EQUI-BUSINESS – True Life Stories of Success

Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” – Pele

Last month on the Equi-Business blog, we talked about obtaining financial lending in pursuit of an equine property goal. We began with the reality that the equine business is a challenging industry for traditional banks to provide financial support. For young people with the goal of creating a business in the horse industry, the lifestyle can be one filled with many rewards. Equine industries are also a good way of making a piece of land pay for itself – but none of it comes without proper planning, hard work and often, sacrifice.

Last year WHR spoke with some couples in the horse industry who faced the daunting task of obtaining financial support for a farm or ranch, to help elevate their horse businesses to the next level. Each faced their own hurdles as they went through the process.

Austin and Sara Seelhof and family.

Austin and Sara Seelhof run a successful reining horse training facility in Bottrel, Alberta. Austin focuses on training, showing and selling futurity and derby horses, and has a successful coaching program for non-professional riders. His wife, Sara, owns Be Better Equine Therapy which specializes in therapeutic thermal imaging for equine athletes. They are also the proud parents to three young children. Originally, Austin ran his burgeoning training business out of Lauder Ranch near Cochrane, AB, but the Seelhofs recognized the need to invest in more equity while growing their business and investing in their future.

In March 2017, the couple purchased a 50-acre property in Bottrel, Alberta that includes a house, a 110 x 220 arena, an existing barn and a shop. The property fit many of their requirements, including a wonderful school for their children nearby.

Austin says that when they began to think about properties he had originally wanted to buy land and build on it. They went through Farm Credit Canada (FCC), with the help of a great mortgage broker. However, the FCC was leery about financing a property that would need to be built upon and the Seelhof’s wouldn’t have been able to come up with a big enough down payment. The acreage they decided on was much easier to receive financing for through the FCC.

The FCC also had a “Young Farmers Loan” program at the time that liked to assist agriculturists under 40 in keeping their family in agriculture. The Seelhof’s had a solid business plan that showed steady growth in the last six years, as well as a side business in compressed hay that could be run from the property. The couple did look at other banks who offered good interest rates, but Austin says, “We chose Farm Credit because of their flexibility. You can stall payments, and we really felt like we were a person with them, not a number. They have different programs available so if you are having trouble paying, or you break your leg or something, they can be flexible and add payments on to the end if need be.”

Another added bonus of using FCC was that the lending institution would value the entire property, while many banks won’t value outbuildings in their property assessment. For the Seelhofs, this meant that their barn and arena wouldn’t be included in their loan – not ideal for a family who makes a living training horses.

Austin says, “One thing I wish I would’ve done sooner was to talk to a banker. My dad always said that you need a relationship with a banker, or an accountant or mortgage broker. At first it was really scary, but it was helpful to have a great mortgage broker to guide us.”

Alex Alves works a horse in the roundpen.

Alex and Sonja Alves operate Hat Creek Performance Horses on the Hat Creek Ranch in Wheatland County, 30 minutes east of Strathmore, Alberta. They offer horse training from colt starting to finishing, with access to cattle, pasture, trails and obstacles. As well as lessons, cowboy challenge and flag practice nights, Hat Creek also takes in horses for resale, all the while slowly building a breeding program on strong bloodlines. The Alves ranch has 80 acres of which 50 are hay crop and 30 are pasture. The Alves’ purchased the property on August 31, 2012 after the previous owners had moved six years prior. The property had a calving barn that was too low for horses, a complete corral system to run cattle, a shop, a craft shop that had been used to make saddles and an outdoor arena that had become overgrown. Despite small modifications, the Alves’ felt the property had potential and Hat Creek was ready for them to bring horses in immediately. It needed few upgrades for cattle. Another bonus was that, at the time, Alex was working towards getting his welding journeyman and B-Pressure and the shop was perfect for his set-up.

Alex and Sonja have three children. Alex grew up in the horse industry and immersed himself in various events. It was always a dream of his to be able to make a living training horses, however it didn’t always seem feasible which is why he became a welder as well.

By the end of 2015 they had built an indoor arena on their property and by 2016 they training was their full time profession.

The main building at Hat Creek Ranch (owned by Alex and Sonja Alves).

