Dot & Dolly on hanging around Draft Horse Town and tipping the scales

Making new friends every day.

Learning to make horseshoes.

I love those Calgary Fiddlers.

It’s been a great time at the Stampede, but yesterday was one of the most exciting. Dot and I had the day off and hung around the centre of Draft Horse Town, just visiting with people. We got to watch roadbuilding demonstrations; my pals pulling the firefighter’s pumper wagon; and wagon wheel building by the wheelrights – all really interesting – usually we don’t see what we pull because it’s behind us. I have a new appreciation for the technology which goes into making it easier for us to pull. It was a really hot day, but I was thankful to be out amongst the action.

The heavy horse “Pull” teams arrived today. I thought the show hitch horses were impressive, but these guys are unbelievable. Some of them weigh 2500 lbs each and they train for hours every day. Each team had to weigh in so they could be put into light, medium or heavyweight categories. Dot and I thought it would be fun to see how fit we were, so we stepped on the scale too. Dot weighed in at 1704 lbs and, as usual, I topped the charts at 1938 lbs – pretty much the same as I was before I started training. It doesn’t seem to matter what I do – it’s clear that fat weighs more than muscle!!

We are looking forward to watching the pulling competitions over the next few nights. Each night at 7:00 pm, the pullers compete in the Big Top tent. Dot and I won’t get to actually watch (something about not having big enough seats for us), but we will hang out with the pullers in the barn after the competition. From what I know, it is a ‘must see’ event.

In the meantime, come down and see us in Draft Horse Town, where we have regular demonstrations with military equipment, roadbuilding, farm equipment, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, firefighting and all kinds of fun events including live music and a cowboy poet. Dot and I will be waiting to see you. Check out these videos – making ice cream and that’s me getting a foot massage – from our new friends at the Calgary Sun.

Dot & Dolly brave the rain and look forward to better weather

Is that Tug or Tess? I can never tell.

There is nothing like a little rain to put a damper on festivities, but we still kept active at Draft Horse Town yesterday. We did some demonstrations in the pouring rain, but our human audience was maybe a little less enthusiastic than we were. For Dot and I, a few drops of moisture are refreshing, but it’s been amusing to watch all these humans with their layered raincoats, slickers and umbrellas – thank goodness we weren’t born hairless like those sad creatures!

We moved rooms yesterday, as some of the big “hitch” horses moved off the grounds, making ready for the arrival of the Heavy Horse Pull competitors. The pullers arrive today and will be active all the way through to the end of Stampede. Watching a Heavy Horse Pull is an amazing experience. The strength of the teams is hard for us farm teams to imagine – can you tell that I’m a fan? Last year, teams were pulling weights of over 12,000 lbs in the Big Top tent – a 3 to 1 weight ratio. Our new rooms are right in the Agriculture building, so we’re a little closer to the action. For Dot, she’s already eyeing up some of the muscular new ‘studs’ arriving in the Draft Horse Town Athletes Village.

I'm pretty sure this is Licorice from the Bar U Ranch.

I am awaiting big news this afternoon as Dot and I will be amongst all the Pulling teams at the weigh scale. They get classed into pulling categories (light, medium or heavyweight) by stepping on the scale. For me, I’m anxious to see if all this Draft Horse Town activity has finally helped me lose weight. I feel slimmer, but it’s still a struggle for me – I’m just big boned.

In the meantime, we have some new features arriving at Draft Horse Town. For Kid’s Day today we’ve got a mom & tot (a Clydesdale mare and foal) beside the Town Office. Tomorrow afternoon we’ll be offering free photos of your visit to Draft Horse Town. There will also be guest visits from the Calgary Fiddlers, even a cowboy poet; plus ongoing demonstrations of all that great equipment, including the amazing pump wagon brought by the Calgary Firefighters Museum.

Tug & Tess pose on top of an "elevating grader" that built some of Alberta's roads.

See you down here!

