Canada’s largest 4-H event at Stampede Park


It’s the largest 4H gathering in Canada, and it’s coming to Stampede Park on May 30 to June 1. The Calgary Stampede welcomes more than 600 young participants to 4-H on Parade, presented by Cervus Equipment, the crowning event of the year, representing months of effort and preparation for members to display their projects and talents.


4H provides young leaders with experience and mentorship in a broad spectrum of agricultural and life skills. The more than 800 projects will be shown, including farm animals such as cattle, sheep, horses, canine and life skills, plus life skill projects that range from archery, welding, photography and more. This year’s 4H on Parade features archery demonstrations on Friday and Saturday afternoons, a canine first aid clinic Saturday morning and the unique Cleaver Kids Program held Saturday afternoon.

Cleaver Kids is the fastest growing program at 4-H on Parade, growing annually to nearly 50 participants this year. This program is designed to get children under the age of nine excited about 4-H by interacting with animals and participating in life skills activities.

Auctions are expected to draw great crowds on Sunday at 4-H on Parade with exciting live auctions of the sheep and steer projects. This sale gives buyers a unique opportunity to buy livestock directly from their sellers, while also supporting Alberta’s youth who put their hard work into raising the animals.

Starting Sunday at 11 a.m., the live auction leads off with the auctioning of a charity lamb and steer. Clubs take turns raising these projects each year, and auctioning off the animals to raise funds for a charity of the club’s choice. This year the charity auction projects are donated by Foothills Sheep and the Irricana Beef and Multi Club. The proceeds will go to the Ronald MacDonald House in southern Alberta.

An Autumn Ride

This past weekend, Wee’s 4-H equine club kicked off another year and we held an introductory ride, barbecue and first meeting here. The entire grand day reminded me that this old log house has likely been witness to more than one such event over the past 30 years, for previous to our family, lived another with a 4-H mom and leader. I love the idea of lingering traditions, so we’re happy to keep this one up.

It reminded me also of finding this sign sometime after we moved in, tangled and long buried in the tall grass of the ditch, likely having been mowed over by an overzealous grader or snow plow driver. We revived it’s lease on life and it now hangs on our garage, announcing a 4-H family still lives here.

Roger is Wee’s cutting horse, and we saddled him up for a new member who hasn’t quite found her own horse yet. True to the 4-H creed, the older members helped the new members get on with it.

It was a perfect day for a ride, and the horses all seemed willing and content.

Actually, I think everyone had fun . . . especially Tucker!

Wee and Blue returned a little worse for the wear, one for perhaps indulging a little too heavily on the abundant pastures of early fall, and the other for staying up too late the night prior. I couldn’t be too critical, she did get up early to bake and ice two sets of cupcakes!

After the ride, the inevitable pre-group shot chaos ensued. Can we all get a little tighter please?

The bay horse on the left, can we have the bay horse on the left turned around, please?

Finally, success. Until I counted heads and two were missing!

The day got me to thinking on the big picture of 4-H, especially Equine 4-H. We talk a lot about this at my 4-H circles – events, lessons and meetings. I wonder how the scene and membership numbers compares to say 20 or even 30 or 40 years ago.

I found a few stats on the Canadian 4-H Council website, dating back to 2008-2009. In the five year span from then until now equine club membership has dropped 12%. It’s an expected drop I suppose, not as much as some of the other ag-centric 4-H projects (Beef membership, for instance has dropped 25%), but a drop all the same.

Later, as we watched the last of the trailers pull out of the yard and I had a chance to give Wee a big hug of pure happiness, I couldn’t help but get the obvious point – how much fun kids can have when you offer up a setting that’s relaxing and low-stress. Fill them up with an equal balance of healthy food and sugar, and give them a big open space to run it all off with a game of man-tracker, and a backroad to ride down, and I defy your heart not to sing by the end of the day.

Would love to hear your reminiscences on the 4-H of your youth, and what it looked like then, for you, and what it meant to you, as a member, or parent.

