Baby goats, barrel racing and more at Aggie Days

Hey y’all, and happy Spring! You can sure tell it’s springtime when the horses start shedding and you can wake up to the “cheeeeeeeseburger!” call of the chickadee in the morning (I can’t be the only one who thinks that’s what they really say). Another sure sign is Aggie Days! We just finished a full week of spending time with the kids during the week and then the public on the weekend, and, just as I seem to say after every big event, I don’t know how it’ll be topped!

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We’ve been looking forward to this week all year for the extra special reason that it would be our first event where we actually get to ride! Finally! We’ve been working hard all year with our princes, riding at least twice a week and building incredible bonds, and I don’t think it could have gone better. Of course the rehearsal run was a little nerve wracking, not knowing what exactly to expect, but I quickly discovered that my horse, Snoopy was just as excited as I was (if not more) to do his job and he took care of me the entire time. Turns out, O’Canada is his favourite song and he sure can dance to it (who can blame him), and as soon as we were out of the arena, I immediately wanted to turn around and do it again!

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Our amazing horse wrangler, Jessica!

We got to help present awards of $2,500 to two deserving schools for the Aggie Days Art Challenge during the rodeos

We got to help present awards of $2,500 to two deserving schools for the Aggie Days Art Challenge during the rodeos

We even unexpectedly became volunteers to demonstrate the barrel race pattern for the kids, which may have become slightly competitive between the three of us and our stick horses. Princess Bailee did manage to show everything that you were not supposed to do by running the wrong pattern and then knocking over a barrel (we’ll say it was intentional, for educational purposes).

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Every year, the Queens’ Alumni volunteer committee puts on their Giddy Up Aggie Days event: a free breakfast and exclusive access for special needs children. During the event, we got to spend some time hanging out at a photo booth with Darrel, the baby goat. We certainly couldn’t complain about cuddling that furry guy all morning! We then got to spend some time taking in Aggie Days, which was great! There’s so much to see and so many people passionate about what they do within the agriculture community that even the smallest visitors were excited to learn. We ended the weekend by spending Sunday afternoon at the Cowboy Up Challenge, presenting awards, and even getting to shoot the T-shirt gun…such responsibility. If you have never seen the Extreme Cowboy Challenges, I highly suggest taking one in; those horses are braver than I think I could even be!

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Only 87 days until Stampede!

XOXO

Princess Chelsey

Riding high in Houston with the Calgary Stampede

Canadian saddle bronc competitor Clay Elliott wasn’t too sure just how to react after his big Rodeo Houston win on one of the Calgary Stampede’s top horses.

“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” Elliott told local media. “I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with $50,000.”

The Nanton, Alberta cowboy scored the huge paycheck by winning a ride-off in the finals on board Stampede Warrior. It was one of many notable performances by Calgary Stampede horses at the Livestock Show and Rodeo in Houston, Texas. In total, Stampede horses competed 84 times in front of 1.3 million attendees over the course of 21 performances. And they definitely caught the attention of the cowboys and the crowd, as they do year after year.

Stampede Warrior competing at Rodeo Houston in 2014

Stampede Warrior competing at Rodeo Houston in 2014

“They captured an incredible 14 go-round wins and more than $110,000 in prize money in Houston,” says Robert Wise, director of Western Events & Agriculture for the Calgary Stampede. The highest marked ride of the rodeo was given to Austin Foss, who scored 91 points on the Reserve World Champion, Calgary Stampede’s Special Delivery. Continue reading

More than the Money – the Unique Partnership at the Back of the Track

John Walters isn’t easily shaken. A veteran chuckwagon driver, his previous career in rodeo included riding broncs and wrestling steers. But cowboy tough doesn’t always keep the nerves from getting to you. Especially when up on stage at the Calgary Stampede Canvas Auction.

“There are definitely some butterflies in your stomach. It’s nerve-wracking, for sure,” Walters said with a grin, clearly back in his comfort zone after the bidding had ended and he was teamed up with the  Brakeman Foundation for the third year running.