Dot & Dolly settle into their routines in Draft Horse Town

We woke up this morning completely refreshed and ready for another exciting day at the Stampede. Every day that goes by I see or learn something new down here. Last night, I had a dream about our experience of mistakenly joining the Antique Tractors on parade as they went to their event. Dot and I were headed down to Draft Horse Town ready for the day’s work, when we fell in with a bunch of tractors snorting and puffing blue smoke. I remember my Dad talking about how tractors were responsible for the huge unemployment numbers in Draft Horses in the ‘30’s and 40’s, but I figure it’s time to make friends and move on. That’s one thing about us Belgians, we never hold a grudge.

Local teamster expertise and lots of "learn as you go" action make everyday in Draft Horse Town exciting

I really feel like I am starting to get good at moving the equipment around Draft Horse Town. We did some more demonstrations in the Town Centre and the crowds cheered us on. I got to see some of the big six-horse hitches getting ready for the Heavy Horse Show competition and Dot was exchanging glances with a big, handsome Clydesdale. I can tell you that Dot’s constant flirting at the Athletes Village is sometimes tiresome, but she can’t help herself.

We had some really interesting things happening today with Bar U Ranch and some of the other exhibitors. Bar U has brought some beautiful gray Percherons and people are invited to come down and meet them – they aren’t shy and they love to have their noses petted. Bar U Ranch, once owned by one of the Big 4 founders of the Stampede (George Lane), was instrumental in saving the Percheron breed in Europe after the first world war. Many of the world’s Percherons are descended from Bar U horses and it’s a very proud part of Alberta’s equine history. Dot and I are both Belgians, but we have a real soft spot for those French Percheron horses and their fancy-schmancy accents (a la neigh)! You can visit Bar U Ranch about 45 minutes south of Calgary – it’s a National Park and is open all summer.

Please come and see us at the Stampede – every day we have more and more exciting exhibits and demonstrations at Draft Horse Town!

Dot & Dolly are earning their keep in Draft Horse Town

What an amazing couple of days! When Dot and I first arrived it was sensory overload. We had to pull equipment through crowds of thousands, and when they clapped I’m sure I saw Dot blush. I got real nervous when I had to walk over these scary things called road grates. To me, they looked like holes I’d put my foot in, but I was told by another team that they were completely safe.

While I was fussing about road grates, Dot was coping with the effects of a sleepless night. At about 11:00 every night it sounds like artillery fire everywhere.  Somebody called them fireworks, but I couldn’t see fire. All we heard was the noise! Anyway, afterwards I got used to it and Dot was a little bleary eyed but didn’t complain. The good thing is that all the food is delivered by room service, so once the day’s work is done we can just relax with a cool bucket of water and a flake of nature’s finest hay.

Today we pulled an old roadbuilding bucket called a “twitter bug” or also known by its nickname, “the man killer”. When my ancestors used them to build the Trans-Canada highway, these buckets could flip and cause serious injury to the operators. Luckily, we’re up ahead – out of danger!

Dot and I had most of the afternoon off, while Shellie and Nellie were making ice cream on the treadmill. It sounds like it was a huge hit and they served ice cream samples to Draft Horse Town visitors.

Well, it’s time to sign off! Enjoy the photos. Make sure you come and visit us at Draft Horse Town real soon!!!

Dot & Dolly arrive in Draft Horse Town

New friends meeting new friends in Draft Horse Town

Well, it’s that time – parade morning and the Stampede has arrived.  Dot and I have eagerly awaited the start of the ‘Big’ event and we are as ready as we can be.  Amongst great fanfare, we arrived on the grounds today in a limousine that is standing room only. We have reserved rooms right on the grounds where we will be served only the finest of hay and crystal clear Calgary city water. They treat us athletes like royalty. As usual, Dot gets the looks, but the paparazzi love me for my personality.

Today we have been asked to demonstrate some of the equipment on the grounds. We’ll be testing our strength against some road and farm equipment in the Draft Horse Town centre. Our role doesn’t really start until a little later, so we will have a chance to watch the draft show hitches get ready in all their finery. While I’m proud of our own work, those eight horse hitches are show stealers! Wow! Those high steppin’ beauties with their polished toenails and leather harness are a sight to behold. Dot says I’m jealous but truthfully I think she wants to get hitched (if you know what I mean).

