Kamloops Cowboy Festival Celebrates 20 Years


By Guest Blogger, Debbie MacRae

The Kamloops Cowboy Festival held annually in Kamloops, BC, celebrated its 20th anniversary this past March 17-20. The festival stuck to its roots, bringing back many of the same fabulous entertainers who have brought the sparkle to this musical feast and story-telling celebration for two decades. Having attended the 20th anniversary, an overwhelming appreciation of BC’s Cowboy culture emerged from the experience. Here are a few highlights from the 2016 event. We also pay tribute to the minds behind the magic.

2oth Anniversary poster collection.

2oth Anniversary poster collection.

Over a span of twenty years, with organizational ideology which included the likes of Connie and Butch Falk, Linda and Mike Puhallo, Hugh and Billie McLennan, Frank Gleeson and innumerable others, the concept of an enduring festival which would immortalize the cowboy heritage has become an iconic reality.

No festival is complete without the entertainers and competitors – the musicians and artists who showcase their ideas, manifest their lyrics into songs, and accompany their vocals with instrumentation. Without the entertainers and artists, there would be no Art Show or Rising Star Showcase.


Behind the scenes are the numerous contributions that bring this event to light. There’s the poster and pin design and development: the production of event pins are done by Laurie Artiss out of Vancouver, BC. There’s also the coordination of over 80 volunteers with hundreds of collective hours of service and dedication.

Sassy Six-Gun. An event volunteer.

Sassy Six-Gun Shooter. An event volunteer.

Shuttle drivers such as Sassy Six Gun, who dress the part, provide the service, sacrifice the hours, and ensure a memorable experience for entertainers and attendees. Volunteers like Red Allan, Trade Show Manager and his wife, Helen Allan, volunteer coordinator whose selflessness ensure a seamless experience; pushing carts, arranging the space and making endless phone calls for support.


Jason Ruscheinsky – Rising Star winner.

The Guitar donated by Lee’s Music epitomizes the junction of western heritage with an illustration of First Nations totem artwork and cowboy persona. The Keeper of the West Award is provided in the form of a Sterling Silver Belt Buckle awarded to the entertainer with the best new song or poem reflecting the Festival’s mandate. The Joe Marten Memorial Award is offered for the Preservation of Cowboy Heritage in BC.


The Silent Auction 20th Anniversary Guitar.

We recognize contributors to the Silent Auction, which funds are directed to ongoing financing of expenses; and the judges, without whose efforts the competition would not have merit; whose talents and voices echo the experience of their own cowboy contribution.

In the words of entertainer Tim Hus, “Being a judge is easy – until you try it… As an entertainer, people judge you. It’s a paradigm when you become the judge.”


Scott from Lee’s Music is a 31-year-old sound man with a Master’s Degree. Organizer, Kathy McMillan has said “…if it wasn’t for these guys, the festival could not succeed.”

Then there is the competition. This year the scores were incredibly close – with some judges awarding scores for one artist, and another scoring equal points for a competitor, creating a unique sense of competition and accomplishment.


Cowboy Church.

Pastor Don Maione has been an integral part of the festival as he has so willingly offered his Calvary Church to performers; not only to showcase their talents, but also to share their collective appreciation for the gifts which have been bestowed upon them. Pastor Don approached the festival and said, ‘You have a need, and we have a facility.’


Trade-showThe cooks, the chefs, the attendants in concessions, the hostesses, and the chef in the breakfast bar – all contribute to make the Kamloops Cowboy Festival a memorable and unique appreciation of cowboy heritage – in a modern day environment. This year there were 48 booths and 4 tables in the trade show, all collectively marketing their innovations, decorations, and presentations. Everyone in attendance captures the Cowboy image in its best light and preserves that light to enhance the awareness of the urbanite; in song, word, color and deed.

“Cowboys are gentlemen,” to echo Leslie Ross. “We need to carry on the message of the Cowboy ways.”

Gary Fjellgaard laments, “Whatever happened to my heroes? They don’t make ‘em like they did in ’44. But they were there when I needed them. I wish they’d all come back again, cuz I don’t have no heroes anymore…”

The heroes are the ones behind the scenes, the ones we don’t thank everyday – but we should; the minds behind the magic, like Mark and Kathy McMillan, who work on their ranch from dawn to dusk, and then pick up their pens and their pencils, their guitars and strings, and telephones and work the magic so that we can appreciate and preserve what some of us take for granted; the Cowboy heritage of the last frontier, in beautiful British Columbia.


A Western Valentine


February 14. The annual romantic holiday. Did you forget? If so, fear not! We have some heart-warming ideas for the special cowgirl, loved one and little ones in your life.


This unique buckle from Tom Balding is custom crafted to order. The dots featured are a signature Tom Balding finish. Add a little flare to your cowgirl’s wardrobe by custom ordering it with her initials, or a brand and make this Valentine’s Day one she’ll never forget!




Here’s a handmade Valentine card for kids, created by Skip To My Lou which features a good pun! These Don’t Say Neigh Horse Valentines are so easy to put together for your child’s classmates. Add some cute horse figures from the dollar store and your child has an incredibly cute card to hand out.




These beautiful heart detailed chinks can be found on Western Horse Review’s Pinterest pages:

WHR Pinterest



The Cupid’s Arrow variety pack from 14 Hands Winery features a 3-bottle Red Blend that includes: a 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Washington State, a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley and a 2013 Merlot, Columbia Valley. This gift is perfect for the romantic holiday.



