I have an immersion blender and it is pretty fool proof. These recipes easily double, triple, quadruple, etc. Make Hollandaise for a crowd, by golly! Whichever method you use, here are your options:

Immersion Blender: Place egg yolks and lemon juice in a tall-sided container that isn’t too wide (think a quart-sized soup container). With the immersion blender, combine the egg yolk and lemon juice briefly. Continue to run the immersion blender and dribble in the melted butter. Add a little sea salt and black pepper. You’re done!

Blender: Place egg yolks and lemon juice in the blender. Pulse briefly to combine. Turn the blender on a low setting, take either the whole lid or just that little plastic part in the top off and slow drizzle in the melted butter. Add a little sea salt and black pepper. You’re done!

Double-boiler: Fill a medium pot with a few inches of water. Set on medium-high heat. Place a bowl over the top of the pot, making sure its large enough that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the boiling water underneath. Place egg yolks and lemon juice in the bowl. Begin whisking until combined. Slowly dribble melted butter in, whisking continuously. Add a little sea salt and black pepper. Finito.

Stove-top: NOTE: Don’t pre-melt your butter! Simply cut the butter into little pads. Set a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Moving quickly, whisk the eggs and lemon juice together in the pan. Slowly add a pad or two of butter at a time, whisking continuously and removing the pan from the heat if you feel a curdle coming on. Add a little sea salt and black pepper. Again, you’re all finished!

If however, you’re not done, and your hollandaise broke and isn’t a gloriously, smooth sauce – beat an additional egg yolk in a separate bowl and slowly whisk into the broken sauce, bit by bit. That should do the trick.

This spin on Christmas dinner is pleasing to the eye and palate – and gloriously festive.

Working Against Time

Dr. Jordan Cook of Moore Equine examines a mare’s mouth.

An equine vet takes us through the diagnosis and treatment of a horse with a metal sliver in its tongue.


Recognizing the signs of a horse with metal embedded in its tongue can be the difference between life and death. Acting quickly in this situation is vital to ruling out other ailments with similar symptoms and ensure the problem doesn’t escalate.

“It’s what we would consider an emergency,” says Dr. Jordan Cook of Moore Equine Veterinary Centre in southern Alberta.

“Anytime you have a horse that is either drooling, has a lot of discharge coming from its mouth or its nose, they’re not wanting to eat, or they seem to be having difficulties eating or swallowing, definitely you want to get that horse checked out right away.”

One of these things does not belong here. An X-ray of the mare who was recently discovered with a metal piece stuck in her tongue. Courtesy of Moore Equine.

Horses can get small pieces of metal stuck inside their mouths if it’s in their feed by accident, which may occur if little bits of wire or debris in a hayfield are picked up and baled. Another common way this can happen is when giant tires are used as hay feeders. “There’s little pieces of wire or metal inside the actual tire that’s being used as a feeder itself, and those can break down and then… work their way into the hay, and the horse takes a mouthful and doesn’t realize that there’s a small little piece of metal inside of it,” says Cook.

While metal slivers in horses’ mouths aren’t a frequent occurrence, it shows up enough that it’s something to be on the lookout for. “We see it a couple times a year,” she says. “It’s common enough that it’s something that we’re always have in the back of our mind if we’re seeing a patient that might be drooling or having some difficulty eating.”

Due to these symptoms, it’s often mistaken for choke, colic or a broken tooth. “We’ll have people call in thinking their horse is choking or maybe thinking that their horse might be colicking a little bit because all of a sudden they don’t want to eat,” says Cook.

After ruling out those issues, veterinarians will then look to see if there is a foreign object stuck inside the horse’s mouth. Metal or other objects are more likely to get lodged inside the tongue than embedded elsewhere in the mouth because it’s used to push the food back into their throat when swallowing.