The Alves’ did hit some snags when attempting to purchase their property. Due to Hat Creek being 80 acres and set up mainly for cattle, agricultural lenders considered it a hobby farm. Other lenders saw it as an acreage and therefore, agricultural. So, as Sonja states, “It completely fell through the cracks of the lending world. Being that we were 25 and under at the time, lenders had no interest in lending us money. The next catch was that we had to have 20% down.”

Alex and Sonja had to put together a business plan, and present it to the Agricultural Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) who offered a great interest rate of 1.86%. In order to acquire financing, the plan had to show that it was possible to generate at least $15,000 in revenue off the property so that they could be considered agricultural.

“At the time we only had about 10% to put down, so we got a loan through my parents so we could have the down payment and purchase the property. We honestly had to find a back road to be able to purchase the property. We spent at least a month-and-a-half trying to find a way to get financed. It was a nightmare.” For the Alves’, Sonja says that there is a lot of advice for young couples, and some of it seems to be repetitive in nature.

“For us, I think it is important to remember that if you wanted it bad enough there will be a way, no matter how many doors get shut right in your face, there will be a back road open. At the end of the day, success can only be achieved one way and that is through hard work. Alex says it so well, ‘You never fail, it just gives you another chance to succeed.’”

When Equi-Business returns, we’ll start discussing the important and elements of a business plan. ’Til next time!

EQUI-BUSINESS Preparation is Key

Traditional loans may be difficult for new equine operations to obtain these days, but not impossible. Especially when collateral that is not specifically horses, is offered.


Enthusiasm is important when planning a business in the horse industry, but preparation is critical. Let’s face it, lenders look at the borrowers in the equine industry on a case-by-case basis. It is a challenging industry for traditional banks to provide financing to, for two main reasons. Firstly, the horse business is specialized; if the primary operator were to have something unfortunate happen, a ranch can easily go under without someone else capable of stepping up to that level of expertise. Secondly, let’s face it; people who loves horses are sometimes not so great at running a business.

Having faced both of these hurdles plus numerous more, this blog has longtime been a goal of mine to bring to fruition. For young people dreaming of creating a life and a business in the horse industry, the daunting task of following through with those targets can be met with opposition at every turn. That’s why optimism is important – but strategic planning is what will keep you alive.

In this blog we’ll discuss things like business plans, risk management, home security and the various ways obtaining your dream of being in the horse business can be done. We’ll talk to real people who have “opted in” to the lifestyle and the future by investing in equine properties – and we’ll learn how they make it work any way they can.

If you’re wondering what makes me an authority to speak on such a topic – I’m not. However, alongside my husband I have owned two successful equine properties in my lifetime. The first one was in partnership with several other people. The second one is the operation we currently own ourselves, reside upon and the place where are raising our family. We run a training, breeding and boarding operation, are stallion owners and own Western Horse Review, Canada’s largest western riding and culture magazine. We have garnered a fair amount of experience in our 20+ years together in the horse industry. (And did I mention? Till Debt Do Us Part is my favorite TV show? I know, I know, everyone thinks I’m ridiculous… but I find it fascinating. Honestly, money management is a very useful skill when it comes to being an entrepreneur).

On that note, the one thing I have learned is that there is no straight line to success in the horse industry. Banks do not always look at horses as “tangible assets.” However, if you are lucky enough to have a good lender who does see the value in your equine assets, you will have to put yourself in their shoes if you want to achieve any sort of financing.

If you’re basing your business around “high-end” horses, this is considered a specialty market. For a lender to take security in your horses, it means if you default on your payments, your lender takes the security (your horses) as collateral to sell. However, a banker cannot readily go out and find a specific buyer to purchase the horse, nor do they likely have the connections to do so. In most cases they would simply want their money back for the debt outstanding. Therefore in that case, a banker would simply seize the asset and sell it at the nearest auction mart. Which is why the horse can’t be sold easily for $25,000 or valued as such in the banker’s eyes. When you get into higher end / specialty livestock markets, it takes more to shore up the equity required, versus what the banks could do.

There is no guaranteed path to securing financing for a horse business, but if there is one critical element to gaining approval it would highlighting the “business” aspects of you and your loan application. Banks loan money as an investment, with the expectation of getting repaid with interest. To that end most loan officers are unfamiliar with the horse industry, and a comprehensive business plan that educates while establishing the profitability of the activity is critical.

