Win Dinner With Amber Marshall


Photo by Denise Grant.

Sometime in the spring of 2013, we undertook an ambitious endeavour and focused our editorial attention to the ernest task of finding 25 youth under the age of 25, who, in a nutshell, embodied and rang true to a modern Code of the West. We wanted young people who embraced independence, a love of the outdoor life, close connection to animals (in particular, horses), showed a fierce determination to follow their own path, buck convention, (and occasionally, conventional wisdom), and radiated all of these western measures of character through their daily lives.

As we worked our way down the long list, we were constantly reminded that the dreams often fostered in young minds and hearts can translate to adulthood, and that good old fashioned determination can still achieve what many think is impossible. We loved the true western code of ethic each of our top 25 exuded.

Included in that issue’s Top 25 Under 25 was the then 25-year-old Amber Marshall, star of the CBC hit television show, Heartland, a talented actress, who has managed to segue her passion for horses into a successful acting career.

Amber has been around horses as long as she can remember. She has been riding since a very young age and says that the two things she loves the most – acting and horses – have come together to create this dream role of Amy on the Heartland series.

In between filming and occupational commitments, Marshall lends her time and celebrity to a multitude of causes. Most recently she appeared with Niki Cammaert at Cowboys for Kingdom House, a fundraiser for special projects in Africa.

As Heartland films in Alberta, Marshall has made a home for herself on a small ranch outside of Calgary where she is surrounded by her many animals, including horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, turkeys and Jerseys. She stays true to her western roots and honours the people and animals around her while enjoying great professional successes. Grounded and focused, she is well on her way to creating a fulfilled, enriched life.

Her latest venture is partnering with Rustic Ranch, a furniture, home decor and gift store, located just 10 minutes north of Cross Iron Mills Mall, in Airdrie, Alberta. Located on the Giles family farm, the unique store shares a 30,000 square foot showroom with Airdrie Trailer Sales and Decked Out Vinyl, and specializes in log, reclaimed and rustic furniture and decor.

I’m pleased to let you know Rustic Ranch is offering you an opportunity to win a VIP evening with Amber Marshall!

Ballots are available in the store, and entries close on December 31.

Take the opportunity to meet Amber on November 1 when she’ll be in the store for a signing from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Perfect timing as Rustic Ranch’s yearly clearance sale is Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.

In the meantime catch up with Amber Marshall at her site, and view Rustic Ranch’s latest offerings at here.

Equine Photography

Photo by L.Haughton, Epona

Photo by L. Haughton, Epona.

Love pictures like the above? So do I!! Horses and beautiful photography. Whether you choose to embrace it on the walls of your home or keep a mental image of it forever in your mind, with beautiful imagery like this you just can’t go wrong.

“Photographers deal in things in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson.

I had the privilege of working on a special project this summer, one I would like to share with you. Introducing Western Horse Review’s Special Interest Publication – Equine Photography:

Equine photography book

Inside the covers of this special coffee table book, you can peruse a medley of photos – each a visual stunner, featuring the horse. Equine Photography profiles 19 photographers. Every one is a leader in their field and altogether, are some of the industry’s most talented equine photographers.

Within the pages, you’ll find beautiful photography like this:

Photo by

Photo by Nicole Wade Photography.


*And this:

Photo by

Photo by Billie-Jean Duff.


Can’t you almost feel yourself wrapped in mud and adrenaline in the above image?

And you’ll also find amazing pictures like this:


Tony Stromberg is an equine photographer with the ability to bring out the true essence of the horse, his authentic spirit, his strength and his archetypal nature. His images never show tack or saddles of any kind. Stromberg has found his niche (and subsequently, a large audience) in capturing the horse in his most essential form, at the deepest level of his being.

It is photographers like Stromberg and many talented others, who give Equine Photography an inexplicable edge. I can’t even put it into words… You simply have to flip the pages and let the horse imagery grace your eyes to understand.

Altogether, the stunning work inside makes this one, gorgeous coffee table book. Yet, what also sets this publication apart from all the others is its insider information and advice from each of the pros. From amateurs to seasoned professionals, Equine Photography offers how-to secrets for capturing the most alluring equine images on the back of your viewfinder.



Such celebrated photographers as Neville Palmer share their tips for embracing light to compose the best possible shots at rodeos:


Cheryl Smythe discusses all the little nuances of equine conformation, head shot and profile images that best help to market individual animals:

Image by Cheryl Smythe Photography.

