Sleigh ride with the Draft Horse Town committee

The Draft Horse Town committee is well known for their creative ways of displaying their draft horses, with inventions such as the Incredi-Pull and The Big Shoe during the 10-day Stampede. So it is no surprise that they did it again! During the past Family Day weekend, the Draft Horse Town committee executive team hosted a sleigh ride at chair David Farran’s farm. Horses and sleighs were trailered in from across Alberta so that employees, friends and family members of the committee could enjoy the draft horses in all their glory.


Sleigh Ride - 1
                    (sisters Nelly and Shelly pulling a sleigh into the snowy wonderland)


This was not an official committee event, but something the executives have put on for the past few years as a way to showcasethe horses and the beautiful outdoors. As an employee of the Calgary Stampede of only one year, this was my first time attending. I was astonished that there were actual sleighs attached to the horses! In one of the sleighs, massive blankets of fur covered the seats to keep the riders toasty and warm.


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Host and chair David Farran described, “Sleigh rides are like a magnet for bringing together friends and family– it was a wonderful opportunity to say thank you to all the staff and volunteers who work so hard to make Stampede the best that it can be,” adding, “there is nothing quite like dashing through the snow in a big, red Santa sleigh – it’s like a childhood dream come true”.


Sleigh Ride - 3                                                            (David behind the reigns)

Sleigh Ride - 6
(guiding the horses can be funner as a team effort)


The event took place on a sunny weekend, right after a chilled-to-the bone kind of week, which made the experience even more magical. And come to think of it, with this sudden change in the weather, perhaps it was Santa’s sleigh after all…


Sleigh Ride - 4

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Sleigh Ride - 5

All photos are credited to Mike O’Connor, current member of the Calgary Stampede board of directors and photography enthusiast.

Seeking Your Best Buds Horse Tales

There’s a reason Budweiser’s Puppy Love ad was the runaway hit of the unofficial advertisement show-down that is the Superbowl. The puppy’s determination to be with his Clydesdale horse friend and his horse buddies rescuing him from being adopted and taken away makes me giggle while tearing up, each and every time I watch it. Budweiser, an official sponsor of the Calgary Stampede, hit the ball out of the park on this one, our Stampede community and fellow horse-lovers agree.

Here at the Stampede, we think we could all use more Best Buds love stories, so we’re asking  folks to share their Best Buds Horse Tales with us. We’re looking for anyone with a story to tell about a unique horse you love, and the unexpected friend it loves. It may be a dog, a goat, a cow or even a duck. We’re hoping to hear more stories that make the heart swell with wonder over the sensitive and social nature of these wonderful animals.

For example, Troy Flad’s chuckwagon race horse Nipper just isn’t himself without his little buddy, Oops, the miniature horse in tow. So Troy ensures Oops and Nipper are together whenever he travels, keeping both of these best buds happy.


If you know of a great story, share it with us at a new page within our My.Calgarystampede website, a site created in the centennial year as a repository for sharing great stories within the community. A Best Buds page has been added, and is waiting for your Best Buds Horse Tales.

Submissions can be emailed to .

Check out the submission guidelines at  or read the stories being submitted at

Looking forward to sharing more Best Buds Horse Love through-out 2014 and beyond.


Farewell to an icon, a leader, a friend – the late Bill Collins

In his 89 years of adventure and exceptional horsemanship, the late Bill Collins covered many miles and acquired a lot of fans and friends, including royalty. The Calgary Stampede honours and remembers this incredible cowboy icon as news of his passing (on New Year’s Eve 2013) spreads through the Stampede family, the equine community and around the world.


First as a rodeo star and later as a legendary cutting horse trainer/judge, Bill made the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1954 as a rodeo competitor, the only time Calgary Stampede rodeo was featured on the international magazine’s cover. Bill has been inducted into the Order of Canada and rodeo and equine halls of fame across North America. He taught cutting horse clinics worldwide and also served as a judge at competitions throughout North America, Australia, Germany, Switzerland and England.

Responsible for bringing the then-emerging sport of cutting horse to the Calgary Stampede in 1973, Bill had already caught the attention of Prince Philip, who invited Bill to bring the sport to England a decade earlier in 1964. This royal/cowboy friendship continued, with the Prince inviting Bill and his wife Pearl to return to England five years ago – more than 40 years after his first visit – to come for tea at the palace for a friendly catch-up.

Beyond cutting horse, Bill was an all-around horseman who also won the Canadian calf-roping championship title four times in the 1950’s, was a chuckwagon outrider for the Ron Glass and Orville Strandquist outfits, and was an accomplished show jumper.

Calgary Stampede September 20, 1954 X 1460 credit:  Hy Peskin - staff

Bill was undisputedly a celebrity within the global equine world, yet those who met him commented on how he not only taught horsemanship, he also taught people about themselves and epitomized the western values and spirit of integrity.