A set of hand-made horse shoe hearts crafted exclusively by Barbara Thoreson of BT Farrier services range are truly a unique way to say “I Love You.” 




A lava rack and leopard jasper bracelet with heart and arrow accent from Cactus n’ Sage boutique is delicate way to beautify your cowgirl’s wrist this Valentine’s Day.




Heritage Ranch near Red Deer, AB, offers all kinds of romance packages today and throughout the month. Their carriage/sleigh rides offer the unique experience of riding behind a team of powerful horses combined with beautiful woodland scenery. Combine your carriage or sleigh ride with a lunch or dinner from their great ranch style restaurant and you have the perfect day or evening out. Spoil your partner with romance with a private sleigh ride and 5-course dinner then, the roaring fire on their patio will help warm those willing to brave the cold!



This beautiful E.Garcia concho and heart shank bit with low port roller would make anyone’s heart soar this Valentine’s day!



Kamloops Cowboy Festival

For 20 years, cowboys and cow folk have made their way into Kamloops, British Columbia, for the annual Cowboy Festival. 

BC's pioneers come to life during the Cowboy Festival Dinner Theater.

BC’s pioneers come to life during the Cowboy Festival Dinner Theater.

Drifting down into Cowtown 

This year from March 17-20, the Kamloops Cowboy Festival will take over the Calvary Temple and the Coast Kamloops Hotel and Conference Centre in Kamloops. Saddle makers, cowboy poets, musicians, fine artists and local ranching legends, will all align in the city to celebrate the legacy of the working cowboy.

The entire list of on-stage entertainment is guaranteed to be authentic. According to radio host Hugh McLennan, it really says something if you have the BC festival on your resume. Those who are hand picked to be part of the entertainment take great pride in delivering a unique cowboy show.

McLennan has been a fixture of the event since it’s inception at the Kamloops Bull Sale, almost two decades ago. He explained that the essence of this festival is to immerse the audience in the working cowboy life. Good cowboy poetry is all about delivering the most captivating picture of this unbridled lifestyle.

“You can just see a picture of what the poet is reciting,” explains McLennan. “The images you see with the horses galloping down the sides and their hearts pounding. It’s just amazing.”

Good poetry, he comments, will put you in the saddle. According to McLennan, the entertainment and audiences at the BC Cowboy Festival tend to really know what ranching and cowboying is all about.

“We hear that the Kamloops audience gets it. Some of the material could get lost in an urban audience, however the terms and lifestyle presented on this stage is understood. People who are superstars in the industry, find that Kamloops offers an enthusiastic crowd. People leave on a high. They are proud to be a part of it.”

As McLennan points out, a lot of festival newbies quickly realize that this style of life is pretty much alive and well in this part of Canada.

“It still happens here. One thing that makes ranching possible here is the large grazing permits and you can’t move cattle with a quad. You had better make sure you have a good horse and cow dog.”

The lure of being a ranching cowboy is a given. This lifestyle provides a certain freedom that no one else may be able to experience. Here at the Kamloops Cowboy Festival, one will discover that ranching cowboys have not yet painted their last chapter in the history book.

Juno Award winning Canadian music legend Gary Fjellgaard, has been a staple on the Kamloops stage.

Juno Award winning Canadian music legend Gary Fjellgaard, has been a staple on the Kamloops stage.

Historical Mentions 

Long before the BC Cattleman’s Association was formed at Kamloops in 1889, the city was known as the hub of the province’s interior cattle operations. Originally, the idea of the Kamloops Cowboy Festival came out of a concert held at the annual Kamloops Bull Sale in March. The first festival was held on the same type of stage show they have today, at the Stockman Hotel in downtown Kamloops.

Legendary Outlaws

Bill Miner was a reowned train robber through the last 19th and early 20th centuries. He was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but made his way up through the northwest, robbing trains and stage coaches. As legend has it, he as the first to use the phrase, “Hands up!” Miner eluded the authorities until his capture near Kamloops at Monte Creek in 1906. To this day, locals believe that the hills around Kamloops may still hold Miner’s hidden stashes of hijacked treasures.

Horseman’s Entraps

Arid rolling hills, bunch grass and jack pines – this was the environment that spawned the imagination of the pioneers in BC’s cow country. Today you will find remnants of the cattleman who cultivated the rugged terrain of BC’s ranch lands.

Take a drive out into the country and discover the region’s cattle history. The Quilchena Cattle Company at the Quilchena Hotel, Hat Creek Ranch and the prestigious Douglas Lake Ranch, are some of the province’s most renowned ranching operations and historical sites. All three locations can be found within an hour and a half of Kamloops and are worth the drive.

If you are in the mood for some downtown activities, shine up your boots and take a guided tour through the Kamloops Museum. Encounter traces left by those who pioneered the Thompson Nicola region. Chinese Legacies: Building the Canadian Pacific Railway, is the museum’s temporary exhibition running from January 10 to April 30. The exhibit will be showcasing the story of Chinese laborers who helped build the Canadian Pacific Railway through Port Moody and Craigellachie, BC.


Kick off your cowboy boots, put your skis or hiking boots on, and see what’s nestled in the hills at Sun Peaks Resort. In March, you will find everything from snowshoe campfire cookouts, World Cup skiing and first class dining experiences.

If you are in the mood to take in some more cowboy’n, take a ride into the sagebrush at the Tod Mountain Guest Ranch. Or stay close to town and spend a couple nights at the South Thompson Inn. Nestled along the shores of the South Thompson river, this sensuous escape offers activities such as golfing and guest ranch retreats.