If caught early enough, it’s somewhat easier to remove the metal from the tongue, though it will still require surgery to do so. Under anesthetic, the horse lays on the surgery table and has its mouth opened with a speculum so the surgeon can access the tongue. The surgeon will use the x-rays to guide them in carefully removing the metal from inside the tongue. If metal is left in the tongue too long, however, it can begin to migrate and cause more dangerous problems. The body, Cook explains, tries to dislodge the foreign object itself, but it’s not always able to move it out through the same place that it entered.

“It can actually start to migrate deeper into the throat or actually into all of that tissue that’s under the tongue, in and around the throat, and we can start to see it progress from just difficulties chewing and swallowing and drooling, to all of a sudden that horse is going to have some swelling associated with it. They can actually get an abscess or an infection around something that’s in there, and it may actually obstruct their ability to breathe,” she says.

“There’s lots of really important structures in that area, and so (it’s) a lot more difficult for us to remove or potentially have a higher risk of bleeding during surgery or a higher risk of complications after surgery if we wait too long.”

This is why calling your vet immediately after seeing these symptoms is so important, she states. “Any horse that is drooling, maybe has some nasal discharge, is having difficulty eating or swallowing or isn’t interested in eating, that to me is considered an emergency and should be checked out so that if we do identify that there’s a wire or some other foreign body inside their mouth or their throat, we can try and take it our as soon as possible.”

The culprit. Foreign bodies inside a horse’s mouth can lead to life threatening situations. Here is the metal sliver, after it was removed in surgery.

CASE STUDY: Early Detection for Successful Treatment
Recently, Cook was called to assist a mare that was suspected to be choking. “She was drooling quite a bit, she seemed to want to eat but was unable to do so and so it didn’t seem to resolve,” she says, adding that most mild chokes will resolve on their own within 15 to 20 minutes.

“It was identified very quickly at feed time, so when I came and took a look at her, she didn’t have any discharge from her nose, which is more common that we’ll see that with choke,” she explains. “She had manure in her stall, she was otherwise really bright and when I offered her food, she really, really wanted to eat it, but she’d take it in her mouth and immediately spit it out and drop it, and for her it was because there was a bit of a pain response.”

With this information, Cook administered some sedation and conducted an oral exam, finding the mare’s teeth to be in good shape. There were no other signs of foreign bodies in the mouth, such as pieces of wood stuck between the teeth. The only thing that looked concerning was the mare’s tongue. “I could see that her tongue appeared a little bit swollen in the middle, and I could actually see a little bit of blood, a little nick on the one side of her tongue, and then there was a little bit of swelling on the other side,” she says.

It was painful for the mare when Cook carefully pressed on the swelling, and that resulted in some bloody discharge coming out of the cut on the other side of the tongue. “That made me pretty suspicious that she may have something inside of her tongue.”

Cook’s next step was to take x-rays of the mare’s head, which quickly revealed that there was, in fact, quite a large piece of metal inside her tongue. She gave the mare some anti-inflammatories to reduce the swelling in her tongue and make her feel more comfortable. As they were unsure when the mare was last able to drink, she was tubed through her nose and given water and electrolytes to prevent dehydration before being referred to the clinic that evening.

Surgery was performed on the mare the next morning. “We got really lucky that that piece of wire hadn’t moved,” says Cook. “She was taken into the surgery suite, anesthetized, taken in, the speculum put back in her mouth again. Then thankfully our surgeon was able to go in and – using his hands and some instruments – was actually able to pull the piece of wire out of her tongue very successfully.”

Dr. Cook’s quick-thinking and thorough examination procedure led to the rather fast discovery of the metal piercing in the mare’s tongue.

Another round of x-rays confirmed that all the wire had been removed, and the mare went on to make a great recovery. “She was eating a little bit slower because her tongue was still a little bit painful but was able to happily eat and swallow with a few days of anti-inflammatories.” Back at home, the mare was carefully monitored to ensure she was able to chew and swallow properly as the swelling in her tongue went down.

Even though this situation isn’t a common occurrence in horses, Cook wants owners to be aware that this is something that could potentially happen. “Just because your horse has a little bit of drool or doesn’t seem to be eating, don’t necessarily panic right away that your horse has something stuck in its tongue, but be aware that that is an abnormal behaviour. Especially if the horse does seem bright and really wanting to eat but dropping food and unable to do so,” she says.