“Bill was as gracious a man as ever walked the earth. He was one in a billion,” recalls Pete Fraser, chairman of the Stampede’s Western Performance Horse committee.  “There was never a hand he wouldn’t shake, or a youngster he wouldn’t be eager to help become a good competitor and good citizen. Whenever Bill would attend an event, everyone – even the most accomplished and famous riders – would visit him and pay him their greatest respect. He had this ‘Ghandi’ effect where people would just want to be near him.”

The Calgary Stampede honours Bill Collins for his more than 40 years of leadership and volunteer service to our organization. He was awarded a lifetime Calgary Stampede membership in 2007, and is the namesake for the Bill Collins Youth Excellence Awards. He served as the chair of the Western Performance Horse and Cutting Horse committee for years. “Even 25 years after he stepped down as chair of the committee, whenever faced with a challenging situation, every chair since Bill always asked ourselves ‘What would Bill do?’,” says Fraser. “He remains our standard of wisdom and the innate ability to do the right thing.”

Some like it hot… Horseshoe competition heats up


Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And where there are horses, there are horse shoes. There are plenty of all of the above at the Calgary Stampede this weekend for the Canadian Horseshoe Championships.

Elite blacksmith horseshoers from across Canada are on Park to compete for the championship title, and to learn a few tips along the way from four-time World Horseshoe Champion Steven Beane from Yorkshire, England.

This Brit packs a mean punch on the anvil, serving up some hot advice for the competitors in his afternoon forge clinic Thursday afternoon, and is sticking around to judge the competition. Competitions are free for the public to attend, heating up Northern Light Arena (southeast corner outside the Saddledome) throughout the day, Friday and Saturday, October 25 and 26.

Check out this CBC feature video story on Steven and the Canadian Horseshoeing Competition. For more details on times, check the website at


This week: Cutting Horse Futurity presented by Wrangler

If you ever wondered what real cowboys are up to, or if you love watching beautiful horses at work, you should come check out the Cutting Horse Futurity presented by Wrangler this week, Wednesday, October 16 to Sunday, October 20, 2013. What, you ask, is Cutting Horse Futurity?

Cowboys of the wild west of yesterday and today depend on great horses to help them separate a cow from the herd.

Open Classic Champion Action (2)

Cows have a herd mentality, and they will do anything to get back in the pack with their buddies. The horse’s instinct, on the other hand, is to keep that cow separated.

Open Derby Reserve Action

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Doing the right thing: steer disqualification

Sometimes our greatest moments come at a time of our greatest challenge, as we saw during the incredible efforts to overcome floods and host an outstanding Stampede 2013. Sometimes our greatest moments come when we are challenged to make the call and do the right thing, as we are now experiencing in relation to the disqualification of a steer from the UFA Steer Classic in 2013.

The Calgary Stampede is committed to doing the right thing for all of our human and animal competitors. We want to run good clean events and our people are charged with ensuring the safety, health and integrity of all those involved in our competitive and programs. In recent years, the Stampede has enhanced its animal policies, protocols and procedures, including drug-testing of all chuckwagon horses and barrel racing horses. This year we decided in advance of the finals to drug-test the top two steers at the UFA Steer Classic competition.

As some may know, the winning steer becomes the property of the Calgary Stampede in order to provide quality beef for a fundraising event later in the season. So you can see why our rules state that competition animals must be free of drug residues and are subject to blood tests.

When the Grand Champion steer blood samples revealed the presence of two separate drugs – Ibuprofen and Flunixin –we made the decision to disqualify. This was a clear, simple and straightforward decision given our rules. The disqualified  steer was returned it to its owners and we promoted the Reserve Champion to the title of Grand Champion. Disqualification was the right thing to do. There is no doubt in my mind and the minds of those involved from the Stampede.

We also did the right thing by the disqualified steer’s owners. We shared the detailed findings of the blood tests with the individuals involved. We agreed to maintain this information in confidence while we continued discussions and while they shared their perspectives and information with the Stampede’s Agricultural Review Panel. This is a serious issue and we respect their reputations as producers, so we maintained confidentiality during this process.

We also respect the reputations and contributions of our volunteers. Dr. Don Miller, Chair of the Steer Committee, has provided outstanding leadership and service throughout this situation, all the while facing  accusations of impropriety and even conflict of interest in media and social forums by those involved with the disqualified steer.

Dr. Miller is a long-time veterinarian and well-respected member of the Alberta agricultural community. There was no conflict of interest when the Stampede requested that the steer be cared for at the farm of Dr. Don Miller pending the results of the drug tests. This had no bearing on the drug test outcome as the blood samples had already been taken. And, there was no conflict of interest involving a competition entry by Dr. Miller’s son, as has been suggested. His son’s steer was entered in a different steer class, not in direct competition with the disqualified steer. The fact is that the Alberta livestock exhibition community is very entwined, with volunteers, judges and entrants often coming from the same families or and ranches.