BC's Rob Dinwoodie and Butch Falk, on stage during the 2013 Kamloops Cowboy Festival.

BC’s Rob Dinwoodie and Butch Falk, on stage during the 2013 Kamloops Cowboy Festival.

Getaways – Fabulous Fort Worth

Hub of the hottest performance horse shows in the world, and charmed with old time western culture, there just isn’t a bad time to visit this great Texas city, but if you’re hankering for the hottest rodeo action, now might just be the best time.

World’s Original Indoor Rodeo

The pinnacle event this time of year has to be the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo held January 17th through February 8th at the Will Rogers Memorial Center. This Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) rodeo is unlike any other from it’s grand entry serpentine ride kick off each performance, 21-member live orchestra, Best of the West Ranch Rodeo (where some of the most famous ranch brands are represented), Best of Mexico Celebration, Bulls Night Out PRCA Extreme Bullriding and the Cowboys of Colour Rodeo, all hosted within the three week rodeo extravaganza.


Cowboy Trappings

If you’re into western, the shopping in Fort Worth is second to none. The downtown area of Sundance Square will delight your senses with shops, restaurants and galleries. Offering the best in handmade boots, saddles, clothes, belts and buckles, walk away with once-in-a-lifetime treasures at stores such as Sean Ryon, or Maverick Fine Western Wear at the Stockyards National Historic District, where you can have a drink at the step-up bar while your partner browses through racks of unique western brands. Visit the Downtown Fort Worth Rail Market, a European-style market that bills itself as “Texas’s First True Public Market,” located in the historic Santa Fe Warehouse. For the musically inclined, Ernest Tubbs Record Shop is the ideal stop, or order yourself a pair of Ponder Boots in their custom boot shop, or visit Bum Steer, a mecca of vintage clothing, furnishings, antique tack or eclectic game mounts.

Stockyards Spectacular

A trip to Fort Worth is absolutely not complete without stopping at the world-renowned Stockyards National Historic District. A former livestock market that began operation in 1866, you can still imagine the rumble of train tracks and thousands of hooves that filled the pens so many years ago, as you take in one of the daily scheduled cattle drives of Longhorn cattle down the cobblestone streets. Since its glory days as a hub of livestock trading, it has transformed itself into the entertainment hub of today. Spend your Texas night at the Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show, the Stockyards Championship Rodeo or one of the many western bars and restaurants. Don’t forget to stroll through the Fort Worth Livestock Exchange, where you will get a true taste of a city built on agriculture.


Cowboy Culture

Fort Worth boasts some of the greatest western museums in the country. Consider visiting the Amon Carter Museum. Founded by Carter himself in 1961, the building is a beautiful renaissance structure that houses an extensive collection of the works of famed western artists Charles M. Russell and Frederic Remington. Or, make your way to the National Cowgirl Museum, where you will be immersed in a fascinating tribute to the courageous, resilient and independent women who shaped our West. Catch a special exhibit of Plains Indian art by artist Cathy A. Smith in the months of January and February. For a bit of whimsical, head over to the Adobe Western Art Gallery for a good taste of original works, limited editions and vintage artwork from a wide variety of artists.


Named for the ranch in the movie, Giant, enjoy the rooftop bar and dining area at Reata in historic Sundance Square. Southwestern fare such as chicken-fried steak, tenderloin tamales and blackened buffalo rib-eye is served by wait staff in jeans and cowboy vests. A definite must while in the historic Stockyards, and just reopened in the fall of 2013 after a kitchen fire destroyed a good part of the restaurant, the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro is a four-star culinary delight owned by celebrity chef, Tim Love. Indulge your wine taste buds with the award winning collection of vintages from around the world, and savor such house specialties as white truffle mac and cheese, elk sliders and wild boar ribs. It’s not unusual to run into fellow boots and spurs aficionados at Uncle Julio’s, where fresh and authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex food and a busy vibe bring out-of-towners back again and again. If you hanker for one last bite of Texas food on your way out of town, pop by one of the Cousin’s Bar-B-Q joints at Dallas/Fort Worth International, rated one of only two of Texas’s top barbecue joints by Texas Monthly magazine, the other being Longorias BBQ, about 20 minutes north of the Will Rogers Stadium, in Everman. House specialties here include smoked brisket sausages and burgers. For the purist of authentic Mexican, check into Benito’s with its colorful decor and classics that include sopes and guisado, or the laid-back Esperanza’s, with it’s decadent tres leches cake, carnitas (braised pork) or melt in your mouth barbacoa beef cheeks. Finally, it’s not your usual Mexican restaurant but the hamachi ceviche, Michoacan-style masa or mole poblano (even if you can’t pronounce them, order them!) are not to be missed at the quaint Lanny’s Alta Cocina Mexicana.



Who hasn’t heard of the legendary Billy Bob’s nightclub? It is, after all, the World’s largest honky tonk, and a must see at least once, whether you want to brush up your dance moves, take a mechanical bull ride, or hit one of the many fantastic concerts they host. Catch the grunge country sounds of Ryan Bingham on January 25th, or the phenomenal Josh Weathers Band on the 31st.



Journey to a town filled with frontier history and folklore legends at Granbury. Start off at the picturesque town square – filled with antiques shops, unique boutiques and plenty of places to grab a bite to eat, and especially pretty in it’s festive garlands pre-Christmas. Take the kids to the hanging gallows at Hood County Jail and Historical Museum, and on weekends, you can hop on the free trolley for a spin around town or take the Ghosts and Legends tour. Every second Saturday of the month the Historic Granbury Gunslingers duke it out on the square.