Photo courtesy: Larry Kwan

Photo courtesy: Larry Kwan

The Canvas Auction is a high stakes event. Pegged as a yearly barometer of Calgary’s economy, the money raised also plays a big role in the success of a driver’s entire season. Continue reading

New adventures, new home for Aggie Days!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to kiss a llama? Or how a tiny bee can turn nectar into honey? At Aggie Days the answers, adventures and wonder await! And this year you will be able to find them in the Agrium Western Event Centre.

“The new location means a new way of exploring Aggie Days. As you walk through the Agrium Centre and wander through AltaLink Hall you will find new things to see and do,” says Aggie Days committee member Josh Traptow. “Our Aggie Days team has also been working hard to ensure there are brand new experiences for our visitors, many who join us year after year, but also familiar ones as well.”

Children can get up close and personal with a variety of animals at Aggie Days

Children can get up close and personal with a variety of animals at Aggie Days

Aggie Days is a place of wonder where children can see and learn about where their food comes from, how animals can be hard working helpers and of course, have a lot of fun. From farmers and ranchers, bee keepers to weavers, many different experts will be sharing their love for what they do and just how exactly it all happens. Continue reading

FARM SAFETY DAY – A FREE ONE-DAY EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM SUPPORTED BY ALTALINK

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I’m thrilled to be highlighting an exciting program hosted by the Agriculture department here at the Calgary Stampede. Bridging the gap between urban and rural audiences is an area of focus for the Agriculture team – their mandate is squarely in focus as this free event will create a day of learning aimed at enhancing students’ awareness and understanding of rural and farm safety. Students, teachers and parent chaperones will have access to interactive activities and information stations.

Farm Safety Day supported by AltaLink will be held on Thursday, May 26, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for students in Grades 6 to 9. Located in AltaLink Hall at the  Agrium Western Event Centre, the aim of the program is to have a series of hand-on experiences for the students that will make a lasting impression.

Some activities planned for the day include :

  •  Large equipment safety
  •  Confined spaces and grain safety
  •  Mass force & large animal safety
  •  Chemical handling and hazard assessment
  •  ATV safety and distracted driving
  •  Electrical line safety
  •  Water safety
  •  Fire prevention and first aid

A few days ago I spoke to Kristina Barnes (Communications Manager, Western Events and Agriculture) who noted that various schools around the city have already registered along with participating classes travelling from Strathmore, Arrowwood, Three Hills and Claresholm. They’re just shy of meeting full registration for the event so if you are hoping to participate, don’t delay in filling out the registration form - due prior to March 31, 2016.

HOW TO REGISTER: Interested teachers must pre-register by completing and returning the registration form available online. The registration form can be scanned and emailed to agriculture@calgarystampede.com or faxed to 403.262.3067. Please note that funding is available to assist with bussing costs.

I am looking forward to seeing the success of this program and of course for more exciting Agricultural programming as we count down the days to 10-day Calgary Stampede 2016!

 

On the go with Goose

Known simply as Goose, he’s a man with classic cowboy looks and an immense love of horses.

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For the past 24 years, Ken ‘Goose’ Rehill has been travelling North America with the Calgary Stampede’s bucking horses. From Houston to Hermiston, Armstrong to Ellensburg; where they go, he goes.

“I travel a lot of miles and see a lot of country. I really enjoy it. I enjoy the contractors, the committee people. They’re like family, welcoming you into their home,” he says.  But while life on the road seems to suit Goose to a T, as the Stampede’s livestock coordinator he makes his travelling companions the number one priority. The goal is always to keep the horses comfortable, happy and relaxed.

“Wherever we I go, I have it stepped out where we stop. They are athletes. You try to do your best so they perform their best.”

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At home on the Stampede Ranch, more than 600 horses live in a beautiful natural environment spread out over 23,000 acres. On the road, Goose always attempts to find them a place to stay as much like home as possible. Describing this spring’s stop in San Antonio, he says “It’s a big, beautiful 120 acre piece of land with grassy nine acre pens,” adding “the horses just enjoy their time in such a quiet relaxing place.” In any given year as many as 200 Calgary Stampede horses will travel the amateur and professional rodeo circuits from January to December.