5 Weeks to Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

photo by Megan Beierle

Giving always leaves a better vibe within me than receiving, thus the gist of this week’s great gift ideas.

Soaring temperatures, widespread drought, wildfires and a general overpopulation of horses in the U.S. has seriously depleted the supply of hay, driving the cost of hay up to $25 a square bale in some regions. It’s created a desperate need among equine caretakers. Thankfully, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is on board with the giving spirit this year, and recently announced the ASPCA Equine Fund, which pledges a total of $250,000 to 53 equine welfare organizations and animal control agencies across 19 states as part of its Equine ‘Hay Bale-Out’ grant program. A great form of relief for equine rescue owners impacted by the high cost and low supply of hay in these drought-stricken states.

Photo by Megan Beierle

Here in Canada, the giving spirit appears to be thriving as well. My 4-H friend, Megan Beierle, president of the Midnight Express 4-H Horse Club recently sent me a sweet piece about their club’s effort to help this year. They teamed up with the boarders from the Lazy S arena just west of Airdrie, Alberta to gather and present a variety of much needed items to a local horse rescue.

This stash of warm winter blankets is just part of the supplies they donated as part of the club’s fundraising and community service efforts this year. Together with a large cash donation largely funded by the Lazy S arena boarders, they made a significant contribution to the care of many equines.

Megan and her fellow club member, Victoria Moore, penned the following story and interview with Kathy Bartley, owner and operator of the rescue. It really gives a good sense of the amount of feed, goods and supplies that is needed to maintain an operation of this kind. And, of course the overall need. It inspired some charity gift giving of my own, and I’m happy to share their story here.


The Midnight Express 4-H Horse Club: Bottom (L to R): Carson Moore, Erin Kruisenga, Erna Munoz-White. Middle (L to R): Victoria Moore, Rheanne Beierle, Kylee Kruisenga, Melissa Gablehaus, Megan Beierle. Top (L to R): Kathy Bartley, Emily Tuff, Arlyn Bouchard

Bear Valley Horse Rescue

~ by Victoria Moore (9) and Megan Beierle (18)

Every year, our club, the Midnight Express Horse 4-H Club, chooses an organization to commit community service to, and this year, we decided on Bear Valley, an organization that rescues, rehabilitates, and rehomes horses that have experienced trauma or distress. In order to help this organization, our club worked to donate around 15 used horse blankets, and hundreds of pounds of feed. Recently, we paid a visit to the horses and the people at Bear Valley Horse Rescue.

It takes a lot of donated feed to run a rescue. Photo by Megan Beierle

We had the opportunity to speak to Kathy Bartley, owner and operator of the rescue, and asked her a few questions about the organization.

How did you start Bear Valley? I already lived on the farm, from which we operate the rescue. I started going to horse auctions and bidding against “the meaters”. Many of the horses we have on the farm come from PMU barns.

Why do you do what you do here? I find that I am compelled to do this, because it just seems natural to me. I had just come into new money, and decided to pursue what I have always wanted to do. All of these young and old horses just pull at my heartstrings. I also believe that the feedlots are way too full of horses that could go to better use. Eventually, I just ended up adopting more and more, and it just snowballed.

When did you start? I started adopting the horses in the year 2000, but Bear Valley became a registered charity in the year 2003.

How many horses do you rescue each year? Lately, we have not been bringing home as many horses. Last year, we adopted 26. Some years, we just stay out of it, and do not adopt at all. It really depends on if we think we can rehabilitate and rehome the horses that are up for adoption.

Is there an age limit on the horses that you adopt? We bring home everything from weanlings to ancient horses. We do not like to see any horse go to waste, especially when we know that we can help out.

What are your restrictions? In terms of bringing home horses, we just need to be careful what we purchase. We do need a plan before we head to the auction, and we stick to that plan. Before adopting them out, we go through an interview process. For example, whoever buys a horse from us is not allowed to resell the horse, or bring it to an auction. We are very diligent about researching whom we sell to.