With the 50th anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy just past, there is a resurgence of interest in the former President’s death, and conspiracy theories are anything but stilled. Draw your own conclusions by visiting The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas (known as the Texas School Book Depository, where shooter Lee Harvey Oswald was said to have drawn the fatal trigger). Examine the life, death and legacy of JFK through artifacts, photographs, documentary films, areas where evidence was found, eyewitness accounts and interactive educational programming on both the sixth and seventh floors.



There’s scores of budget hotels and motels within easy range of the Will Rogers, but if you’re hankering for a splurge try the Stockyards Hotel, an over 100-year-old hotel with Old West charm and themed rooms, right in the middle of the historic Stockyards. Guest rooms have a casual Texas feel at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel, an architecturally innovative skyscraper towering over the city skyline, and in Dallas, the historically rich and century-old Aldolphus is filled with fine art and antiques.


The cowboy town of Weatherford boasts not only the much-photographed cutting horse statue on the front lawn of the local Macdonalds, but a rich western heritage. Once you’ve explored the historic square, lunch at the Downtown Café and then take a drive up scenic Old Garner Road, where you’ll come across Oswood Stallion Station, where a visit might garner you photo ops with such big guns as Dual Rey, Halreycious, Like A Diamond, One Time Pepto and Walla Walla Whiz.

The New Face of Rodeo

Big reveal.

Western Horse Review writer and The Lovely, Rugged Road blogger, Katy Lucas is working on a piece for our next issue, the core of which is close to her heart – rodeo. It’s a story that couldn’t have come at a better time. My social media feed fills up daily with rodeo talk, and lately, specifically, how, and why, what we define as “rodeo” needs to change.

It reminded me of a piece Ted Stovin did for us last year. Originally printed in the July/August, 2014 issue, he too, in collusion with several rodeo players, pondered the changing world of the sport and what would need to happen for it thrive. One theme prevailed – rodeo is in the entertainment business.

Here’s a look back at that piece, and it’s little gems of wisdom. Watch for Lucas’ piece, including an interview with new Canadian Professional Rodeo Association General Manager, Dan Eddy, in the next issue of the magazine. 


Photo by Dainya Sapergia



When siting in the stands of a rodeo performance at the Calgary Stampede, it is apparent what is being showcased; the rodeo, the stock and experience all adding up to the Greatest Outdoor Show on earth.

The shows are run quickly and smoothly with every detail down to the raking of the inside of the bucking chutes taken care of.

“We have great support from our volunteer base and they work tireless hours on production to make sure the show is down to the two-and-a-half or two hours and 40 minutes we need it to be,” says Keith Marrington, Rodeo and Chuckwagon Manager, when speaking of July’s rodeo. “It’s a snappy production with many entertaining elements.”

Within this equation for success, format makes a difference as well.

“A lot of rodeos are going to different formats because they can control what contestants come there and they are getting on the top stock. When you get that combination of quality contestants and stock, it puts on a great production.”

Having a winner each day of any event is the key in keeping the attention of the crowd and having them understand the show.

“We have a winner every day, that’s what people want to see,” says Marrington. “We are a 10-day show, we have people that come on day one that aren’t going to be back on day 10. For our fan base it’s a lot easier for them to understand. Our audiences are from all over, domestic and overseas, and they are coming to the Calgary Stampede to be entertained.

“I think the face of rodeo is changing, in the sense that people want to control their own destiny a little more on what events they have, what contestants come there and to offer something unique.”

RFD-TV’s The American did exactly that this spring with it’s inaugural event held in Arlington, Texas, and with great enough success to announce the second edition of the event on March 1st, 2015.

Randy Bernard, the leader behind The American is a former intern of the Calgary Stampede.

“It was the most defining thing I’ve ever done in my life. I knew after my internship exactly what I wanted to do with my life,” says Bernard. “The entire experience was life changing for me. I went back and worked for a fair and knew I wanted to be in western sports, and the western lifestyle and that’s what I did.”

Bernard led the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) as their CEO to pay their World Champion $1,000,000 for the first time in 2003 among many other groundbreaking moves. He also headed up IndyCar until coming on as the CEO of RFD-TV.

“Our biggest message is that RFD-TV is a friend of rodeo. We want to grow the sport by doing everything we can do to help, that’s one of our top priorities,” says Bernard. “The American is where we put our staple and I think it brought us tremendous credibility.”

The American is a stand-alone event with qualifying events in which anyone can compete. Legends were invited as exemptions in the first year, along with the top contestants in the world.

“I’m in the television business and I believe I can make a difference in the rodeo and western sports world by creating heroes and giving exposure to athletes and why they should be great role models,” reveals Bernard.

The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) has less control over each event compared to stand-alone rodeos such as the Calgary Stampede or The American, however, they do have the power to improve the sport by putting on events like the Grassroots Finals or Wrangler Tour Shootout in conjunction with the IPE and Armstrong Stampede.

“It’s a great way to put an exclamation point on a tour. It gives the tour a good purpose but it also starts to line us up to promote rodeo that’s exciting, that’s understandable,” says CPRA Rodeo Administrator Kynan Vine about the Wrangler Tour Shootout in Armstrong. “It’s a one-day, one head shoot out. It’s easy for television, it’s easy for people to understand and there’s a winner, that’s where rodeo needs to be.”

Vine further explains his thoughts on the future of professional rodeo in Canada and the production involved with each individual event.

“That’s the thing about our sport, it’s entertaining to watch, but it being entertaining and it being easily understood is another thing, those two have to tie together and that’s where you’re going to get real entertainment value out of rodeo.