The Agricultural Review Panel heard all the information available and upheld the disqualification and our actions in this situation. Furthermore, the review confirmed that Dr. Miller’s actions and reputation were beyond reproach, and at no time was there a conflict of interest involving Dr. Miller or members of his family.

Bottom line –our officials, employees and volunteers did the right thing through a challenging situation.

We recognize that doing the right thing may not be popular with everyone – especially affected directly -  but the Calgary Stampede will continue to implement rules and practices that ensure fair and safe animal competitions and we will come down solidly and decisively upon violations. We believe this is what our exhibitors, stakeholders and public would expect of us.

What a Year!!!

I can not believe a year has come and gone. Feels like just yesterday Catherine, Danielle, Amber, and I were crowed the 2013 Royalty. Now the 2014 competition has begun and only a few weeks left of our rein.

Stampede was such an amazing experience, but a well needed break was very nice to have. After a few days off to sleep and unwind we were right back at it with rodeos, events, fundraisers, and tourism conferences. One event we were asked to attend was a Youth Ag-Summit. 120 youth from 20 different countries all gathered in Calgary AB to discuss the topic “Feeding a Hungry Planet.” It was great to see the youth of the wold so excited to discuss farming and ranching and working together to try to solve a problem. With the population of the world growing so rapidly, being able to feed everyone will become a concern. Everyone was so excited to be in Calgary and visit the Stampede Grounds. My Stampede sisters and I had the honor of white hatting everyone at the Summit. They were all thrilled to be given a real cowboy hat!

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Animal Q and A launched on Stampede website

Animals are at the heart of the Calgary Stampede, and have been for its entire 101-year history. Stampede events and programs involve horses, cattle, bulls and other livestock, showcasing how society interacts with animals. A lot has changed in 101 years, both from a livestock handling point of view and the public’s connection with livestock animals.


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4-H Youth Ag-Summit

Monday, August 19 kicked off the inaugural 4-H Youth Ag-Summit in Calgary. The week-long summit welcomed 118 delegates (students ages 19-25) from 20 countries to learn about the challenges of feeding a hungry planet.

On Tuesday, to begin their “Goal Setting” day, they all gathered in the Rotary House on Stampede Park for a classic Calgary Stampede pancake breakfast and White Hat Ceremony. DSCF9427

So what exactly are the challenges these young people are exploring this week? The Youth Ag-Summit website says, “In November 2011, the United Nations declared that the planet’s population surpassed 7 billion people. By 2050, experts predict an additional 2 billion people will need healthy food and nutrition. No one person, company or nation holds the answer but, through discussion and collaboration, and innovation, these young adults know ground-breaking agricultural solutions can be found, acted upon and achieved.”

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Calgary Stampede Previews Alberta Open Farm Days

Alberta Open Farm Days is a two day event taking place on Saturday, August 24 and Sunday, August 25. You can go and check out a myriad of farms throughout the province and see what farm life is like and where your food comes from. There are also culinary experiences you can check out – which match up a chef with a local food producer. How cool is that?! Since the Stampede is dedicated to connecting urban and rural communities, this event hits close to home. Our Videographer Margeaux and I traveled out to Diamond Valley Farm to get a preview of what you might get to see during Open Farm Days.          DSCF8873

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Majestic horses symbolic of Calgary

In the midst of the daily news cycle churning out the day’s bits and bites, words can pass like a blur. Every once in a blue moon I am struck by the power of words to capture and convey the essence of something relatively intangible, and the power of media to share insights.

A recent feature article in the Calgary Herald, written by Mario Toneguzzi, explores the horse as a symbol of our city, as seen through the eyes of an artist and a professional who uses horses in personal therapy. The feature is a thought-provoking and evocative exploration of the majesty, mystery, power, unpredictability and wisdom we see in horses, and the power they have to affect and mesmerize us in their many moods and moments.

Stampede Ranch 177

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The Big Top hosts Mini Chuck races – a must see event at the Calgary Stampede.

 *(this is a guest blog post from on of Next Generation Committee’s Graham McCrimmon)*

I was lucky enough to take part in the Mini Chuck races last night at the Big Top (and even had a chance to drive a team around for a few loops)- was it absolutely incredible.

Think : take all the fun and excitement from regular Chuckwagon races and squeeze it into a smaller, explosive package.  The mini horses may be small in stature, but are big in personality and have only one speed; Turbo.