When we return with our Equi-Business blog series, we’ll analyze the parts of a successful business plan. (And I’m not just blowing smoke – I can tell you it’s successful, because I’ve used the same model three times!)

Until then, here is some forward thinking I’d like to leave you with. There may be a number of programs available to help you develop your idea or product. The assistance available to you depends on the type of service or product you are developing. Most financial assistance will not cover all your costs, so remember you will need to invest some of your own money into the project as well.

Secondly there are several things a financial lender will want to consider about you. These include:

• Character: The moral obligation of the borrower to pay his or her debts;
• Capacity to Pay: The ability of the borrower to pay the debt;
• Capital: The total of equity and debt in the business (a low debt-to-asset ratio suggests financial stability);
• Collateral: Assets owned by the borrower but promised to the lender to secure the debt (the lender retains a security interest in the collateral and can foreclose in case of a default; horses as collateral might be a problem);
• Conditions: Economic conditions, location, competition, and the health of the industry; and
• Confidence: A subjective decision–is the borrower trustworthy?

‘Till we meet again!

Streaming the Arena

Show coverage for the digital age: A look at the business of live webcasting western performance events.

 By Jenn Webster 

Illustration By Deanna Kristensen



With bona fide perks associated to its use, an army of viewers, and a steady eye towards the future, webcasts have all the makings of a technology most likely to succeed. Webcasting – the act of using streaming media technology to distribute a single content source to many simultaneous viewers – has been widely used to promote equine events in past years. Its utilization means fans of nearly every horse sport can enjoy live, real-time equine action of the most anticipated competitions, all without ever having to leave the comfort of the living room. All a person has to do is open up a laptop or Smart Phone and presto! Enthusiasts across the globe can be in-the-know almost immediately, without spending a single penny on an airline ticket. Webcasts have been hailed as wildly popular within the equine community, presenting an affordable alternative for those who cannot be present.

With so many positives attributed to webcasting, including international exposure to a broader online audience, it may come as a surprise that live streaming has an unfavorable downside.

This past December, the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) found itself at a crossroads on the topic of live internet broadcasting. With attendance of the NCHA Futurity and Mercuria World Finals dwindling during the semifinals and finals of past events, NCHA leadership opted not to host live webcasts of their premier, ticketed futurity events in 2013. A webcast would be available for viewing, but not until a week following the actual finals night.

That decision was met by an outpouring of discontent from NCHA members.

The NCHA acquiesced with an official statement posted on nchanews.com on November 29, 2013.

“While there remains a responsibility to the sponsors and vendors who are financially supporting the show, along with meeting the requirements of the State of Texas through the Texas Major Events Trust Fund, the NCHA Executive Committee is also responsive to the members and fans who simply cannot make the trip to Fort Worth.”

The statement went on to say that the executive committee and staff had wrestled with the decision to modify the webcast and looked at many different possible solutions to accommodate as many members as possible.

“After analyzing webcast traffic, it appears that is at least partially to blame for the decline in attendance,” it read.

With careful reconsideration and in response to member requests, the NCHA agreed to make the World Finals go-rounds, the open and non-pro semifinals and the amateur/non-pro finals available via webcast one day following their respective dates. The executive committee acknowledged the disappointment many would feel in not having a “live” webcast for those signature events at the futurity, but reiterated the importance of featuring the horses and riders in a front of a packed house. Plus, since the NCHA receives more than $3 million per year from the Texas Major Events Trust Fund, a large live attendance at the Futurity wasn’t only a matter of prestige – it was crucial.

Additionally, with a deal struck between the NCHA and RFD-TV earlier in the year to televise NCHA Triple Crown cuttings, cutters in the States could look forward to the futurity being highlighted in national cable television network broadcasts, less than one week after it ended. Unfortunately, without access to RFD-TV, Canadians sounded off with a very different story.

The changes made to the webcast in 2013, plus the significant investment the NCHA put forth in broadcasting the Futurity on RFD-TV was an effort to expose the sport of cutting to people who may never have seen it before. It was a tough call and the immediate ramifications were clearly intense. That being said, the NCHA is hopeful their decision to delay the webcast will produce great ongoing results for a packed, live audience at signature events.


