Hell Yah for The Duke

It’s a Calgary Stampede “first” for a famous veteran campaigner horse, that’s also a fun “first” for the National Finals Rodeo.

This year, the world’s top 20 professional saddle bronc riders decided to create their own award for the rough stock horses they know and love. Dubbed the “Hell Yah! Award”, the saddle bronc riders choose a saddle bronc horse that they are all excited to draw because they know they’ll get a great ride, the horse will always do its part to give them a great score, and they’ll likely be in the money. In short, they wanted to award the horse that makes them yell “Hell Yah!” when they draw it.

Famous for his signature rearing up out move out of the chutes, Stampede Ranch's John Wayne wins the inaugural "Hell Yah! Award" from the world's top 10 saddle bronc riders.

Famous for his signature rearing up out move out of the chutes, Stampede Ranch’s John Wayne wins the inaugural “Hell Yah! Award” from the world’s top 10 saddle bronc riders.

In its inaugural year, the Hell Yah! Award goes to John Wayne, a 22-year-old gelding from the Calgary Stampede Ranch. A contingent of saddle bronc riders presented the award at the Stampede’s annual reception party during the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. They said they could not think of a better horse to receive this first award, as John Wayne has been a top bucking horse on the world stage for longer than most of them have been riding, and he always helps them shine.

From left, Stampede 2013 Champion Cort Scheer, Wade Sundell, Calgary Stampede's Keith Marrington, Tyler Corrington and Chet Johnson, presenting Stampede with the Hell Yah Award for bucking horse John Wayne "The Duke".

From left, Stampede 2013 Champion Cort Scheer, Wade Sundell, Calgary Stampede’s Keith Marrington, Tyler Corrington and Chet Johnson, presenting Stampede with the Hell Yah Award for bucking horse John Wayne “The Duke”.

Named John Wayne, the cowboys affectionately know him as “The Duke”, and engraved that nickname on the halter award they presented to Stampede’s Keith Marrington.

John Wayne has been a top horse in the Canadian and world rodeo circuit for 18 years. He has qualified for the Canadian Final Rodeo a total of 17 times, and has been invited to buck at the NFR ten times, including this year. He’s a proven and reliable horse, consistently powerful and strong in the saddle event – known for his signature move of rearing up just as the chutes open to start off each ride with a flourish. Even at age 22, The Duke continues to be the horse the cowboys want to ride.

Bradley Harter rides John Wayne "The Duke" during the 2012 Calgary Stampede.

Bradley Harter rides John Wayne “The Duke” during the 2012 Calgary Stampede.

Outside of the arena, though, John Wayne is  known amongst Stampede Ranch hands as a great “nanny” or “uncle” for the younger horses. His calm demeanor and familiarity with life on the road is invaluable at helping the younger horses get settled into their temporary homes and pastures while travelling to and between rodeos. This veteran campaigner helps the younger horses find the best spots in new pastures for food, water, shelter, and his presence is always calming when the horses are hanging out in the pens before a rodeo.

Stampede Ranch is proud to receive this award from the cowboys who best know great rough stock – the saddle bronc riders themselves. It’s a great honour for a distinguished Duke of a horse who lives up to his nickname in every way.

Cody Taton rides John Wayne The Duke in the saddle bronc event at the 2013 Calgary Stampede.

Cody Taton rides John Wayne The Duke in the saddle bronc event at the 2013 Calgary Stampede.

Reflecting on the first year at the OH Ranch

The Calgary Stampede OH Ranch has its first year under its belt and we’ve come a long way. The first order of business was to stock the ranch with tools and equipment and prepare for the arrival of the Angus cow herd. The herd adjusted to their new home and we’ve successfully completed a full season with good results.


During the transition, we lost traditional winter range and had to re-vamp our grazing rotation to get the best use of our grass. As well, sources for year round water were established and new fencing was put in place to assist with next years calving season.

Of course, the flood presented its own set of challenges, damaging the bridges, both in the yard and in one of our north fields as well as some minor culvert damage.  Flood mitigation was completed in time for weaning and shipping calves in late October.


The Stampede events that came through the Ranch this year were all a huge success. The Artist Ranch Project, the Presidents Ride and the Presidents Event allowed our guests to learn about and experience a working ranch. The OH Ranch is positioned to educate and connect with the local community as well as urban audiences and this first year has provided that opportunity.

The support we’ve received from our neighbors has been a real highlight and we’d like to thank them for lending a hand when needed. The ranching community is known for working together and the Stampede is proud to be part of that tradition.

We look forward to incorporating new ideas and opportunities in 2014 to promote our ranching heritage.

Shadow Warrior brightens day for world champion contender

Calgary Stampede’s Shadow Warrior brightened up the night for bareback rider Kaycee Field at the National Finals Rodeo Wednesday night.