As members, some of the things that caught our attention were the amount of horses Kathy and Mike have worked so hard to rehabilitate. Being passionate about horses, it was wonderful to see the commitment present in these people. The foals were so cute, and it was nice to see that they had formed a type of family among themselves. This is definitely a good place to go if you would like to see true passion for the animal in action.

Rescue weanlings enjoying a bite to eat. Photo by Megan Beierle

Owners of Bear Valley Horse Rescue, Mike and Kathy Bartley, encourage everybody to make a trip to their home and rescue farm. It is recommended that you call (403-637-2708) to make an appointment to take a tour around the property.

An Attack on 4-H

It’s no secret I’m a fan of 4-H organization. This year I became a leader in our 4-H equine club, and it’s been one of the most fulfilling decisions I’ve made in my life. It’s a bit of work, but we have a great group of parents who all pitch in, and wonderful bunch of kids.

As any 4-H parent knows, one of the pleasures of being involved in the organization is watching our collective kids grow. It really does take a village. I’m sure even Wee will one day grow into this hat. (smile)

I snapped this shot at one or another of the 4-H on Parade events, hosted by the Calgary Stampede we’ve attended over the years. It remains one of the highlights of 4-H involvement for our family, as the kids get to hang out with their friends from other livestock clubs, and take part in activities which encourage leadership and creativity, such as stall judging and decorating.

This pledge is repeated by members of all 4-H clubs throughout North America at every meeting and event. I like it. It’s old fashioned – a few simple thoughts with a deep message.

I want to show you PETA’s take on the 4-H pledge, for it appears the group has decided to target the 4-H youth organization. This photo is taken from the Colorado CattleWomen’s Facebook page, It was snapped at the Colorado State Fair, where PETA had a booth.

In other news, only a few days ago in Kansas, a federal judge upheld the right of the Kansas State Fair to shield visitors from an anti-processing video PETA had stationed front and center at a booth they had at that fair. It seems PETA wanted to show a graphic video and photos facing out to the walk-by traffic, and organizers simply asked them to restrict the viewing of these images to inside their booth. They didn’t even suggest they remove them.

PETA did what PETA does best – it filed a lawsuit.

The Huffington Post reported the federal judge, “determined the fair is a ‘limited public forum,’ because exhibitors have to apply for a booth and pay a fee — unlike a public square, for example, where anybody has the right to protest or speak,” and upheld the Kansas State Fair’s right to shield people walking by from easily seeing images which were extreme and graphic.

It’s not about censorship, it’s about appropriateness.

Truthfully, our Western Horse Review booth has been disallowed from displaying certain contents now and again at certain tradefair venues, not due to inflammatory or sensational intent, but rather, for they infringed one or another of the event’s trade fair rules. I would suggest it’s not at all unusual for a trade fair manager to show up at a booth, and announce, “you can’t do this.”

PETA, of course, is playing the freedom of speech and First Amendment rights card, both unsurprising and unoriginal.

I wonder, given the precedent PETA has set in the above two cases: an inflammatory and direct attack on a respected youth organization of the rural lifestyle; and secondly, legal action in attempt to force their issue . . . how many other fairs and rural events will consider allowing PETA into their trade shows?


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.

Master bit maker Dave Elliott, of Fort Macleod, Alta., will be conducting a clinic on bits and bit fitting on Saturday, Aug. 25 during the Calgary Stampede’s 15th annual Invitational 4-H Rodeo at Olds College in Olds, AB. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

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.

Organizers of the Stampede’s annual Invitational 4-H Rodeo make education priority No. 1, with a series of seminars and clinics focusing on everything from breakaway roping to goat tying to yoga. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

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

A 4H Goodbye

Last weekend’s 4H Regionals Show was one of the highlights of my girls 4H year. There, all of their diligent work, valiant efforts and timely record book keeping (people who know my daughters kindly do not interject here) was put to the test.

Well, mostly their riding and showmanship skills, as they competed against their peers from other clubs all throughout our region.