“We are a sporting industry so we have to obviously cater to our fans. Making rodeo easy to understand, making it entertaining means putting it in a format that is super accessible, it leads us to formats like PGA Golf where only the best end up in front of the crowd and on TV,” says Vine.

Vine continues, noting that there are many parties to please in our industry.

“There are many different stakeholders and each one has different needs. You have the committees, contractors, and contestants, which are a large portion of the stakeholders. They all want something out of rodeo but what we have to remember is that we are here to entertain our fans. We are in the entertainment industry. We are a sport.”

Entertainment means examining formats that work for the fans first.

“We have to build our sport and we have to progress it so when someone wants to watch a rodeo whether it’s on television or they want to come and watch it, they know exactly what they are watching,” says Vine, going back to golf and it’s format. “You take a sport like golf and they figure out how to make a sport like golf, which most people wouldn’t consider really entertaining to watch but they’ve made it entertaining by bringing the best golfers in the world together.”

In rodeo, this captivating element is translated into showdowns and shootouts, which are popping up more and more.

“That’s why showdowns, shootouts, short rounds and championships in rodeo are well attended and exciting. The crowd knows at the end of they day there is going to be a winner,” says Vine.

“You see it in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and it’s coming in the CPRA, we are moving more towards that, building rodeo and getting everyone on the same page moving toward that and it’s becoming more of the culture of rodeo.”

Events such as the Grassroots Finals work towards developing the sports future elite.

“The reason we have rodeos like the Grassroots Finals is to make sure in the process of highlighting the top in the world we also highlight and promote our future superstars in an exciting format,” says Vine. “The future of the sport isn’t going to rest on promoting only the top we have to develop our future as well.”

CPRA General Manager, and current contestant, Jeff Robson, concurs.

“I think the best guys deserve a chance to compete with the best guys at the best venues in front of the best crowds where the people are paying,” he notes. “We are a professional sport in the entertainment business, if we can’t do that we won’t survive.

“It’s got to be sellable. It’s got to be a viable,”

Two-time Canadian Bull Riding Champion and former (Editor’s Note: please remember this was written in the spring of 2014) Calgary Stampede Champion Scott Schiffner echoes the same thoughts.

“The biggest thing I think is that the high profile contestants should only go to the top events,” says Schiffner. “In my opinion, the biggest rodeos don’t need 120 entries. They need the elite and that’s it. For example, the best 25 contestants in the world should go to 24 to 30 event tops. By having everyone go everywhere it waters down the product to where we have nothing to sell.”

Schiffner himself has been to the Canadian Finals Rodeo more than any other bull rider in the past decade. However, he thinks this format would motivate the top bracket to improve their riding even more.

“I’ve done well in Canada, but I might not have been one of those top 25. That might have given me more desire to go there (to that top level), though,” he says.

As we move forward, there are new events and people on the horizon in our country and abroad that look to better this sport. The future of rodeo hints at higher-level production of events with different formats, which are more entertaining and easily watched by fans.

At this crossroads, there is a choice to make. Do we keep doing the same things we’ve done to keep getting the same results? Or make some changes to further our sport and keep it around for future generations to participate in and enjoy.

Either way, the choice is ours, and the future looks bright.

Former bull rider Ted Stovin of Calgary, Alberta is the creator of EverythingCowboy.com; a writer, event producer, music director and part-time hat maker for Smithbilt Hats of Calgary.

How To Clip


Western performance horses can be shown or rode in a variety of styles. That’s the beauty of our disciplines – we have a lot of freedom when it comes to manes and tails. Certainly some rules apply to specific classes but for a great majority of us, long flowing manes are the trend. Whiskers may or may not be clipped and hair in the ears is not really an issue, although some ranch horse versatility classes have recently made it a ruling for all horses to maintain the natural hairs in their ears.

Having said all that, to be able to clip your horse without a fuss is one of the best life skills you can teach your equine companion. You never know when a neatly groomed bridle path may come in handy, or if an area on the body might need to be clipped for a veterinary procedure. If your horse is opposed to clippers in every way, here are a few tips professional trainer Clay Webster always offers his students for clipping a horse safely.

To teach a horse how to accept clippers, I use only a halter and a good lead shank. For the first few times of introducing clippers to a horse, I do not tie my horse up and instead maintain a grip on the lead by tucking the rope into the crook of my elbow. This allows me to hold onto my horse but also affords me a free hand to hold the clippers. Once the horse is used to the process, tying them for clipping should not be an issue.

STEP #1 – I like to teach my horses to lower their heads on my cue so that clipping is easy, accurate and low-stress on all of us. I do this by spending time with my horses, prior to ever picking up a set of clippers. Essentially I will apply gentle, but steady pressure behind the horse’s ears on top of the poll area. As the horse lowers its head, I release my pressure. Gradually I work towards getting the horse to lower its head further and further down, taking great care to release my pressure whenever the horse shows me the slightest amount of the desired result. My horse will learn from the release of pressure – he does not learn from the pressure itself. When I can cue my horse to lower his head to the desired height, I can start thinking about the next step.

STEP #2 – Next, I will grab a pair of clippers and begin to introduce them to my horse. It’s important to note that I actually turn the clippers on for step #2. With the motor running I show my horse the clippers and begin to rub him with them to get him comfortable with their sensation. With my body positioned in a safe location (for instance, at the shoulders and not in front of his front hooves or a place where he may be able to strike me,) I rub the clippers on several areas of his body. Areas that he may be able to accept the clippers easily include the chest, shoulders, neck. Typically I will start by rubbing the clippers on one shoulder, then work my way up the neck until he becomes comfortable with them.