Tom and Marleen Dierkes of Galloping Video in Oregon, provided 5.569 million minutes of downloaded video streaming to western performance enthusiasts in 2013. They have offered live webcasting of National Reined Cow Horse Association events for the last eight years. And generally, four out of five national cow horse events were webcast by Galloping Video for about 50 days per year.

They have no plans to go forward with this service in 2014.

“The job of producing live webcasts were added on to the main job of videoing for the judges, with no funding attached. We were to raise money to cover costs through the sales of ad banners on the webcast page on our website,” said Marleen.

“We provided staffing and equipment to webcast at our own expense. Over the years, the viewer use grew to the point that in 2013 it had become seven times greater in viewer hours and exceeded our ability to fund it with ad revenue.”

Every show association tackles the task of webcasting differently but in Galloping Video’s case, the National Reined Cow Horse Association was never in favor of moving towards a pay-per-view system. The association wanted to keep live webcasts free for viewers.

“We would have liked to have live scoring and other special features, but without money for additional workers, that was not possible,” Marleen said.

For the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, Galloping Video posted a schedule of events on the same webpage on which the webcast appeared, as well as a link to the draw lists. The company also personally responded to numerous emails from viewers who experienced problems with computer firewalls or other technical difficulties that impeded their ability to watch the live feed. Aspects like judge’s scores, a blurb containing the horse and rider’s name currently in the arena being watched, live sales broadcasts and DVR features (Digital Video Recording, similar to what is commonly used in home televisions for later viewing), are all excellent ways event’s can improve upon their live webcasts. However, those additional streaming features require resources and manpower.

“Webcasts are wildly popular with the public, but they are a financial deficit and an increased workload for us,” Marleen explained.

“In my view, webcasts should come with funding, but there is much disagreement in the horse show industry as to who be should responsible.”

For companies like Galloping Video, live streaming of events also negatively impact video sales of events – which is the primary source of income for many videographers. For instance, in 2013 Galloping Video sold copies of the NRCHA prestigious Snaffle Bit Futurity finals, yet over 11,000 people watched it for free on the internet.

“Associations claim opportunity for good public relations for their events, but at the same time complain about the negative impact [webcasting has] on audience attendance.”


If there’s one discipline that seems to have the concept of webcasting harnessed to maximum efficiency, it’s reining – both in Canada and the States.

Christa Morris, who is the Senior Director of Marketing and Development with the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA), says that overall the livestreams of the NRHA Futurities and Derbies are big successes.

“We have provided a livestream for many, many years due to the benefit it provides our members – both those who cannot attend and those who are at the event. They can watch their friends and family, as well as their trainers compete and stay current with the schedule and standings in each class.”

Morris states that for those individuals who cannot be present in Oklahoma City, live webcasts might be the only way to see their horse show.

“We think it’s important to provide that option. It’s also a great way for reining fans to see out events, competitors and horses. This helps them get a feel for what NRHA is and how they might be involved. The webcast also gives our corporate partners additional exposure to a much broader audience online.”

In Canada, Dave Benard and his company, HD2 Sports, are responsible to video such reining events as the Reining Alberta Spring Classic and the Canadian Supreme. He admits that providing a webcasting service has its challenges, but echoes Morris’ sentiments.

“Live webcasting is not for the faint of heart. It is easily the most stressful business service I have ever provided. However, we feel that webcasts have become almost an essential service. We get asked many time over while we are setting up for a show, if we are live webcasting the event. The huge smile we get when we say ‘yes’ says it all. The disappointment if we say ‘no’ is also quite obvious,” said Benard.

HD2 Sports works hard to ensure their live webcasts are compatible with mobile devices and Benard relayed that he has heard a variety of reasons why people have enjoyed and appreciated his webcasts in the past.

“It is appreciated most by family or friends who cannot attend the event. Our stats show that we have viewers tuning in from around world. We are learning that the reining world is a very close community and the opportunity to feel connected when you are at home, or at work, seems to be a key benefit.”

In 2013, HD2 Sports experienced virtually no down time on any of their webcasts.

“We are so appreciative of those individuals who take the time to say ‘thank-you’ and let us know the webcast is being enjoyed and appreciated.”