The drivers had a tough time pulling them to a stop to get the races started and as soon as the horn blew they kicked into action.  Drivers got thrown back as the horses hustled around the barrels in a figure 8 pattern.  Dirt came flying off the wheels, chuckwagons whipped around the corners teetering on two wheels as the two racers would collide into each other racing around the first corner.  Drivers encouraged their team around the track at max speed and the majority of the races were neck in neck.  Be prepared to hold your breath as adrenalin runs high from start to finish.

If you missed last night’s exciting races, make sure you make it a priority to plan your Stampede around this thrilling event for next year- I guarantee you won’t be disapointed.  This has instantly become one of my favourite events during 10-day.

Win A VIP Experience for your family at the Mini Chucks!

Photo Credit: Bill Marsh

Hi Calgary!

Now that we’ve finally got some sunshine, there’s no reason to shy away from Stampede park!

We are looking for a family to join us as we take in the Mini Chuckwagon races at the Big Top Thursday, July 11. Since these guys are a Mini version of the other wagons that will be running that night (for the GMC Rangeland Derby), we’ll need to make sure your family includes some little Buckaroos 6 and under. (They may just have the opportunity to sit on a wagon themselves! ) Don’t let the size of the horses and wagons fool you, this event is just as action packed as the big rigs!

The winning family will be treated to a once in a lifetime unique experience which will include gate entry, a VIP seating section for the Mini Chucks, and most of all- bragging rights as being an ‘advertiser’ to their wagon of choice!

Enter online by commenting on the blog post below, OR follow us on Twitter @CS_NGC and include the hashtag #CSAG101 in your tweet telling us why you think your family has what it takes to be a Chuckwagon advertiser.

We’ll choose our winning family at random by noon tomorrow- you’ll need to be available to meet us at the entry gates of your choice at 6pm tomorrow evening (July 11).

Hope you’re all enjoying #stampede101 and be sure to keep on sharing your own unique experiences with us on Twitter.


Photo Credit: Bill Marsh

Stampede 101 Has Arrived

The wait is over!!!!!! Ever since the crowns were put on our heads we have been counting down the days till Stampede. The volunteers and workers of Stampede have been working overtime to make sure Stampede 101 is the best year ever. It has been amazing to see everyone work together not just at the park but all over Alberta. The community feeling is everywhere. My heart goes out to those who were personally affected and lost all their belongings.

The show must go on and so do our busy schedules. We recently got invited to my home town of Arrowwood to participate in the parade, Arrowwood River Wranglers Horse 4-H Achievement Day, and ended the day off with the Rodeo. It was great to see all those familiar faces and be able to give back a little to the community that raised me.



Danielle, Catherine, Amber and I got to spend Canada Day in the mountains. Even though Canmore was also affected by the flood they still went ahead with the festivities. We attended the Parade and it was great to see all the smiling faces even after a tragedy. We then loaded the horses up and headed to Banff to do parade number two of the day. It was a beautiful day and we loved promoting the Stampede to the people of Canmore and Banff.


We have had some ups and downs but Stampede will always go on and Stampede 101 is no exception. Let’s join together and make this a great year, a year to remember, a year we are greatest together.

So…What is 4-H?

Every year around this time we hear about 4-H on Parade (okay I hear about it and figure there are others who have as well). I may have grown up in a very small, rural Alberta town, but being a “Town-Kid” I didn’t participate in raising a steer (eye brows might have been raised if I tried to keep one in my backyard next to the swing set).  I got to hear about what the fun and excitement of 4-H on Parade, but never really knew what it was all about.

It’s no longer my friends attending 4-H on parade but their children or nieces/nephews. So I have pictures pop up on my social media of their loved ones with their steer, horse or other project that they have been working on diligently for the past year. And I have decided to look at what 4-H stands for and what 4-H on Parade is all about.

For over 100 years the organization has been an integral part of the community in Canada). Here are some tidbits about 4-H:

  1. 4-H stands for Head, Heart, Hands and Health
  2. Although most of us (again I mean me) thought of 4-H as strictly agriculture based. Meaning I must live on a farm and raise a steer to auction off. This is not the case – they have projects spanning a large range of interests including photography, repairing computers, building remote control airplanes, training pets, etc. (Now if only I had realized this in my youth……)
  3. They offer leadership training and opportunities to the community plus scholarships for various post-secondary or other educational opportunities.
  4. Youth conferences throughout Canada and the USA that enable youth to create lasting friendships while learning about politics, citizenship and social issues.
  5. Lastly (but definitely not least) – 4-H of Parade. Youth are able to showcase their projects (steer, engines, computers, etc) for judging and receive accolades for their hard work and dedication. My understanding that there is a pretty popular lip-sync completion and a Tug-of-War competition to go with it.

If you want to see what 4-H on Parade is all about check out the online schedule of events for this weekend or if you want more information on 4-H Clubs in your area check out their website.

My head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
And my health to better living,
For my club, my community, my country and my world