It also marked Teenager’s final time showing at the Regionals as this is very likely her last year as a 4H member.

I can’t believe it’s actually been eight years since she led her first mare through a showmanship pattern. Suzie was a retired show mare a friend had kindly gifted us to get her started in 4H. A quirky and wise mentor who taught both Teenager and her mother more than a few lessons over the years.

When we retired Suzie we bred her to a pleasure stallion, she bore a beautiful foal to dote on, and while the two of them were turned out, Teenager went on to her new project horse – Blue.

Five years later, the result of Suzie’s breeding – Mr Clever Zippo – is Teenager’s final year project horse, whom she competed with at the Regionals and is showing for possibly her final time this weekend at the 4H Provincials in Olds, Alberta.

She has him for sale and we hope to find a good home for him sometime before Teenager enters university studies.

The idea that she is showing the offspring of her very first horse weaves her 4H experience into a rather beautiful circle.

So many memories in those 4H summers.

Teasing Teenager was usually one of the highlights of any 4H gathering.

Poor Wee, always in tow, and no horse to ride. You couldn’t blame her for getting a little grumpy once in a while.

Come on, Wee, we know there’s a smile behind there. . .

This picture was taken years ago at a Regionals Show – evidently before the time of mandatory helmets – and these three girls had spent a very long day showing their horses. Which is why jumping on them and galloping around in the evening after dinner made all the sense in the world, right. Right? That’s how they rolled then, and it was a wonderful thing to see.

Over the years, Teenager has been showing with virtually the same group of girls, some of whom are also in their final year. Like Robin, and the aptly named Oreo, from the Millarville club. We’re hoping to see them one more ciprofloxacin and amoxicillin time this weekend.

I’m hoping things will go well with Teenager and Zippo’s final 4H show this weekend. He’s a young horse and still has some learning to do, still I’m sure Teenager has some competitive goals for the weekend.

As for me, I’m just going to enjoy the experience of heart-in-my-throat-cheering-her-on just one more time.

Calgary’s 4-H On Parade

4-H on Parade at the Calgary Stampede Grounds. Calgary Stampede Photo.

The Calgary Stampede grounds will be flooded this weekend, with local 4-H participants. The Calgary Stampede says they are proud to once again host 4-H on Parade, Canada’s largest 4-H event, from June 1 to 3 at Stampede Park. 4-H on Parade is the culmination of a year’s worth of time and effort put in to a variety of projects by Calgary area 4-H members from 48 different clubs. If you have not experienced this event, it is an excellent opportunity to see what 4-H has to offer.

“We’re very proud that this year we will see an increase of about five clubs participating over last year,” says Andrea Church, Regional 4-H Specialist for Southern Alberta and Calgary Regions. “With 575 members on Park this year, it will be a great competition. It’s always a lot of fun to experience the success the youth have had with their diverse projects.”

Travis Hunter from the West Didsbury club will return to 4-H on Parade as a regional ambassador.  “I’m very excited about my new role,” he says. “We all work hard as 4-H’ers. To be acknowledged as an ambassador, makes it really special.”

For those looking to check out the venue, 4-H on Parade commences on today at 10:00 a.m. The beef female show runs all weekend with the beef, dairy, sheep and shows, as well as the canine events, equine shows (light and heavy horse), and life skills demonstrations (art and photo competitions). Bring your cheque book as the 4-H on Parade hosts a live auction of sheep and beef projects on Sunday 11 a.m., in the Victoria Pavilion. There will also be two animals that will be auctioned off for the Canadian Cancer Society and The War Amps societies.

It’s All About Fun

Morgan Goettler of Okotoks, Alta., and her horse Tom compete in the senior barrel racing event during the Calgary Stampede’s 14th annual Invitational 4-H Rodeo, held Sept. 17 and 18 under the Big Top on Stampede Park. About 100 young rodeo enthusiasts, aged 9 through 20 and hailing from 30 4-H clubs across the province, congregated in Calgary for educational seminars and competition in seven timed and roughstock events. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

To finish first, first you must finish. It’s a time-worn adage in the world of auto racing, but it’s also just as relevant in rodeo’s roughstock events.