Growing the Horse Industry

This school assignment I recently stumbled upon from my Grade Two year could have almost been a time capsule letter to myself.

This school assignment I recently stumbled upon from my Grade Two year could have almost been a time capsule letter to myself.

After a visit to my mother’s this week, I stumbled upon something that absolutely stopped me in my tracks. My mom – a lady known for her inability to throw anything away that might have sentimental value – had kept the above paper assignment I had written in Grade Two. Of course, I didn’t remember the assignment and hadn’t thought a thing about it, until I found the paper.

What really surprised me about it all was the fact that I know I’ve wanted a life in horses and agriculture since I was a young girl – I just didn’t realize how long I’ve wanted that life.


A close-up of my school assignment.

I grew up in town. Miles away from the opportunity of horses.

Now with a career in horses, I used to be afraid to admit that fact at times. Growing up my family couldn’t afford horses and obviously, we had no place to keep one. But for some reason, those circumstances made me hungrier and more determined to get to them. At age 13, my best friend gave me my first horse for Christmas and that’s when I felt like life really took off. Now after 15 solid years of “paying the bills” with an equine career, numerous personal accomplishments with them and the opportunity to raise my own children in the equine industry, I finally feel like I have achieved my childhood dream.

This brings me to an important point that really resonated with me upon attending the Horse Breeders & Owners Conference in Red Deer, Alberta this past weekend. Many industry updates were brought to my attention during the conference but one major shift in our world however, has left me reeling and losing sleep at night.

The Alberta horse industry is in decline.

And I’m not talking about one specific discipline, sport, association, breed nor group of people. Our entire sector is dropping in numbers every year. Just take a look at show entries, competition numbers, lost events or participation statistics in nearly every discipline over the course of the last year, if you want proof of my words.

At this year’s conference, my husband Clay was invited to sit in on the Panel Discussion that tackled the subject of “Strategies to Grow the Horse Industry.”

A tough issue to crack in 50 minutes.

However, after listening to all the valuable insight from the panelists (you can find more about them here), my brain started swirling with many other ideas. Since it appears to me that no one demographic or target group has really been identified as the area to focus our efforts on, my thoughts touch upon people of all ages and groups at this point. So if you’ve got a few minutes, here is my 9-Point Plan for growing the horse industry. And as always, if you have any positive feedback to add to the conversation, by all means drop me a comment below!

Our kids in a "Pony Tea Party." Photo by Natalie Jackman, www.have-dog.com

Our kids in a “Pony Tea Party.” Photo by Natalie Jackman, www.have-dog.com

1. Find ways to suggest and facilitate a safe horse introduction to children of preschool age. Plant the seed that might get a young child hooked for life. During Orientation Day, the teachers at our kids’ preschool learned that Clay and I are involved in horses. And before our children had even started going to preschool, the teachers asked us if we’d be interested in bringing a horse to the school for “Bring Your Pet to School Day.” We most certainly will be finding a way to accommodate that request when the time comes.

2. Horse Reading Programs. Check out panelist Gary Millar’s website here. This is absolutely brilliant! Other programs in North America too, have had great success for increasing literacy by bringing a group of school children to a barn and having them read to horses.

3. Elementary Enhancement Hours. In grades four through six, I loved Friday afternoons. School was let out early and the entire afternoon was devoted to enhancement programs that students were allowed to choose for themselves. Everything from cooking to sewing to fishing and horses were offered. You can probably guess what I chose.

I don’t know how public elementary school systems work anymore (I’m sure I will soon find out), but if the same kinds of options were offered to children these days, I think we’d have an entrance point into horses that society couldn’t ignore. My equine enhancement hours offered an entire semester of Friday afternoons devoted to the theory and discussion of horses. And the reward at the end of the curriculum was a chance to actually go out to our teacher’s barn and groom, lead and touch his horse. There absolutely was no better opportunity for kids who didn’t have horses, to get their feet wet, than that.

4. Better Promotion of the Family Health Aspects, Horses Offer. If society could understand how well horses serve to protect teens from becoming/being victims of bullying or depression, I truly believe more programs would start popping up in this vein. OR what about the fact that horses could potentially help to steer young kids away from drugs? If more households realized the power of a horse, they might view them as a priceless investment early on, instead of as a “hayburner” in the moment.