Image by Cheryl Smythe Photography.


And Krista Kay talks about the beauty of women and horses. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, the picture below is enough said:

From Equine Glamour, to Immortalizing the Senior Horse, to photographing Western Weddings, this book has everything you could possibly imagine about photographing horses. Even I was surprised upon interviewing each of the photographers to realize that not one person spoke of the same thing – every photographer profiled had something very individual and unique to offer.

And yet the common denominator between each of them was the horse and the lifestyle unique to the passion that surrounds these beautiful animals.

Photo by Rob Kendrick

Photo by Rob Kendrick.

Robb Kendrick is a photographer who uses the latest high-tech gear but is partial to an old fashioned feel. Kendrick is one of the only photographers in the world who shoots Tintypes: a wet-plate process photographers used in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It gives his images an authentic, vintage feel and helps keep his technique alive. If you’re interested to see how Kendrick does it, check out this video from National Geographic:

Equine Photography even delves into the concept of Smartphone photography and features 12 of the most popular Photography Apps – and how they can be applied to equine photography.







*If you’re looking to perfect your portrait, learn essential digital photography techniques or for secrets on how to capture beautiful moments in western weddings, Equine Photography from Western Horse Review is the perfect book for you! Be sure to pick one up before they’re all gone! You can either visit the link here to order now, or check out your nearest Walmart, Rexall, Chapters or various other locations that carry Western Horse Review. Happy Reading! (And snapping!!)


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,

Photo by Natalie Jackman,

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 :)


Days Like This

Not a great scene to start your day...

Not a great scene to start the day…

Ever start your day off with a scene like this? There’s nothing more gut-wrenching then walking out the pasture in the morning to witness something like the broken fence above. As you look around and try to make sense of it all, you take a good count of all the ears and tails bopping around. Is everyone accounted for? Were the geldings simply trying to mingle with the mares? Are there animals out near the road? Is anyone hurt? And if so, is it serious?

If you own animals, the time will eventually come that you will lose one. If you love horses, you will undoubtedly feel the emotional sting that accompanies the grief.

As a trainer’s wife, the owner of a boarding operation and a breeder of horses, I have seen a fair amount in my trips around the sun. I have witnessed beautiful births of foals and I have witnessed tragic outcomes of horses getting caught in fences.

I don’t say this to garner any kind of pat on the back. It’s just part of life on a horse farm.

Those experiences have toughened me somewhat over the years – much like I imagine veterinarians and other industry professionals must. However, this past weekend was the first time I experienced the loss of an animal with my own children present. And that experience was one that left me reeling.

As I blogged about in August, we became the proud owners of a miniature donkey named Taylor. In fact, we drove out to my sister’s wedding in British Columbia with a trailer in tow, to bring the little guy back. Taylor had lived the entire 19 years of his life up to that point in BC, and we offered him a forever home at our place in Alberta. Our kids were ecstatic. Our farm consists mostly of horses, cats and buffalo – so a donkey added a little more exotic flair to the atmosphere.

RIP "Taylor"

RIP “Taylor”

Taylor’s predictable “braying” and friendly nature was something the kids truly delighted in every day, during our outdoor adventures. Without fail they would run over to his pen, sometimes squeezing through the rails before I got there, to scratch his bum and pet the soft hairs at the base of his long ears. Every day, I had to remind Taylor that he was not allowed to “rub into” my kids, but once I had a halter on him, we were good. And both our son and daughter loved showing Taylor off to any of their little friends who came to visit.

As it turned out, our time with Taylor was limited. With the help of an emergency veterinarian we discovered Taylor had fractured one of his hind limbs this past Saturday. There were no signs in his paddock. No ice. No mud. No broken fences. (As a sidenote, the picture I began this blog with is an unrelated incident we had with a horse earlier this year. Needless to say, it’s been a tough year.)

Taylor also had a giant paddock all to himself – there weren’t even any other horses to chase him around. The closest animal was another horse located in a paddock that shared only an auto-waterer and offered Taylor companionship through the fence at times. Therefore, I am still at a loss, as to what could have caused him such a fracture.