(Photo by Mike Copeman. Kaycee Field and Calgary Stampede horse S-65 Shadow Warrior teamed up to win round seven of bareback event at National Finals Rodeo on Wednesday, December 11, 2013)

Kaycee is a two-time defending world champion, gunning for a third championship and to tie the record for three consecutive world titles – a feat hasn’t been done since the mid-1970s. But in the first six rounds of NFR action in Las Vegas, his rides hadn’t been putting him in top spot.

That all changed in round seven when Kaycee drew S-65 Shadow Warrior, a feisty stallion born to many-time CFR and NFR qualifying mare F-51 Fearless Warrior and legendary bareback horse Grated Coconut – the holder of a record six world championship and six Canadian championship titles.

Shadow Warrior has qualified for the Canadian Finals Rodeo three times and this is his first visit to the NFR. He lived up to his champion bloodlines and own reputation as a smart, tough horse on Wednesday night. He burst from the chutes with a powerful and difficult bucking performance. Kaycee was on top of his game as well, and together the pairing scored an 83. That was enough to win the round and put the cowboy back on top of the world standings with three more rounds to go.

Read a bit more about the ride and what it means in Kaycee’s bid for a third consecutive championship in this article.

Grey Cup Gone Green

So, if you keep up with our facebook page (which I am assuming you do if you are reading this blog…if not, get there now), you will note our safe return from the sea of green.  We got to go to the Grey Cup Festival, and I can’t even begin to express how much fun it was.  The province was so green that I almost thought that it was summer time again… Just kidding!  It was almost -30 every day.  But seriously…that province is all about the Roughriders.  I couldn’t turn my head without seeing more green.  Even the lights outside of our hotel were green.

In retrospect, this could be a year round thing with Holiday Inns, but where is the fun in believing that?

In retrospect, this could be a year round thing with Holiday Inns, but where is the fun in believing that?


We went with the Calgary Grey Cup Committee, who have been going every year to the Grey Cup since 1948.  They hosted two different pancake breakfasts this year, serving around 3000 people the first day, and close to 3500 on Friday.  Allowing those pancakes to leave my hands and go not-to-my-mouth was one of the harder things that I have done in my life. (Read on to learn the hardest…)

Me exercising self-restraint.

Me, exercising self-restraint.


We also got to go visit a local elementary school, where I was schooled in dancing by children one fifth of my age.  I choose to think that they were laughing with me.  Speaking of people who schooled me in dancing, Carly put on another flawless performance for the kids, doing a traditional jingle-dress dance.  She also tried to teach me how to do it… we have decided that we are well suited to our roles of dancer and supporter, respectively.

The Grey Cup Committee also continued their tradition of checking a horse into a local hotel.

Yeah, you read that right.

This year the horse took an extra tour through both a bar, and a local BMO branch.  I was able to ride him a bit (read: sit on him while he stood like a statue) in the bank, and I have a feeling that it might be one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ things… Good thing I got a picture.

Definitely something to remember...

Definitely something to remember…


Other things that I got a picture of: me getting screeched in.

While we were traveling the Festival rooms, we went into the Atlantic Schooners room to see what was up… and well, they have this crazy tradition in Newfoundland of being ‘screeched in‘. (FYI: I did not actually drink the screech…the gentleman in front of me was kind enough to offer to drink it for me.  His facial expression really let me know how much he enjoyed it…)

Let me preface this next story: I have this GIANT AND TOTALLY RATIONAL fear of fish.  From minnows to piranhas, I fear them all.  Like, I won’t even go swimming without somebody else because I am so scared of touching them. This phobia is obviously a sign that I am a more highly evolved individual.

We had just been introduced by the host of the room, and were on our way into the crowd when we heard them invite one of us up onto the stage.  I was the closest, so I climbed the stairs not knowing what was about to happen…and that’s when I saw it.  The Fish.  Just staring at me, with that frozen, horrible expression waiting to give me the kiss of death.  I was sixth in line, and with every step forward, I felt his evil fishy-spirit becoming more and more vengeful as he watched his corpse being kissed by strangers… As I knelt down to kiss him, it came to a crux… a drop of frozen fish-juice was headed straight to my knee.  A combination of fear and cat-like reflexes enabled me to avoid The Fish’s last act of evil on this planet, and saved my jeans from irreparable damage.  (Ok, it would have come out in the wash, but whatever.)  Then, I leaned in for the kiss.  Or rather, I leaned back, and that fish came at me like a wrecking ball… the lady holding it was not about to let me fake it, apparently.  The hardest thing that I have ever done was not actually kissing the fish, but repressing the blood-curdling scream and fear-tears that wanted to come after.

This happened...and I died a little.

This happened…and never needs to happen again.


I can honestly say that despite facing my fear, I have not overcome it.  There is no truth to that saying.

Saskatchewan will I forget you?  Not a chance.  Newfoundland, will I ever travel to you without a dozen pictures of my screeching-in?  Not even maybe.

Happy winter,
Princess Steph