Secondly, families who ride together have common bonds, outside of blood connections. Some families go camping, some families take vacations. There’s nothing wrong with that! However, a family who enjoys horses together may realize more opportunities to spend time with one another – after work and school, on weekends and during the summer.

5. Get in the Lead Line Class! If you’re a grandparent or a parent with the opportunity to bring a little one to a horse show – do it! Provided the horse you have is a safe one and the child is wearing a properly fitted helmet, lead line classes are often the highlight of an event. And typically (if the experience is a good one), the child carried through a lead line class will be ecstatic for days afterwards.

6. Help Other Trainers/Professionals Grow Their Programs. My hubby has several alliances with trainers throughout Alberta, BC, Saskatchewan and the United States. He knows trainers who specialize in all disciplines and all levels of riders. If he has a customer who comes into our barn but is looking for something he can’t offer, Clay will give them as good of an honest recommendation that he can. Some of those other trainers out there will in turn, bring Clay to their facilities to conduct clinics, or recommend our stud, our prospects, etc. It often goes full circle but Clay must first be willing to help other professionals if we want to grow our industry.

7. Put the Horse Industry Into a Job/Career Fair, or Two. Lately I’ve really been pondering whether or not young people of college/university age seriously consider the horse industry to be a viable career choice. Do young people realize that being a farrier is a career option? Do they understand that you can make a living as a trainer? Do they even know that being a feedlot rider is a job?

8. Keep the Young University / College Age Kids In the Horse Industry. I’ll be honest – I’ve got nothing for you here. If anyone has advice for me in this category, I’m all ears. There is beauty in owning your own business and one that involves horses has so many perks. But it takes a TON of initiative, working through long low-paying hours and the unstoppable will to succeed.

9. A United Front. My hubby and I both think we need to offer more of a “United Front” as horse professionals, to promote our industry. This includes individuals of all disciplines. We may all ride in completely different worlds, but we all have the horse in common. And if we want to create a better future for our industry we need to come together. Now.


Evolution of a Hay Shed

Hay Shed, Rona Black Diamond

It might be that only ranchers, farmers and horse people get excited over something like this but we recently erected a new hay shed on our property. And I literally did a *Happy Dance* when it was done! I was so tired of all the wasted hay that happens in inclement weather. I also know my husband and our staff are sick to death of tarping haystacks – usually to no avail anyways. The rains seem to find any and all little openings and seep in, whether we like it or not. Plus, the high winds of these July summer storms have made us wonder, on numerous occasions, if the tarp was about to end up in our neighbor’s yard.

Yeah… way too many tornado warnings for my liking this month!!

Anyways, thanks to our friends at Black Diamond Rona, we now a “big, beautiful hay shed” as our kids call it, to protect the precious investment of square and round bales we must begin to stock before winter sets in. I took a few shots of the building as it was being put up, thanks to Ten Point Construction. This crew of hardworking fellows were very professional, quick in their execution, safety oriented and they did a great clean-up of excess materials when the job was all finished. Plus, a representative from Black Diamond Rona came out to inspect the job site at the very end as well, to make sure we were happy with everything.

We were.

Ten Point Construction

The trusses for our new building arrived back when things weren’t yet so green…

Black Diamond Rona, hay shed trusses

Following the excavation part of the project (done by another company), the main supports of the corners began to go up:

Black Diamond Rona, hay shed

Gradually the walls began to take shape and the roof trusses were readied to be raised on top.

Black Diamond Rona, hay shed

Roof is on!

Black Diamond Rona, hay shed

And as the weather – and specifically the winds – cooperated, the siding started to be installed on the back wall and roof.

Black Diamond Rona, hay shed

Our hay shed was coordinated to match our arena, meaning a few strips of white siding was added at each corner for a finishing touch. Personally, I’ve been adding up all the moldy bales in my head and the damage control this new hay shed is going to help us with is a beautiful thing.

Black Diamond Rona, hay shed

Since it’s been done, the kids and I have gone down every day and had a little party in it <grin.> Of course, my hubby filled it with hay today, so we might not have the same kind of space tomorrow to burn donuts in the kids’ power wheels. But hey, I’m sure we can improvise.