Standing in Taylor’s paddock on that cold day with the kids buzzing about in overalls, winter coats and toques, I was shocked to hear the diagnosis. My attention turned to the cat that walked across my path in the paddock. My daughter needed a Kleenex. My son, contemplating jumping off the top of the cattle chute, came to his senses when I called over to him. My sister came out to see how things were going, her hair still wet from a shower. I was worried she might catch a cold.

A fracture?? I squinted at our emerg vets.

How could that possibly be..?

I felt a little like I was short-circuiting.

Still, I did my best to appear stoic. Times like these, you have to be strong and work your way through hard decisions. If not for yourself, for your family at least.

Through much discussion with my husband (who was away at the time), and our vet, we decided the humane thing to do would be to have Taylor euthanized. At 19 years of age, there was no telling if he could withstand surgery, nor did we know if he could properly be rehabilitated once it was all done.

That’s when I realized the kids would need to say their Goodbyes. Or the next time we would walk by Taylor’s empty paddock, the situation would likely be emotionally confusing and possibly traumatic for them. We each took a turn scratching his neck and rubbing the base of his ears and as they would on a normal day, the kids were keen to return to playing. But it was at that moment that I let them know that Taylor was going away and would not be coming back, due to his injury.

Or when you’re explaining something like to this to 3-year-olds – his “big boo-boo.”

As a parent, this was a defining moment when I could have pretended like everything was okay and used the power of distraction to keep diverting my children to a less-sensitive subject than the loss of their beloved donkey. But in that moment I felt like it would be wrong to lie to them. I’m definitely no child psychologist but I think I would rather dry their tears and take them for ice cream and balloons when they’re grieving the loss of something they love, than to tell them, “It’s all going to be okay.”

Because life just doesn’t work like that. And especially, life on a farm.

In fact, sometimes life on a farm just downright sucks.

The lucky thing is, we truly had only known Taylor for a short while. And perhaps that wasn’t enough time for the kids to become completely attached. But I have to admit – I was angry all the same. Angry with the limited choices and the responsibility that befell me on Saturday. I was sad too… I came to pieces later on that night when the kids started asking me about Taylor again. (You think you’re really strong until it’s all over and your children want to know, “Why the doctors just can’t make him better at the hospital…?”)

But I realized afterwards that both of these emotions were phases a person can go through when dealing with the loss of an animal. It’s normal. And in the end, I can find peace with myself that we did the right thing. A good friend and Taylor’s original owner wrote me that night and I found solace in his words: “Anyone who has animals knows that at any time you may be faced with the possibility of losing them and we have a final responsibility to not see them suffer. He was loved by us and your family and that is the best gift that any animal can have.”

Here’s to all those beautiful creatures.

Peaceable Kingdom = Smiles


As a family in the horse industry, we tend to spend a lot of time on the road. Or an airplanes. It’s great to finally arrive at the horse show and let the kids run around to play and burn off some steam. But what do you do during those hours of confinement in the car or airplane? When the novelty of movies and “Eye Spy” has worn off, stickers, project kits, and activity gifts from Peaceable Kingdom are the answer!


We stumbled upon products from Peaceable Kingdom just before we were to embark on our four-day drive from Canada to Fort Worth, Texas, for the NRCHA Celebration of Champions, earlier this year. And let me tell you, I was so thankful to discover them.

Peaceable Kingdom‘s mission is to: Make good, do good, be good!

Their fun craft kits, sticker activity sets, games and cards aim to educate, stimulate and inspire. Plus as a parent, I can feel good purchasing their products because the company strives to use sustainable materials whenever they can, such as recycled papers, soy-based inks, and corn-based plastics. Their products are great for occupying kids in a healthy way, especially during times like long car rides. However, should you choose to sit down and watch what your kids do with some of these kits, products from Peaceable Kingdom help connect you to the children in your life, and kids to each other.

The Horses Sticker Fun kit is one of our very favorites. Reusable cling stickers of horses running, mare with foals, saddles, bridles and scenes in the barn and pasture make this an activity my kids will go back to again and again.


Peaceable Kingdom came out with some new products this summer and we were lucky enough to get the opportunity to test some of them out! The Silly Pets Flutter stickers were a big hit with our daughter. With images featuring cute kittens and puppies, she could move the sticker and watch it change before her eyes! With bowler hats, valentines signs and a myriad of other antics, the silly pets act ridiculous as the images change in these fun stickers.