When I see that my horse has begun to accept the clippers on the shoulder and neck, I will ask him to drop his head once again. Then I progress the clippers up to the area behind his ears. If he jerks his head up really fast, pulls back, or bolts, etc. I work the clippers back to an area that he was happy with and start over. Practice makes perfect and there’s no sense in getting upset with my horse if he isn’t ready to accept the clippers immediately.



STEP #3 – If the process seems to be taking an overly long time, I may actually set the clippers down and walk my horse to an area where he can be worked safely. Then I would proceed to lunge him around me and make him work. Once my horse’s demeanor returns back to a positive attitude (ears forward and paying attention, head hanging in a relaxed position and not high in the air like an elk), I will calmly walk him back to the area where we left off with the clippers and start again. When horses protest against something you may ask of them, often a little reminder of “work” is all they need. If they don’t want to accept the clippers, my horse can start moving his body at my direction in the arena. His heart, lungs and muscles can pick up the pace. And when we return to the clippers, he can stand and relax – helping him to associate the other place with work, while the clippers are paired with rest and relaxation. At the clippers, my horse gets a reward. Once things have calmed down, I turn the clippers on and start again.



STEP #4 – Another important point to note is that my clippers should be well-maintained and oiled. If they are not, the blades won’t cut the hairs nicely and may actually pull on them, causing the horse slight discomfort. Plan your clips, so you don’t accidentally take too much off and ensure both sides of your horse are even in whatever you do. A good rule of thumb for a bridle path is to gently bend one of the horse’s ear back and guide you to a length to clip – the tip of the ear laid back is generally where one would clip to. I have seen western bridle paths shorter than this of course (just enough to comfortably lay the headstall), and I have seen horses without bridle paths too. Check the rules of your association and discipline to ensure a bridle path is permissible to show and what length, if any, is required.

STEP #5 – When I have my horse confident with the running clippers, it’s time to start clipping hairs. Whether it’s the bridle path area, on his muzzle or elsewhere, I always ensure to gently lay the clippers against my horse’s skin enough to get the cutting done, but not so much that they’re digging into him. It’s important not to tickle the horse (which can happen if the clippers aren’t applied firmly enough) but also not pressing too hard into him either. Luckily most of today’s modern clippers are made with great protective blades so it’s difficult to cut your horse.

STEP #6 – When clipping, use long over-lapping strokes that go with the direction of hair growth. Some people prefer to go against the grain but I find clipping so much easier when you go with the hair follicles. Avoid forcing the clippers through an area you wish to clip. If the blades don’t seem to be cutting the hairs, they may need cleaning, sharpening or oiling. Part way through your clip session, you may need to clean and oil your clipping blades. I find that I often have to do this every 10 minutes.

Clay Webster is a professional trainer with over 21 years in the industry. He specializes in the disciplines of reining and cow horse. For more information about him, check out: www.claywebster.com

September in Pics


I know I’m a few days late in posting this. Seems as the months go by in 2014, time goes faster and faster! September was a strange month… if I can say that. It started warm and beautiful. Then progressed into full blown winter with a freak snow storm that brought the city of Calgary to its knees.

Snow on the rooftop at Spruce Meadows, early September 2014/

Snow on the rooftop at Spruce Meadows, early September 2014.

We headed to Spruce Meadows on September 12 and got a chance to take in the festivities of the Masters, and we also caught a glimpse of the devastation caused by the snow storm there. As Calgary was walloped by power outages, inches of snow and ice that devastated trees and buildings, the Masters had to be delayed by a day. See the whole story here.

The RCMP Musical Ride was featured at the 2014 Spruce Meadows Masters.

The RCMP Musical Ride was featured at the 2014 Spruce Meadows Masters.

But by September 12, things around the city were as back to normal as they possibly could be and the kids and I were some of the lucky ones to delight in the show jumpers and Equi-Fair at Spruce. We watched a little bit of the RCMP Musical Ride. We watched some of the jumpers. And when the temperature outdoors dipped lower than we liked, we headed inside to find some heated fun. The kids really took to the Breyer booth in the Equi-Fair which this year, featured do-it-yourself painted ponies and an autograph signing from Rich Fellers. We were in our glory!

Painting horses at the Breyer booth.

Painting horses at the Breyer booth, Spruce Meadows Masters 2014.

Blizzards aside, September did have its blessings as well. We found several warm days in which there was time to shoot an annual photo shoot. These are my darling children having a tea party with their friend “Legacy.”

We used my grandmother’s antique china.

That part made me a little nervous…

The photos were taken by my friend Natalie Jackman. Please believe me when I say, I couldn’t have been happier with the results! More to come on this precious photo shoot.

Photo by Natalie Jackman, www.have-dog.com

Photo by Natalie Jackman, www.have-dog.com

As previously mentioned, September brought a myriad of weather changes. We had everything from raging flurries, to heat waves, to rain and rainbows. And I think in one week, we were challenged to dress for all four seasons.



We used the good weather days to prepare for the upcoming winter.



We used the crummy days to jump in mud puddles in our new Case IH tractor boots.

Because these boots are simply awesome.

And jumping in puddles turns everyone’s day right-side up again.


We used the off days (no horse shows) to travel to Saskatchewan and pick up our weanlings and a two-year-old, sired by our stallion who is ready to begin training.

The kids and youngsters got acquainted.