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Travelling with dozens of horses involves much more than a good place to stay and a truck full of gas. Crossing the border requires each of the horses to have proper paperwork indicating up-to-date medical records. If the intention is to stay more than 30 days, each horse also needs to be individually vet checked at the border. If a horse needs medical attention, Goose has a list of veterinarians on the road.  Their regular care provider at home, Dr. Greg Evans, can also be consulted by phone.

Time on the truck must also be taken into consideration, with the amount of driving time limited.

“They handle it pretty well,” says Goose, adding “you treat the horses just like you’d treat your kids. And just like travelling with small children, frequent stops are required. The horses will not urinate when the truck is in motion. To keep them comfortable and prevent what could become a potentially serious medical condition, a 15 – 20 minute stop is required every two hours or so.

Goose chuckles, “I need that stop too, and it gives me a chance to get a refill on my coffee.”

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Wary of strangers, the Calgary Stampede’s top bucking horses have grown to trust their long-time caregiver. And Goose says he can’t imagine living a different life, without the animals he has come to love.

“We have a good relationship. Some keep their distance, but some of them are my buddy. They come over and just start rubbing on my shoulder, so I scratch and pet them. I really enjoy being around the horses, they’re like my extended family.”

Right now Goose is with 46 of the Stampede’s top horses in the United States as they compete on a circuit that began in Denver in January. They’re now settled in their home-away-from-home in Houston, ready to show rodeo fans there just why they are considered among the best bucking horses in the world.

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25 Years of Preserving Agricultural Heritage

For 25 years the Calgary Stampede Farm Equipment committee has been preserving our agricultural heritage for young and old by bringing vintage tractors and equipment back to life and showcasing them to the public during Stampede.

The 25th annual Vintage Tractor Pull, presented by Cervus Equipment, takes place on Sunday, July 5 at 7 p.m. and Monday, July 6 at 5:30 p.m. The event is organized by the Calgary Stampede Farm Equipment committee.

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The 25th anniversary of the Vintage Tractor Pull will feature 25 competitors from across Alberta with each one hoping to claim first in their class. There are six different weight classes – featherweight followed by Class #1 through #5, beginning at 1,000 lbs up to 9,999 lbs. The winner of each class is determined based on the highest aggregate pull over the two days.

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Draft Horse Training Camp: What does it take to get a six horse hitch ready for the Calgary Stampede

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2015 Calgary Stampede World Champion Six Horse Hitch

Photo: J Ann Brodland

From Cross Fit to Zumba, the next big fitness trend is always evolving.  However, competitive athletes rarely dabble into the trends and follow a strict regimented plan of consistent training and diet.  Not much is different for the six heavy horses in a six horse hitch.

Brian Coleman of Eaglesfield Percheron’s from Didsbury Alberta, who with was the teamster behind the lines of the 2014 Calgary Stampede World Champion Six Horse Hitch explained what it takes to get a six horse hitch ready for the Calgary Stampede.

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Learn to do by doing!

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The 4-H on Parade, presented by Cervus Equipment wrapped up today with showings by many impressive Albertan youths.

Stampede Park was particularly busy this week with the wave of high school graduations (congratulations, class of 2015!) and various conferences, however, this didn’t stop us from also cheering on enthusiastic 4-H members as they shared their final projects.

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The Calgary Stampede’s Agricultural mission is to create meaningful year-round experiences for urban and rural audiences on Stampede Park by producing/hosting signature programs that feature animals, showcases, and western events–naturally, we are thrilled to host Canada’s largest gathering of 4-H clubs and members each year! Continue reading

Highlights from 2015 Aggie Days

Thousands of city-slickers got a chance to learn more about agriculture, farming and rural life at Calgary Stampede’s annual Aggie Days. This beloved event embodies the Stampede’s initiatives to connect the urban and rural– Aggie Days is a unique opportunity for urban communities to learn about about how and where their food is made, as well as what producers actually do on the farm.