Kitty-StickersSince our son is a HUGE tractor fan, the UNDER CONSTRUCTION kit is his all-time favorite. Each of these vinyl sticker kits are great, on-the-go packages that are ideal to take into the car, on a plane, into a restaurant, or anywhere you might want an engaging activity that’s easy to start and easy to clean up. Just toss everything back into the handy carry-along tote and go!


The Rainbow Ponies Kit was a huge hit with all the little flower girls at a wedding we attended this summer. When it was time for the adults to sit down and enjoy a lobster dinner, I was incredibly pleased when my daughter brought this one out of her backpack to show the others.


The girls decorated the kits shimmery pink and purple ponies and took turns playing with them in a magical rainbow land. With 29 shiny foil stickers, they had the option to add wings, tails, and neck wreaths to the horses, then decorate the scene with shiny foil stickers. It was fabulous.

And I had a chance to enjoy savor, lobster, for the first time in three years.


Stay tuned for upcoming Christmas gift ideas from Peaceable Kingdom (because they are excellent stocking stuffers!) and an exciting giveaway your kidlets won’t want to miss.

August in Photos

My Stable Life August in Pics

August. The month of horse shows and weddings. And ice bucket challenges, lol! I didn’t even have time to blink in the last 31 days. Our weekends ran nine-O. The first weekend was a horse show, followed by a wedding. Then a horse show, a wedding and finally, another horse show. However, it was a joyful, happy month and the two weddings I write about were for some of the most precious people in our lives. Here’s a photo summary of how August played out for me.

Breast Collar, My Stable Life

The beginning of August started with a horse show. It was my first time getting back into the pen after a 6- month hiatus. I love the cow horse folks and was happy to see them again. It was also lovely to feel the power of a cow horse underneath me again. Although I did have  a bit of a “hat issue” to start with…


The following weekend was the wedding of some dear friends to us – Kirk Shaw and Crissy Santangelo. Kirk has been a beloved friend for many years, was the best man at our wedding and is also our farrier. Many of you may know Crissy as one of the hardworking gals behind the scenes of Silver Slate Arena (check out Featuring a charming tiny white church, a long-stretch Hummer limo, black cowboy hats, hot pink dresses with cowgirl boots to match, horses for photos, and a fantastic gathering and pig roast at Silver Slate to celebrate with friends and family – this was one of the most beautiful western weddings I have ever had the pleasure of attending. Congrats to Kirk and Crissy and we wish you many blessings to come!

Photo by Judy Doiron.

I think all kids love cowgirl, Kelin Doiron. Mine certainly do! Photo by Judy Doiron.


The following weekend, we were right back at Silver Slate arena, but with horses this time. A number of other “horse show kids” were there as well and many of them contend in the Future Stars class – one of our all-time favorite divisions to watch.

Photo by Natalie Jackman,

Photo by Natalie Jackman,

Warm August weather provided an ideal chance to snap a few shots of our upcoming yearlings. Taking photos of youngsters is an exercise in patience but we’re certainly glad Natalie Jackman has the know-how and tolerance to work with us in this venture <smile.>



Almost immediately following that show, I’m sure you can guess… we hit the road for another wedding. This time, we headed for beautiful Kelowna, BC – to attend the wedding of my beautiful sister. Along the way, there are many fabulous tourist places to hit. This year, we stopped at D Duchman Dairy – a farm fresh dairy store that kids can delight in the animal interaction as much as they can the ice cream at the end! Featuring exotic animals like llamas, birds and goats, D Dutchman Dairy also offers a hands-on approach to their calf barn. We tried taking our kidlets over to the other animals but they kept running back to the calves! I guess, you just can’t beat an up-close and personal interaction with friendly Holsteins.

Albino Kangaroo

Our son petting an albino wallaby at Kangaroo Creek Farm in Kelowna, BC.

However, just when I thought we couldn’t top that experience, my sister took us to Kangaroo Creek Farm – a farm that been breeding kangaroos and wallabies for more than 20 years in Lake Country near Kelowna. This is an incredible experience – operated entirely on donations alone. Guests are invited to walk into the farm and see wallaroos (a type of kangaroo, not a cross between a wallaby and a kangaroo) and Bennett wallabies roaming about, freely amongst the people! The animals are so friendly and tame, kids and adults alike can walk right up to them and pet them or offer a treat provided by farm operators! The farm also features emu, peacocks, fancy chickens, goats, parrots, a baby albino wallaby (*see the albino mother my son is petting above), baby kangaroos and potbellied pigs. There are also a pair of capybara, the world’s larges rodent (up to 150 lbs.)