And we used a day in between to hit the Calgary Corn Maze and prep for Autumn. If you’ve never been there before and you have kids, you gotta check it out! Coming from an agriculture background, I was pleasantly surprised. There were so many things for kids to check out and experience, the place kept us busy as a family for hours. It was EXCELLENT! And to top it off, we finished off by choosing a couple of perfect pumpkins to come home with us.





If you’ve been following along to My Stable Life the last several months, you may have noticed the month’s worth of collages I’ve been posting. And if you’re interested to give Month in Photos a try, check it out here! This idea is a brilliant way to keep your snapshots organized and ready for Christmas time – for all of you Photo-bookers out there, by December, you’ll have a year’s worth of collages ready for your album!

You’re welcome :)


Stolen Horse: Update

Rooster Kicker with his owner in 2010, after winning the individual gold medal from

Rooster Kicker with his owner in 2010, after winning the individual gold medal from the NAJYR Championships in Kentucky. This horse went missing from his stall at Westerner Park in Red Deer, AB, on August 25.


Typically I like to keep My Stable Life light, educational and occasionally, humorous. However, an incident occurring in the wee hours of August 25 hit a little too close to home for me and a good friend in particular. With very little information to go on and a frustrating investigation ensuing, I have chosen to spread the word about the disappearance of Rooster Kicker, a 2004 AQHA gelding, from his stall at Westerner Park during the Canadian Quarter Horse Nationals. With any luck, perhaps WHR readers might be able to help his owner shed some light on the crime. Here’s the story…

On Sunday, August 24, Nancy Pratch finished contending in the amateur reining class at the Canadian National Quarter Horse Show held at Westerner Park in Red Deer, AB. It was a great show for Nancy as she and her boyfriend Cory had each won their respective reining classes. Following their classes, the duo proceeded to put their horses away for the night. Although the show was technically done, given the late finish Cory and Nancy decided to stay one more night and leave first thing in the morning.

Rooster Kicker and Nancy Pratch in action. Photo by HD2 Sports.

Rooster Kicker and Nancy Pratch in action. Photo by HD2 Sports.

At approximately 12:30am, Rooster Kicker was in his stall, in Barn A, and fed two flakes of hay. When Nancy closed Rooster Kicker’s stall door, not only did she securely latch the stall door with its pin system, she also latched “Kicker’s” halter around the stall door and buckled it up for extra measures. The lead rope was clipped to the halter and left hanging. Cory and Nancy then went to sleep in the living quarters of their trailer, which was parked on the North East side of Barn B.

At 7:00 am on August 25, Cory left the trailer to feed their horses breakfast. Cory found Rooster Kicker’s stall empty, the door pushed inwards, halter lying in the middle of the stall – horse and lead rope missing. Cory started looking around. A few minutes later Nancy arrived to find the stall empty and Cory looking around the barn. The couple began to search the grounds and asked anyone they encountered if they had seen the missing bay horse as they went along.

Cory spoke to an employee of Westerner Park and learned that all gates other than the main entrance were closed. (Westerner staff also confirmed that all the gates except for the main entrance were closed at 12:30am and opened at 6:00am.)

After searching the entire property, it was apparent the horse was no longer at the Westerner Park facility. Brand inspector, Bruce Etherington was notified of the disappearance, Bruce then made the appropriate calls to get a hold of RCMP Livestock Investigator Dave Heaslip. Heaslip contacted Cory and advised him to call the Red Deer police. The 911 call was made at 7:47am by Cory and he and Nancy continued their search in and around the Westerner Park.

The yellow dot indicates

The yellow dot indicates where Rooster Kicker was eventually found. The red dot indicates where he was taken from.

At 8:39 am, Cory received a call from the RCMP stating that a horse had been found behind the south Red Deer Best Buy. Behind the store, the search party found Rooster Kicker in the care of Dan Metzger. According to Metzger, two homeless men had discovered Rooster Kicker on Highway 2 (north bound) with the lead rope tied snugly around his neck. They found him wandering around a very busy intersection, where he was left in harms way. The men caught Rooster Kicker and lead him down behind Best Buy, tied him to a tree and went to find someone who could contact authorities. The two men made contact with Dan, who contacted authorities and the two homeless men continued with their day. RCMP Investigator Hugo Painchaud arrived at the scene found the horse had been retrieved to the proper owners and left shortly thereafter. Rooster Kicker was found unharmed, loaded into a trailer and returned to his stall.

Nancy Pratch with Team Canada

Nancy Pratch with Team Canada at the NAJYR Championships in Kentucky, 2010.

There are several theories about “Kicker’s” disappearance, however, few solid answers have yet to surface. During the Canadian Quarter Horse Nationals, the Quarter Horse Association of Alberta had hired a security company to patrol the grounds to ensure the safety of all competitors. However, this security contract was over as of the evening of August 24 – as soon as the show concluded. Since Nancy and Cory had decided to stay over one extra night to prevent themselves from experiencing fatigue on the highway home, there was no security in effect during the time of Kicker’s disappearance.

RCMP have confirmed that since there was no evidence to verify whether this incident was a crime, or that the horse got away on its own, they have concluded the file. Additionally, as the horse was found safe, there are no investigational avenues to pursue from a RCMP standpoint.

RCMP advice to future competitors at Westerner Park is to ensure that “everything is locked up.”