“Unfortunately, it can be life-threatening if left and not dealt with right away,” she continues. “If there’s any swelling around the throat or around the jaw, it’s definitely something you want to get checked out right away to make sure they haven’t eaten something, but also making sure that they’re able to eat and drink and breathe properly.”

Gifts for Him

Photo by BAR XP PHOTO.

A wonderful collection of gift ideas for him!! For under the tree, under the saddle, in the barn or in his belly. All are amazing presents from local vendors.

This Powder River Outfitters collection fleece bonded softshell jacket from Panhandle features a full zipper front, interior wind flap, adjustable cuffs and is water and wind resistant. Perfect for the man who lives in the outdoors. $139.95.

Powder River Outfitters jacket from Lammle’s Western Wear.

A night out is a sweet surprise for anyone. Give a gift that includes great service, a spacious western atmosphere, a fantastic steak and a house-specialty mashed potato wrap. Silver Slate Steak house by Stavely, Alberta offers high fashion dining in a home-style way. Gift Certificates available at

A hearty meal at Silver Slate Steakhouse is exactly what he wants this year!

Sole Mates
He’ll get a kick out of a Christmas gift from Alberta Boot Company! Outfitting royalty, movie stars, athletes, public figures, and most importantly – ordinary people from all over the world! Alberta Boot Company has a wide selection of ready-made boots and can also help you create the perfect pair for your sole mate this holiday season.

Alberta Boots carries a wide variety of boots for him.

BEX sunglasses are engineered to stay comfortably on your favourite wrangler’s face. Complementing active lifestyles, every pair is lightweight, polarized durable and designed to look great on everyone. The company understands that an active lifestyle causes normal wear and tear on the nose pads, which is why each pair of sunglasses comes with a replaceable set.

Bex Suglasses and a wild rag by Brown Creek Wild Rags. Photo by BAR XP PHOTO.

The holidays just aren’t the same without a great topper, whether you choose a star, a tree and angel or a gorgeous hat from Prairie Wind Hatworks! Located in Pincher Creek, Alberta, they can make a custom hat from the band up or give a current hat a little bit of TLC. Find them on Facebook @prairiewindhatworks2018

Prairie Wind Hatworks will make the custom lid your guy is looking for.

Holiday Beef Wellington

Complimented by porcini mushrooms and a prosciutto wrap underneath melt-in-your-mouth pastry, this beef wellington is what dreams are made of.

A twist on a classic. This crowd-pleasing beef wellington is a perfect centrepiece for your next Christmas dinner.



1.5 Kg Beef Fillet
2 Tsp. Vegetable or Sunflower Oil
2 x 50g Pack Dried Porcini Mushrooms
25g butter, plus extra for the sauce
500g (1 lb. 2oz) Shitake Mushrooms, Finely Chopped
Handful Fresh Thyme Leaves
6 Slices Prosciutto
1 x 500g Pack Lighter All-Butter Puff Pastry
Plain Flour, for Dusting
1 Egg, Beaten to Glaze
1/2 Cup of Dijon Mustard

For the Sauce

500ml (½pt) Good-Quality Beef Stock
1 Bottle 750ml Shiraz


Season the beef with salt and black pepper. Heat the oil in a large frying pan.

Seasoning the meat.

Sear the meat for 30 seconds on all sides until turning golden. Leave to cool.

Searing the meat.

Meanwhile, soak the porcini mushrooms in 250ml (8fl oz) boiling water until softened. Remove from the liquid, squeeze dry, then chop finely. Reserve the soaking liquid. 

Heat the butter in a large frying pan. Add the mushrooms and the thyme. Cook until golden and the pan is dry (up to 20 minutes). Leave to cool completely. Reserve a quarter of the mushrooms in the pan.

Rub the beef with the Dijon Mustard.