The Calgary Stampede’s 14th annual Invitational 4-H Rodeo wrapped up its two-day run under the Big Top on Sunday afternoon, after more than 100 youngsters aged 9 through 20, hailing from 30 4-H clubs across the province, descended on the Stampede City.


One of the cornerstones of the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo, sponsored by Westcan Bulk Transport and Lammle’s Western Wear and Tack, is top-notch education — courtesy of undisputed rodeo experts. And the advice doesn’t get much more big-league than former Canadian rodeo star Dave Shields of Okotoks, Alta., who recently earned the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame’s Legendary Achievement Award, and qualified for 10 Canadian Finals Rodeos from 1979 to 1990.


On Sunday morning, Shields presented a roughstock clinic to young 4-H Rodeo cowboys and cowgirls, using the same livestock simulator that he designed himself a quarter-century ago, propelled his son Davey Jr. to bareback fame, and was used at Shields’ Ridin’ High Rodeo School by every Canadian professional bareback rider who competed at the 2011 Stampede.


As Shields explained to young rodeo minds on Sunday, the dismount determines everything.


“It’s about properly setting your rope, setting your hands in the rope, what to do with your feet . . . and how to get off. And that’s probably one of the most important elements in roughstock,” says Shields, who chairs the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo committee.


“A lot of people don’t think of that. They concentrate so much on how to get on, but they don’t give any thought on how to get off,” adds Shields. “It’s so important, especially if they’re riding steers or bulls. If they’re taught right off the bat how to turn their head and look backward, they’ll roll over and land on their hands and knees, rather than their backs or hips or head.”


For many who entered the ring this weekend, the Stampede’s youth invitational affair was their first taste of rodeo. Some will go on to participate in Wrangler (junior high), high school, college, amateur, or even the pro rodeo circuit, while others are merely seeking some weekend enjoyment.


That’s why Stampede 4-H Rodeo organizers not only stressed the didactic component . . . they also emphasized fun.


“Hey, I’ve also coached minor hockey for 20 years — and the first part of the word ‘fundamentals’ is spelled F-U-N,” notes Lorne Lausen, owner of Lausen Indoor Arena south of Strathmore, who conducted a calf roping clinic on Sunday morning. “We teach the kids how to swing a rope, but it’s fairly easygoing, and it’s all about fun.”

Adds Shields: “If they’re going to do it, they’ve got to have fun. The only reason to be doing this is because you enjoy it, not because someone else wants you to.”


Under the Big Top arena, timed events were held Saturday afternoon. Desirae Jackson of Sundre, Alta., had a big day Saturday, winning the barrel racing event in the senior (15 to 20) age category with a time of 14.85 seconds and following up with victory in the senior pole-bending event — which involves head-to-head runs, combining slalom racing and straight-out speed — in a time of 19.88 seconds.


Jackson had competed Saturday aboard her 14-year-old quarter-horse gelding Frosty, and on Sunday she earned yet another red ribbon — this time in senior goat tying, a roughstock event — on her cousin’s 12-year-old quarter-horse gelding Bush, laying down a nifty time of 11.67 seconds.


“I’ve been barrel racing and pole-bending most of my life. This year, I’ve been working hard at it for high school rodeo, which I just started this month,” said Jackson, 15, who’s been competing at the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo since 2006. “It’s really tough competition, but I’ve been placing Top-10 against fields of 70 girls. This weekend, I think, gave me a lot of confidence to take back to high-school rodeo.”