Black Diamond Rona, hay shed


July/August Sneak Peek

This issue is about to hit the stands. Here’s a sneak peak of what you’re about to receive in your mailbox. (If you’re not a subscriber, you’re really missing out – subscribe here, and in the meantime look for it on your local newsstand.

JULYcover2014Our cover. Brought together by our own Dainya Sapergia, art direction by Kendra Roberts and featuring Niki Flundra and her fabulous trick horse, Ace. This talented duo will be performing at this year’s edition of the Calgary Stampede and succinctly represented on the cover, our feature piece on the Greatest Show on Earth.


Photo by Dainya Sapergia Western Lifestyle Photography

Within the Calgary Stampede feature, regular contributor Ted Stovin of Everything Cowboy takes a critical look at the rise of stand-alone rodeos such as the Calgary Stampede and the American.


Photo by Deanna Kristensen Photography

Still within the genre, Deanna Kristensen’s interview with with this issue’s chosen maverick, produced some candid thoughts from one of the most influential rodeo producers of all time, Winston Bruce.


Photo by Jenn Webster

Owner of the Rona store in Black Diamond, Alberta and shelter expert, Robbie McKay offers exclusive inside tips on building one.


Photo by Ingrid Schulz

Dr. Mike Scott, of Moore Equine, helps us decipher the real story behind stem cell therapy.

Photo by Dainya Sapergia Western Lifestyle Photography.

Photo by Dainya Sapergia Western Lifestyle Photography

Deanna Kristensen tackles the controversy behind this year’s government-driven cull of Alberta’s wild horses.

spwilljamesOne of our favourite photographers, and a true western folk herself, Mary Williams Hyde illustrates our Getaways guide to the Will James Round Up Ranch Rodeo in Hardin, Montana, with her spectacular photographs of the event.


Photo by Dainya Sapergia Western Lifestyle Photography

They say she’s an old cowboy soul in a young body. Extreme cowboy competitor, Obbie Schlom tells us about her favourite gear in this issue’s edition of Freeze Frame.

Photo by Rod Honig.

Photo by Rod Honig

Vaquero aficionado, Rod Honig takes us through a historical tour of the origin of the spur. 

spscarfslideThese nifty scarf slides by Tom Balding are just one of seven new pieces of western gear featured in our regular Magnificent Seven western product profiles.

Photo by Dainya Sapergia Western Lifestyle Photography.

Photo by Dainya Sapergia Western Lifestyle Photography

Cutting horse trainer Dustin Gonnet continues our cerebral tour through the year of a cutting horse prospect with this issue’s discussion of keeping the minds of his three-year-olds in futurity training fresh and sharp for the aged event season just around the corner.

spkirstyKirsty White discloses her own, personal favourite barrel bloodlines in our Bloodline Buzz column.


Photo by Krista Kay Photography

A Texas-inspired recipe for rib rubs.

Amanda Brumley talks about the success of executing the runaway success of such shows as Reining By The Bay, a full recap of show scenes from the late spring, a horse called Red Hot Jade who’s taking the cow horse world by storm – just a few more hot items in the issue.

Photo by Krista Kay Photography.

Photo by Krista Kay Photography

You might think of enjoying our Wild West cocktail of the month, the Bakon Vodka Caesar, as you peruse it.

Alberta Association for Stables


The Alberta Stables Initiative (ASI) recently made the announcement that the group is converting from an initiative to an official association for stables. The association of stables will address the many economic and demographic challenges that stable operators face in Alberta.

The ASI began in 2009 with the goal of developing professional association for stables. The initiative itself was a collaborative project among the Horse Industry Association of Alberta (HIAA), the Alberta Equestrian Federation (AEF), and the horse industry section of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (AARD).

“This association will enable stable owners and operators with the opportunity to work together to share the operational strategies, processes, policies, and to speak with a unified voice to municipal and provincial authorities on issues involving the stable industry,” says current interim President, Gary Millar.

“In the fast changing world in which we find ourselves, the equine marketplace is in a constant state of evolution. It is an advantage for some stable owners and operators to work together to maintain high standards and a high level of service. We are all stronger in the horse industry when working together than we are working alone.”