Guests were invited to submit questions and write about their thoughts on agriculture in Alberta

Guests were invited to submit questions and write about their thoughts on agriculture in Alberta

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2015 Giddy Up Aggie Days

Each year, the Queens’ Alumni committee and Agriculture Education committee team up to host Giddy Up Aggie Days, a free event for special needs children and their families.

2015 Giddy Up Aggie Days

The 2015 Giddy Up Aggie Days breakfast kicked off bright and early at 7:30 a.m. in the Stampede Corral — past Calgary Stampede queens and volunteers from Maxim Power Corp. worked hard to feed more than 700 registered families and their caregivers.

2015 Giddy Up Aggie Days volunteers from Maxium Power Corp.

2015 Giddy Up Aggie Days volunteers from Maxium Power Corp. busy serving up pancakes to our guests.

We saw a lot of happy faces munching on pancakes as notable guests, such as the Stampede Queen and Princesses, past Indian Princesses and several rodeo queens, mixed and mingled through the crowds.

2015 Giddy Up Aggie Days

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Aggie Days and Dairy Cattle accommodate special needs children

The 30th anniversary of Aggie Days has me reflecting on how much the Agriculture Education committee has accomplished throughout the years. I’d like to share a few of my top memories with you today.

First, let me introduce myself. I have been involved with Aggie Days almost from the very beginning. Although not actually on the Agriculture Education (Aggie Days) committee at the time, I was involved with the Dairy Committee and Aggie Days shared the barn with the Dairy Show. So in 1986, during the first Aggie Days, I helped bring in Jersey calves for the school program. I joined the Aggie Days committee shortly after that. I have been doing the cow milking demonstrations for many years with the help of my whole family.

One of my favorite memories of Aggie Days was when we invited Paul Brandt to come and sing for the special needs children as their lunch time entertainment. My daughter Danielle, who was 10 or 11 at the time, wrote him a letter asking him to come to Aggie Days as he was going to be in Calgary for a CBC televised concert in the Saddledome. She mentioned how much her younger brother Jeff loved dancing to his songs and that Jeff was developmentally handicapped and would be at Aggie Days. Paul’s manager contacted us and said that Paul would try to come and sing. Paul did come and sing for the kids in the Victoria Pavilion and the kids danced and clapped along. Paul also took some extra time to meet Jeff and Danielle and gave us tickets to his concert. It was truly a memorable experience!

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Children at Giddy-Up Aggie Days getting to know the dairy cattle inside the pen.

One of the best accomplishments with Aggie Days was getting special needs schools their own time at Aggie Days. My son Jeff attended a school program for special needs children and we invited them to come to Aggie Days. The handibus dropped the kids off at the barns about 45 minutes before the regular school buses arrived. Our exhibitors welcomed the wheelchairs into the pens with the animals, which let the kids come up close to touch, see and smell. Everyone really enjoyed the extra special time they spent showing these kids their exhibits and animals without a crowd. It was decided the following year to have Aggie Days Wednesday morning dedicated to the special needs schools and children. Now the Queens’ Alumni Giddy-Up Aggie Days for special needs children and their families is held on the Saturday of Aggie Days.

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My daughter, Danielle, introducing one of our Jersey cows to the kids during Giddy-Up Aggie Days.

Out of the cows that we brought to Aggie Days, one particularly memorable one was Bluebell the Jersey cow, who attended for at least 10 years. Bluebell was brown, with a few black highlights, but her most distinctive feature was a white heart on her face. She absolutely loved people she would have. Most of the time Bluebell’s pen would be open so the kids could go in and pat her. Quite often you would see her laying down, happily chewing her cud and surrounded by kids. Some would have their ear to her stomach listening for her baby, some would be laying on her and some would be hugging her.

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My daughter, Danielle, opening the pen so children in wheelchairs can touch, smell and feel the dairy cattle up close.

We would also take kids in wheel chairs in to see Bluebell and she was very still and patient so the kids were able to touch her.  She loved every minute of it. Every year in the barns, we would unload her and she would walk right into her pen. In the mornings she would be watching the entrance to the barns from the Victoria Pavilion, because that is where the kids came in. At home she would come to the gate of the corral when she saw the trailer that she rode in, and walk in without hesitation. Bluebell also came to Country Critters at Stampede time as part of Ag-tivity in the City for many years. She was such a special cow that kids would come back to visit her year after year. Bluebell’s legacy lives on as Bluebell, the hand milking cow, was named after her, (even though the plastic Bluebell is a Holstein).