Also Saturday, Breanna Macklin of Sundre won the senior thread-the-needle event — which sees competitors negotiate a tight corridor, circumscribe a pole at the end of the course, and return down the same corridor — in 11.73 seconds. Dayna Powell of Onaway, Alta., was the thread-the-needle champion in the intermediate (12 to 14) age category in 11.63 seconds, while Megan Rawn of Millarville, Alta., was the junior (9 to 11) thread-the-needle champ in 12.63 seconds. Miranda Hartung of High River, Alta., won intermediate barrels in 15.16 seconds, while Madelyn Schauer of Halkirk, Alta., prevailed in junior barrels by stopping the clock in 15.05 seconds. Karlyn Janssen of Lacombe, Alta., earned the intermediate pole-bending title with a 20.553-second run, and Deshann Valentine of Sundre emerged atop the junior pole-bending category in 22.05 seconds.


Sunday afternoon, the roughstock events took over the Big Top infield, with M.J. Wowk of Myrnam, Alta., earning a pair of championships — senior cow riding, with a score of 69, and senior breakaway roping, with a formidable time of 6.42 seconds.


“I ranch rodeo, so I do stock saddle-bronc riding and ranch roping. This is my first year riding broncs, and I really like it. I’d like to do more bronc riding, and see where it takes me,” said Wowk, 16.


Nicole Lausen of Carseland, Alta., and Powell won the Stampede 4-H Rodeo’s inaugural steer daubing contest, Lausen claiming the senior category in 1.31 seconds and Powell winning intermediate in 1.49 seconds. Wace Pallesen of Strathmore, Alta., was intermediate cow riding champ with a 71-point ride; Ashton Ewasiuk of Elk Point, Alta., won intermediate goat tying in 12.99 seconds, and followed it up by emerging atop the pack in intermediate breakaway roping in 6.29 seconds.


After it was all over Sunday, Wowk talked about skills accrued, lessons learned, and new friendships gained. “You leave here today and you have to say goodbye,” he noted, “but you also know it’s not the last time. That, to me, is the biggest thing — the people you meet, and the places that’ll take you later on in life.”


Adds 4-H Rodeo committee member John Finn: “Every year, after it’s all done, we have kids and parents come up to us and thank us for what we’re doing. And that’s when the point is really driven home to us that we’re doing something special. That’s what really makes it all worth while.”


And for the young cowboys and cowgirls who felt this weekend was the start of something special, Shields notes there’s also a large, tangible reward potentially waiting down the trail. Like their counterparts in the world of hockey, lacrosse, and soccer, high-school-aged rodeo athletes can reach out and pluck American college scholarships, he says.


“There’s a full four-year college education available through rodeo, if these kids do it right,” says Shields. “I never finished school. To this day, I wish I would have known about high school rodeo (and its springboard potential to U.S. college). I always try to push that, whenever I can, through my rodeo schools.


“College coaches in the States are looking for Canadians all the time, because the Canadians are the tougher cowboys in the roughstock events. Kids here are used to getting on bucking horses. And our kids who do end up on the U.S. college rodeo circuit, they go down there and shine.”


Expert Education at Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo

Calgary 4-H Rodeo

Dave Shields teaches Desirae Jackson the finer points during a steer riding seminar at the Calgary Stampede’s Invitational 4-H Rodeo. Education is a major component of the annual event, which sees many youngsters from Alberta participate in their first rodeo. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

For many of these youngsters, this is new territory. And this weekend, down on Stampede Park , it’ll be the kind of territory where West meets East.

The 13th annual edition of the Calgary Stampede’s Invitational 4-H Rodeo, sponsored by Westcan Bulk Transport and Lammle’s Western Wear and Tack, takes over the Big Top on Saturday, Sept. 17 and Sunday, Sept. 18. In all, about 100 youngsters aged 9 through 20, representing 30 4-H clubs across the province, will saddle up — with many of them making their first foray into the rodeo ring.

Calgary 4-H Rodeo

Participants are put through their paces during a breakaway roping seminar at the Calgary Stampede’s Invitational 4-H Rodeo. Education is a major component of the annual event, which sees many youngsters from Alberta participate in their first rodeo. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

As always, education is a major component of the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo, with numerous seminars and clinics scheduled for both mornings. And this year, there’ll be some intriguing Eastern enlightenment as part of the tutoring sessions. Strathmore’s Becky Stone, a certified yoga instructor who has an extensive rodeo background, will be presenting — for the first time in a rodeo setting — a seminar entitled The Importance of Breath: How to Prepare Mind and Body for Competition.