The inaugural meeting of the Alberta Stables Association to elect the new board of directors will take place in the Lookout Room at Westerner Park in Red Deer on April 27, 2014 at 1:30 p.m. during The Mane Event.

Nomination forms for the prospective board of directors are available for download at the ASI website, www.findalbertastables.ca.



Make Mine Mohair

”Pop Wagner displaying his famous Pop Cinches. Photo by Carillon Rose Meadows


“Make mine mohair.”

There’s no doubt in Pop Wagner’s mind that’s what horses everywhere would say if you asked them what kind of cinches they prefer.

Horseman, traditional master weaver, and renowned folk musician, Wagner offers a five-hour seminar in mohair cinch weaving from which participants go home with a new, 100 percent mohair cinch for their horse and the skills and knowledge to make more. Pop himself learned from renowned Arkansas cinch maker Darin Alexander and has been teaching others for several years on custom-designed looms. In October, when his life as a musician brings him on a rare performance tour to Alberta, he’ll be offering his seminar to 8-10 students in the Turner Valley area.

Why would anyone – pleasure rider to equine clinician – spend $150 to $500 on a mohair cinch when a $50 job from the local tack store keeps a saddle in place?  Two simple reasons according to Pop: function and artistry. “Mohair is one of the strongest natural fibers on earth,” he explains from his Minnesota home .  “Unlike cotton, it won’t stretch over time. Wool is not as strong, and synthetic fibers retain dirt and grit to the point where it’s like putting sand paper on a horse’s belly.  In contrast, with use, the back of a mohair cinch felts to a soft, smooth finish.  It wicks sweat and moisture away from the horse and needs very little cleaning.” In fact, when asked how he cleans and maintains his mohair cinches, one Wyoming cowboy answered, “I just ride through a river now and then.”

Whether you make your own cinch or not, beware of commercial varieties that are not always what the advertiser wants you to believe. Many “mohair” cinches are actually

a blend of mohair, cotton, wool and synthetic fibers. And don’t get Pop started on the “Contains 100% Mohair” labels. If the whole story were told, the label might say “contains  some 100% mohair. …Oh and by the way, also contains some 100% cotton, some 100% wool and a nice dose of  100% acrylic yarn.”

And then there’s the aesthetics. A cinch is barely seen when in use.  But it is an essential part of cowboy gear that can be enjoyed and appreciated for its beautiful design and construction as well as its function.  Pop teaches many designs including some born of the Navajo cinch making tradition.  Like bridles, halters, hatbands, lead ropes and saddles, the sky’s the limit when it comes to intricate designs for cinches. Pop himself incorporates his designs in other useful items: belts, guitar straps, hat bands, watch fobs and key chains. Participants in his five-hour seminar will complete a cinch in the traditional diamond-and-bar pattern.

“In the late 1800s,” says Pop, “a saddle from the Sears catalog sold for $40 and a mohair cinch for $4. A good saddle now costs $3,000 to $5,000 or even more. If inflation acts equally, then a $300 hand crafted mohair cinch in 2013 is right in line.”

Folk music fans, cowboy poetry fans and listeners to NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion will know Pop for his long, rich musical career that has taken him to 44 states and 11 countries. An art major in college, a horse owner and rider, and a gifted teacher of traditional cowboy arts, Pop’s cinch-making class is a rare opportunity to learn from a master. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get a chorus of “Good Bye Ol’ Paint” thrown in for free.

Pop Cinch, vaquero.
Photo by Pop Wagner.

Pop Wagner’s five-hour seminar on mohair cinch making takes place Oct. 29 at Turner Valley, Alberta. Participants may register directly on Pop’s website: www.popwagner.com or for more info call 612-817-5898 or email [email protected]

Pop Cinch, double-packer style.
Photo by Pop Wagner.

Mohair Cinches

by Pop Wagner

I tend to favor mohair

For saddle girths and cinches.

It’s strong, sheds dirt, wicks moisture,

It never chaffes or pinches.

Over time the back felts in

‘Til smooth as a baby’s bottom.

It’s luxury for horses,

Mules too, if you’ve got’em.

You can have your neoprene

And cotton, that’ll stretch of course.

Acrylics harbor dirt and grit

So I’ll put mohair on my horse.

Marketing Mondays: Horses and Taxes