And if you wait your turn, you can even have the chance to hold a baby kangaroo! This experience was worth posting a picture of myself (sans make-up) for…


We had one day of down time to visit with family and friends before the big day. But I definitely could have gone for a few more here… My sister Nicole and her husband choose a beautiful setting to host a wedding!

Next, it was on to the big day! Held at the historic Hotel Eldorado on the rooftop patio overlooking a marina, my baby sis and her new husband did a hilarious exchange of vows. My little family and I were truly honored to be a part of it and we watched with pride as she begins this new chapter in her life. The wedding was beautiful, the photos are insanely idyllic and the reception was all about the details. I should almost post a blog on that specifically <grin.> Congrats Nick and Jay – we love your dearly and thank-you for allowing us to be part of your special day!


The drive to Kelowna also provided us the perfect opportunity to pick up the newest member to our animal family – meet “Taylor,” a miniature gray-dun Donkey. I’m sure there will be more adventures about this little guy to come.

Cow-nightThe day after we returned from my sister’s wedding (at 2:00 am, I might add,) we unloaded Taylor, doctored a colt that had become injured over the weekend and headed straight for bed. For the following evening, Clay was hosting a practice cow night for over 40 people at our place. Cow nights make for a busy schedule but a great opportunity to practice for upcoming events. On this particular evening, a crop duster was hard at work nearby. It’s that time of year.


As I’m sure you can guess, the very next weekend we were back showing horses at the Back On Track Snaffle Bit Futurity hosted by the Alberta Reined Cow Horse Association.

Phew! August was a busy month.

Photo by Natalie Jackman

My husband, Clay riding “Bob” in a powerful fence turn. Photo by Natalie Jackman,






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!

Schleich Giveaway!

Schleich Knabstupper mare

There is a place in Okotoks, Alberta, that we absolutely cannot drive by without visiting. If I do, my kids will surely voice their disapproval. However, truth be known, I’m just as big a fan of Monkey Mountain Toys & Games as my kids are. I wish the store had been around when I was growing up in this town!

Monkey Mountain Toys & Games in Okotoks, AB. Horse mural

The horse mural on the side of Monkey Mountain Toys & Games in Okotoks, AB.

Located on main street Okotoks, there is no disguising the store. Monkey Mountain has the most beautiful mural of running horses painted on its side. My twins recognize it immediately and I’ve seen all kinds of people taking pictures of the wall-length painting. It’s also a hot spot for brides and grooms for one-of-a-kind wedding photos.

Monkey Mountain Toys & Games, Okotoks, AB

A drive-by shot of Monkey Mountain Toys & Games in the rain.

Above is a shot I attempted to take as we drove by the store (after stopping for a shopping trip) in the rain. Monkey Mountain is one of our absolute favorite local places to hit for a visit, especially on days of inclement weather. With all kinds of educational and innovative toys inside, it’s a mother’s paradise when in search of things to occupy your children <grin.>

Schleich Farm Life accessories

Schleich Farm Life accessories.

Recently we discovered Schleich toys and with the new line-up of play collectables, I have to admit I was the teeniest bit envious… Envious because I would have died to have toys like this as a child! We were so fortunate to pick up a halter and blanket, feed (apples/carrots and grain), a western saddle and bridle, veterinarian, hay and wheelbarrow and boots and brushes accessory sets to go along with the numerous Schleich horses available. Everything from Quarter Horses, to Lipizzaners, to Falabellas and their foals are made by Schleich.

Schleich equine accessories

Our Schleich barnyard, with many of the available 2014 accessory line-up.

The attention to detail that Schleich imparts with their toys is phenomenal! And if you look at one of the Schleich business mottoes – “Educational aspects play a more important part than possible sales potential,” you feel good about introducing their items to your children as well.

Being a horse person, I can vouch for the accurate and intricate details the company has made to this year’s line-up. My twins immediately took to the realistic halter and blanket set, having seen us (their parents) blanket and halter horses a countless number of times.


Blankets protect show horses from the cold weather and halters are necessary to move the horses from their stalls to their outdoor turnouts each day, or anywhere else we need them to go. So the kids have been practicing moving their Schleich horses from the barn to their turnouts and to the tack-up area, to get saddled for the day’s workout.