With “no evidence” to base the incident upon, Rooster Kicker’s disappearance – which left the horse in harm’s way – has left his owners to question whether or not the incident was a random act of theft or a malicious crime. However, the facts conclude that there is nothing “random” about the horse that missing from Westerner Park that day. Rooster Kicker is actually a gold medal winner from the North American Junior & Young Rider’s Championships held in Kentucky in 2010. He has earned numerous championships with his owner. Whomever decided to undo the halter that secured his stall shut, open the pin system of the stall door itself, tie the lead rope around Kicker’s neck (because we all know horses can’t do this themselves) and remove him from his stall – had no good intentions on their mind. And being the lovely animal Kicker is, he followed the requests of the human who handled him without complaint – even if that human was about to place him in harm’s way.

For now, it might also be wise for competitors to consider taking extra precautions to protect their horse’s safety while on show grounds. All competitors have the option to lock their tack stalls and horses into stalls at night – however, there are serious considerations for animal safety in the event of a fire if locks were to be used. Video cameras might be another good option but by law, you must place a sign in front that makes people aware they are being watched. Associations also may employ extra precautions, just as the QHAA tried to do with their extra security guard contracted to walk the grounds. For now, all we really know is that it is up to us as competitors to watch for each other and take matters into our own hands. All of us deserve to go to sleep at night and not have to worry about the safety of our animals on show grounds at events. Ever. Or at least, that’s just my opinion…

– JW



Anyone with information with regard to this criminal act can contact the Red Deer RCMP at 403-343-5575 and all tips will be kept confidential.

Last Month in Pics & Schleich Winner!


If you caught My Stable Life’s post last week – Schleich Giveaway – you’ll know I have been remiss in announcing the winner of a Schleich Quarter Horse and western tack accessory outfit. I’m also a few days late posting my last month in photos – so I thought I’d do both with today’s post! July was an insanely busy month and labelled recently as the second hottest July our area has seen since WWII, there were many reasons to go on road trips or just get outside and enjoy the sunshine.

West Edmonton Mall, pirate ship

Checking out the pirate ship at West Edmonton Mall.

The month saw us in Edmonton to start and the kids and I had a great time visiting family and checking out the sights at West Edmonton Mall. The pirate ship and sea lion attractions are always big hits with my kids. I on the other hand, am just happy to get an opportunity to shop. At a place that is not strictly a feed store, lol!

The following week, we were back home in Calgary and took the chance to visit the Calgary Stampede. With all its new changes and as the first year to feature events inside the new Calgary Agrium Western Event Center, it was almost as though we were checking out the Calgary Stampede for the very first time. We loved the new midway created just for younger kids. And as that was located very close to Draft Horse Town, we spent countless hours meandering back and forth between the two.

Calgary Stampede, Calgary Tower

A team of Drafties set against the Calgary Tower in the backdrop.

Of course, the Agrium Ag-tivity in the City was a big hit too! With so many opportunities to get up-close and personal with life on a farm or ranch, the Calgary Stampede is a phenomenal educational opportunity for kids.

Alberta Chickens, Calgary Stampede

Agrium Ag-tivity in the City, Calgary Stampede

While we were checking out the numerous hands-on interactive activities, Dad meanwhile was watching the cow horse competition in the new Agrium Western Events Center. In between midway rides and trips to see the Draft Horses, I was able to sneak a glance of the cow horses too <grin>. And boy was the giant CERVUS screen located at the top of the arena a nice touch!

John Swales in the 2014 Calgary Stampede Working Cow Horse Classic.

John Swales in the 2014 Calgary Stampede Working Cow Horse Classic.

Watching all the events at the Calgary Stampede spurred a whole new spark for horses within our daughter.

Kids and horses

Our son on the other hand, was just happy to be helping Dad with the chores. Which is totally fine with us!


Following the Calgary Stampede, we received a letter from the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) this month questioning the registration – or more specifically, the markings – of a foal we have been trying to register for a long time now. Turns out, the  filly in question had a “white mark” on the right side of her neck. The AQHA wanted us to clip the horse in this area, right down to the skin and take another picture, so they could verify the color of her skin underneath.

When Clay and I looked closely at the picture that I had sent in electronically to register the foal, Clay realized she had a bite mark on her neck! (This is a detail I never even noticed during the online registration process). The AQHA in turn thought the white spot was simply that – an unusual white patch of white hairs on her neck and wanted verification. With a return phone call to the AQHA and some updated pictures showing the filly no longer has a white spot on the side of her neck, we were good to proceed with the registration process.

Good to know the AQHA takes registrations and markings very seriously!


July also afforded us the opportunity to watch the High River Air Show. With stunts performed by the Canadian Forces Snow Birds, the SkyHawks parachutists and an appearance by an a CF18 Hornet – we were in complete awe.

High River Air Show 2014

Last month we also watched many of our neighbors haying their fields and we got busy securing our winter hay supply as well. The word on the street is that hay prices are going up everywhere. If you have a moment, drop me a comment in the comments section below – because I’m super curious to find out where hay prices are currently at!


And now my friends, I need to tell you who the lucky recipient of a Schleich Quarter Horse figurine and western tack is…!

When I asked readers to tell me about their favorite tips / activities to keep kids busy at horse shows, Aaron Lucas wrote:

We take our mini pony to the arena with us, our son just loves to brush her and pick up her feet…over and over! Daisy is such a good pony! When he is tired of Daisy, we take out his “dirt” toys. He will play for hours with his Tonka trucks in the roping box. I love it, because I can see him and I know he is safe while I get some horses rode. He also loves his Schleich toys, however he is only 2 and still loses little toys, so we only play with them at home for now! We would love to add to our collection… I say ‘we’ because I love them too!

Aaron – please email us at [email protected] with your mailing address and we’ll get your Schleich toys on their way to you!