Rub the beef generously with the Dijon Mustard.

Put two large sheets of clingfilm on a work surface, overlapping slightly. Place the prosciutto on top, overlapping the edges to make one ‘sheet’ large enough to wrap the beef. Spread with three quarters of the mushroom mixture, then sit the meat on top and spread with the remaining mushrooms.

The beef on the cingfilm with prosciutto and mushroom mixture.

Roll the prosciutto around the beef, using the clingfilm. Wrap tightly and chill for 10 minutes.

Roll the prosciutto around the beef, using the clingfilm. Wrap everything tightly together in the clingfilm.

Set aside a quarter of the pastry. On a floured surface, roll the rest into a square or rectangle big enough to wrap the fillet: approximately 35cm (14-inch) square. Trim to neaten, then roll the edges of the joining sides a little more thinly.

Remove the clingfilm from the beef and position it in the middle of the pastry. Wrap the pastry up along the length of the beef, overlapping slightly at the join. Brush the edges with beaten egg and seal. Fold up each end like a parcel. Transfer to a lightly greased baking tray, seam side down. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut shapes to decorate.

The beef is placed inside the pastry.

Brush the Wellington all over with egg, press on the decorations and brush again. Chill for 20 minutes (or up to 12 hours if you like).

Brushing the pastry with egg with help it seal and allow the details to stick.

Preheat the oven to gas 8, 230°C, fan 210°C and put a baking sheet in the top third. To make the sauce, pour the wine into the pan with the reserved mushrooms. Bring to the boil and simmer until the wine has reduced to about one tablespoon. Add the stock and the porcini mushroom liquid and boil for 10 minutes until syrupy. Season, then stir in one teaspoon of butter. Set aside. 

Put the Wellington and its tray onto the heated baking sheet in the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to gas 6, 200°C, fan 180°C, then cook for another 20 minutes for medium-rare meat (15 for rare, 25 for medium). 

Leave to rest for 10 minutes. Warm the sauce through. Serve slices of the Wellington with the sauce and vegetables.

If you’re interested in side dishes to go with this exquisite meal check out our blog here.


View of Chief Dick Bad Boy and Chief Crowfoot at the Calgary Stampede. Photo credit – J.312/2 appears courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

Born in 1830 near the Belly River in southern Alberta, his infant name was Shot Close. His parents, Istowun-eh’pata (Packs a Knife) and Axkahp-say-pi (Attacked Towards Home) were Kainai or Blood, of the Blackfoot Confederacy, which also included the Blackfoot and Piegan peoples. If their names were any indication, the times were troubled and warring factions, prevalent.

When he was five-years-old, his father was killed by rivalling Crow, and a year later his mother remarried a man (Many Names) from the neighbouring Siksika Nation. Determined not to be left behind, the young boy trailed his departing mother and her new husband as they left the Kanai to travel back to Siksika. He followed the two on foot for several hours, eventually inducing them to turn around and bring both the youngster and his grandfather, Scabby Bull, back to become members of the Blackfoot Tribe. He was then given the name Bear Ghost, and would later inherit his father’s name Istowun-eh’pata or Packs a Knife.

As a youth he proved himself a formidable opponent and a respected warrior. He earned the name “Crow Indian’s big foot,” after getting wounded during a raid for horses on a Crow camp. That name was later shorted to Crowfoot by interpreters.

He was in 19 battles before the age of 20, and his most serious wound occurred after being shot in the back during a Shoshoni winter raid. The lead ball was never removed and in his later years, he would be limited in his riding ability and travels. With that constant reminder, his resolve turned to raising horses and addressing tribal affairs, and with the death of Three Suns, his band chief, Crowfoot became a minor chief of the Blackfoot tribe, although neither Blackfoot, nor from a family of chiefs.