Schleich halter and blanket

In miniature version, I can’t tell you how exciting and detailed these new accessories from Schleich are! I should also explain that Schleich is a toy manufacturing company, founded over 75 years ago in Germany. Playing with Schleich figures is similar to a game with no instructions and no limits, which lets the child’s imagination run free. They can imagine themselves in a bigger world, with toys that are true-to-form and exceptionally detailed figurines that are unbelievably realistic.

Schleich feed accessories

A Schleich Black Forest stallion with the 2014 selection of feed accessories.

Our daughter is particularly drawn to Appaloosas these days. So with her vivid coat pattern, this Schleich Knabstrupper mare (pictured below) was definitely coming home with us. We also scooped up a tiny equestrian grooming kit, equipped with a curry comb and body brush, and splint boots to protect the toy’s legs in strenuous competition. (Lol.)

Schleich grooming set

Of particular interest to me was the Schleich veterinarian, available in the 2014 line-up. Of course, our children are very familiar with us as the trainers and caretakers of these beautiful animals, but veterinarians are also key individuals in the lives of horses as well. As parents, we hope we are making our kids aware of all kinds of career choices in the future – even as young as they currently are. But that’s another perk of Schleich toys, they are recommended for children 3 and up!

Schleich veterinarian

We took all our new Schleich toys to the horse show we attended this past weekend and again, they were a big hit! And now that we have discovered the world of Schleich, I am so excited about adding to our collection! So much so, that I thought My Stable Life readers should benefit from it as well.

Drop me a comment in the Comments section below and tell me about your best tip for keeping kids occupied at the horse show (I need all the tips I can get!!) and you will automatically be entered to win a Schleich Quarter Horse and western tack accessory outfit!! Contest ends August 8 and the winner be decided by a random random  drawing. Go!

Schleich giveaway

Happy Toys, Happy Kids


We stumbled upon something two years ago at the National Reined Cow Horse Association Celebration of Champions in Texas that is guaranteed to become a Webster family tradition. Two years ago in San Angelo, Texas, we observed a medley of tiny corrals, trucks, loading chutes, cake bins and animals in one corner of the main show arena – And the area was swarmed with kids!

I mean, how could it not be swarmed with kids??

This little area packed with toys from the The Happy Toy Maker was a brilliant addition to the ambiance of the show and gave little ones a place to escape the main event. We were in awe!

Toys hand-crafted by The Happy Toy Maker are real-life replicas of the arena systems, barns and hauling rigs we often see in our daily lives. And they may single-handedly express the western way of life better than any other plaything around. My husband and I couldn’t believe our good fortune when we discovered them!


Almost as soon as we arrived home from the show, we gave The Happy Toy Maker a call and placed an order for each of our twins: one cattle hauler and one box stall for each of them. We knew they would make phenomenal Christmas presents and we wanted something they could play with in the arena. As sturdy and as well-built as these hand-made creations are, we knew they could be handle rough play and would likely last the test of time – therefore, they would be handed down from generation to generation.


Creations from The Happy Toy Maker come with a ton of details. The box stalls include swing-out feeders, bucket bins, sliding doors and swing-out top doors for play horses to stick their heads through:


Many of the toys created by The Happy Toy Maker can be custom-designed to suit a child’s individual personality. We had our semi-trucks branded with our horse brand and painted to reflect our twins’ preferences:


Custom slogans, images, first and last names can be also be designed onto the semi trucks, arenas, gates or various other items.


Jerry Sims, is the man of talent behind the company and better known as “The Happy Toy Maker.” Sims’ handmade trucks, trailers, rodeo arenas, feedlots, chutes, corrals and barn set-ups are as unique as they are comparable to the real thing. Constructed by hand to reflect a child’s heritage and interests, Sims’ toys are durable and designed to last a lifetime – or more. Which is why they also caught the attention and were featured recently on Chris Cox Horsemanship television on RFD TV.


Like I said – A perfect way to keep a child occupied in an arena corner and guaranteed to last through generations of rough play!

It’s almost easy to confuse the picture below with the real thing:


With this wonderful heat we’ve been experiencing in Canada, it’s hard to think about Christmas. But if you want a one-of-a kind festive present for that special child in your life, now is the time to give The Happy Toy Maker a call. He books up quickly in the coming months so don’t leave your order to the last minute! Toys from The Happy Toy Maker are guaranteed to be forever treasures.