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Bluebell, the plastic handmilking cow used for interactive learning displays. (Named after Bluebell the loveable Jersey cow.)

People of all ages should come to Aggie Days every year because the animals change from year to year, there are always a few new displays, and everyone can learn something each and every year. It is extremely important that everyone understands where their food comes from. Over the years, I have had people with young children come to Aggie Days and tell me that they watched me milk the cows when they were in school and now they are bringing their children to see it. It makes me feel old but proud that I have had such a part in teaching people about agriculture and specifically dairy cattle.

Aggie Days is open to the public on April 11-12 and takes place in the BMO Centre, Stampede Park.

Horsemanship at the heart of Aggie Days Extreme Cowboy Race

The Calgary Stampede is excited to be hosting an Aggie Days Extreme Cowboy Race on Sunday, April 12.  The race, which is a multi-faceted equestrian sporting event that showcases both horse and rider as they maneuver through a series of obstacles, shows amazing horsemanship and incredible speed. The event coincides with Aggie Days, an exhibit-style event geared to help youth learn about agriculture.

David Cowley, an extreme cowboy competitor, is eagerly waiting for this spring’s competition. “[The race] is a lot of fun,” he says, “and having a competition that focuses on the trust and relationship between horse and rider is great.” His first extreme cowboy race was in 2010 during Stampede time at the Cowboy Up Challenge and he has been a competitor in the Aggie Days Extreme Cowboy Race since last year.

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Cowley adding a little extra flair to the competition by standing on his horse to rope the dummy at last year’s Cowboy Up Challenge during Stampede time

Cowley is well-known in Calgary for bringing his horse to the top of the Calgary Tower during Stampede time. “There’s nothing better than seeing peoples’ faces when I walk out of the elevator at the top with my horse,” he says with a laugh. Cowley has trained and taken six different horses up the tower over the past 15 years. This year, he will be bringing Tucker, a palomino quarter horse. Cowley appreciates the opportunity to promote the Stampede and western hospitality. “People don’t often understand how strong the bond can be between horse and rider,” Cowley says.

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Cowley crouching on the glass floor at the top of the Calgary Tower with his horse Tucker

Training a horse to feel confident and comfortable enough to ride the elevator all the way up the Calgary Tower, then walk around and take photos with guests, is a big task and requires a strong bond between horse and rider. Cowley loves strengthening this bond and is thrilled to participate in a competition that focuses on this trust.

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Aggie Days then and now

Aggie Days, taking place from April 8 – 12 at Stampede Park, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. This educational program, which features displays, exhibits, animals and more, has grown significantly over the years.

In 1986, the first Aggie Days program was created for school children to experience agriculture up-close and learn where their food comes from. Aggie Days took place in a small part of the Agriculture Barns and featured a few exhibits and animals, mainly dairy cattle. The school classes were accompanied by a tour guide that took them through the exhibits, through the show cattle at the dairy classic, and made sure the students arrives at their scheduled demos on time.

In the years following, the Aggie Days team added to the animal experience by providing sheep shearing, cow milking demonstrations and wagon rides pulled by heavy horse teams. The experience of what life is like on a farm was beginning to round out. All of the demonstrations showcased the importance of agriculture and the various types of agricultural roles that shape our world.

Aggie Days’ success thrived; the classes returned, year after year, and the committee was eager to exceed their expectations. The interest youth had in agriculture was a driving force to heighten their Aggie Days experiences; even more exhibits were added. Cattle presentations, rope making demonstrations, butter making, wheat grinding and bread making were new highlights of Aggie Days. At this time, Aggie Days grew to occupy half of the Agriculture Barns and expanded into the Victoria Pavilion, which was used for the cow milking and sheep shearing demonstrations, and the noon hour entertainment.

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Aggie Days dairy exhibit in the Agriculture Barns 1993

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