His bravery and determination earned him respect among the Blackfoot people, however, it was his skill as a diplomat and a voice of peace that raised his profile with the local white population. In 1865, he rescued an Oblate missionary, Father Albert Lacombe, while Fr. Lacombe was visiting a Blackfoot camp east of Hobbema, Alberta. It was attacked by Crees and after several hours, Father Lacombe tried to intervene and call a truce, but the Cree did not recognize him and he was shot by a ricocheting bullet. Crowfoot arrived with a legion of warriors and the outcome of battle was dramatically altered.

His peace keeping missions were many. He established relationships with fur-traders, missionaries and Hudson’s Bay personnel. In 1866 he intervened between the Blackfoot and HBCo. and prevented the deaths of the Metis drivers during an attempted looting of their caravan. Then despite outrage on the part of other warrior chiefs, he escorted the Metis back to Fort Edmonton.

He was one of the surviving Head Chiefs after the smallpox epidemic of 1869-70, but in 1873, his eldest son was killed in a raid on a Cree camp and he vowed vengeance on the camp. He personally led a raid against the Cree and killed a tribe member. During the raid, a young man was captured who bore a startling resemblance to Crowfoot’s deceased son. Crowfoot adopted him, took him for his own son and gave him his son’s name. In a twist of irony, that young man would later return to his own people and become the Chief Poundmaker, who would be arrested during the Northwest Rebellion of 1885. He too, would leave a legacy as a peacemaker, despite charges of treason and imprisonment during the rebellion, and he too, would die at Blackfoot Crossing, Alberta.

Chief Crowfoot left a cultural legacy of influence unrivalled by any other in western Canada.

During the Rebellion, Crowfoot tried to remove himself and his people from the battle, remaining neutral for as long as possible, despite the fact that his adopted son, Poundmaker, was in the midst of the conflict. During the fighting, agents from both sides tried to gain his support, and that of the Blackfoot nation, but Crowfoot was aware they would be limited in their success. It was primarily due to respect for Crowfoot that the warriors refrained from engaging in the conflict.

Chief Crowfoot worked hard to maintain peace and build relationships for the safety and security of his people. He quelled uprisings imminent with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. He established friendships with Sam Steel and the North-West Mounted Police in an effort to curtail and contain the illegal activities of American wolfers and whiskey traders.

In 1876, when the Plains Indians and US cavalry were fighting, Crowfoot’s support was summoned once again, when a Sioux messenger was sent to ask the Blackfeet to join the fight. The request was made such that, once the Sioux had defeated the Americans, they would then help the Blackfeet to overcome the NWMP. Crowfoot’s reaction was staunch. Not only did he reject the offer but counselled the Sioux that he would stand by his commitment to the NWMP north of the border and would join the police to fight the Sioux if they came north. When they eventually did, as refugees after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Crowfoot extended his hand in friendship to Chief Sitting Bull while he was in exile in Canada. Sitting Bull was so impressed with Crowfoot that he named his own son Crow Foot.

Chief Crowfoot was invited, along with members of the Blackfoot, Blood, Piegan, Sarcee, and Stony tribes to negotiate Treaty #7 with the Canadian government. He was mistakenly considered to be the leader and head spokesman of the entire Blackfoot Confederation, which created friction between the leaders. However, with his usual diplomacy, he consulted with the other nations and refused all offers of rations or money until the terms of the treaty were complete. The treaty was signed September 22, 1877.

In 2008, Chief Crowfoot was inducted into the North American Railway Hall of Fame for his contribution in helping the Government of Canada to facilitate completion of the railway in western Canada. Canadian CPR President William Van Horne had given him a lifetime pass to travel on the Canadian Pacific Railway. He was further remembered in 2009, when a Calgary light rail transit station was named in his honour.

Chief Crowfoot left a cultural legacy of influence unrivalled by any other in western Canada. He was a soldier; a visionary; a diplomat; a leader; a policeman; a politician and a perpetrator of peace. His legacy is memorialized at the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park in Siksika, and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Highway #785, Fort Macleod, Alberta.

His influence endures as he is also considered as one of the eight nominees short-listed by the Bank of Canada on November 10, 2020, to be the face of the new $5 bill.

  • By Debbie MacRae