“The breath acts as the link between the mind and the body. When you become aware of your breath, you become aware of the state of your mind and your body,” says Stone. “In a competitive arena, it’s easy to get wrapped up inside your head, and not be aware that what’s going on in your head is being displayed in your body, in one way or another.

“Horses are incredibly intuitive animals. They pick up on your emotions — nerves, fear, anger, excitement, calmness, focus, confidence — and respond, depending on how you are handling the situation,” adds Stone. “If you control your breath, you’ll control your mind and your body. If we can teach these youngsters to recognize the importance of these links, they’ll succeed better — not only in competition, but in their relationship with their horse, themselves, and the people around them.”

Numerous rodeo careers have been hatched at the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo, with some young enthusiasts moving on to Wrangler (junior high), high school, college, amateur, and even pro rodeo. With that in mind, organizers focus on starting the journey off right with advice from undisputed rodeo experts . . . as well as staging an enjoyable experience for those just looking for some weekend fun.

Also on Saturday, Sept. 17, Dr. Tom Picherak of the Carstairs Veterinary Clinic will teach the importance of equine dentistry. Master bit maker Dave Elliott of Fort Macleod, Alta., will talk about the proper use of bits and spurs, and professional trick rider Niki Cammaert-Flundra, originally of Rockyford, Alta., and her students will be giving trick riding and liberty horse demonstrations.

On Sunday, Sept. 18, former Canadian rodeo star Dave Shields of Okotoks, Alta., a recent recipient of the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame’s Legendary Achievement Award, will be putting on a roughstock clinic. Lorne Lausen of Strathmore will head up a calf-roping seminar, while Lindsay Miller of Dalemead, Alta., a competitor in the Canadian All Girl Rodeo Association, will present a goat-tying clinic.

“This is a way for the kids to get an introduction to rodeo with supervision. That’s why the clinics are so important for us,” says John Finn, a member of the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo committee.

“Education is a big part of this event. We want to make sure these get a proper understanding, a proper grounding, so they can enjoy the sport safely,” adds Finn. “We bring in pro cowboys and cowgirls who can give them some inside tips. A lot of times, that sort of instruction isn’t available at the club level.

“This event has also been a driving force in getting 4-H to promote rodeo in the province. When we started, we were just drawing kids from the Calgary area. Now we draw right from Coutts (at the Montana border) all the way up to north of Grande Prairie . The word has spread about our rodeo.”

While the mornings are devoted to education, the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo participants will get their noses dirty in the afternoons. Young cowboys and cowgirls will test their chops with timed events (barrel racing, pole bending, and thread-the-needle) on Saturday and roughstock events (breakaway roping, goat tying, cow riding, and steer daubing) on Sunday.

Steer daubing, for the intermediate (12 to 14) and senior (15 to 20) age categories, is a new event at the 4-H Rodeo, prepping participants for the rigors of steer wrestling down the road. “You don’t have to practice for years to do this,” says Shields, who also chairs the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo committee. “But it is good training for steer wrestling. They need a hazer, they have to be able to read the animal, and they need to get close enough to put a paint spot on its back.”

Stone, who participated in 4-H and high school rodeo, will also be discussing yoga and its importance in musculoskeletal health and core strength. She says she’s generally found a receptive attitude among Westerners to her Eastern teachings.

“The principles that horses teach us are actually the principles of feminine leadership . . . intuition, understanding, and gentleness,” says Stone. “I’m finding that in this day and age, there’s a real shift in society that’s beginning to shun leadership by force.

“Yoga is so approachable. It’s got a global perspective. It’s about gaining greater understanding, and everybody is looking for greater understanding.”

Afternoon competition gets underway under the Big Top on Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 p.m.