A visit to the Firehall circa 1908

Dot and I were shown some of the exhibits we’ll be working with before we headed to our accommodation for the night. There is a shoemaker display called a Blacksmith’s shop; a military display commemorating some of my artillery pulling ancestors; a wagon wheelwright group who make the stuff we pull; lots of equipment like stagecoaches, wagons and carriages; and some crazy big roadbuilding equipment. I think I’d have to bulk up a bit to pull some of it. On Monday and all during the rest of the Stampede, I’ll be asked to do some treadmill work which drives an ice cream maker for the kids. It’s perfect because it is the same kind of routine I should have been doing at the gym before I came, but we’ll have trainers who can make sure I’m getting the right muscle groups. All the money we generate will go to charity. Apparently, some “little” horse (guest-blogger Chinook) was using it last week, but no one has any hopes that a light horse can really be of use in a place like Draft Horse Town – home of the equine giants.

Watch where you step: Follow the green horses to Town Centre

So come on down and visit us in the athletes village at Draft Horse Town - I can’t contain my own excitement. I love to see visitors, although sometimes I am speechless when I see them, so don’t be offended if I don’t actually talk to you. Call it my pre-event jitters, but I just go all mum. Let me tell you one thing though – this Stampede stuff at Draft Horse Town is even better than I expected. I’ll be taking home a lifetime of memories and, if you visit, you will too!

Dot & Dolly are in the mountains; but Chinook has a new trick

Media interviews in Draft Horse Town

Dot and Dolly went on a little pre-Stampede vacation and pack trip to the mountains with Bob and his family. So guess who got to go to the Draft Horse Town Media Day event – Hi, my name is Chinook.

More about Media Day in a minute. First a bit about me. I’m a 15 year-old Standardbred – NOT a draft horse. They (Bob, mostly) say that I have a wee bit of an attitude problem, but really I’m just highly misunderstood. You see I live with a bunch of draft horses that, well quite frankly, take up a lot of space. I’ve just got to make sure I hold my own with these “heavies”.

Next thing you need to know about me is that I can’t stand still. I’ve always got to be moving. Bob figured he could put some of my “nervous energy” to good use by having me step-up onto a horse treadmill – that happens to be attached to an ice cream maker. To my amazement, it worked! I just walk along (it’s sort of weird that I don’t really go anywhere) and about 45 minutes later everyone around me is snacking on ice cream (whatever that is). It seems to make them happy and it works for me too.

That's me, Chinook, above the crowd

I’m told that Dot & Dolly will be the “official” ice cream draft horses during Stampede. Of course there is some discussion of whether their rather large posteriors will actually fit on the treadmill (Did I say that out loud?). In the meantime I’ll just enjoy my moment in the sun and the glare of the media spotlight. Oh right, the media. That’s what I was supposed to talk about.

Okay, some of Calgary’s media folks came to Draft Horse Town, took a wagon ride, shot some video around the town centre and interviewed one of the Bobs (Dale Befus, like he’s supposed to be someone important) and some of the other Draft Horse Town folk. It was a big event on a great sunny morning, I MADE SOME ICE CREAM, and it was over almost as soon as it started.

As for Draft Horse Town – with just a few days left, things are really taking shape. All the roadbuilder and construction equipment is being moved in and shuffled around, exhibitors are starting to show up, and lots of flags and banners are being put up all over Draft Horse Town – yes that is a giant picture of Dot & Dolly on the front of the Heavy Horse Barn. The “show-offs”.

Dot and Dolly head to training camp

Last weekend, I attended a fitness workshop near Lyalta. It was supposed to be a lot of fun, as Dot, my teammate, and a number of other teams were taught how to use a lot of the equipment we’ll have at the Calgary Stampede. Everybody at home was mad that Dot and I are leaving, and they are quite vocal about it. If they weren’t so pathetic and small, they might have a place at Draft Horse Town too, but that is a whole other story. I was as excited about having a sleepover as I was about meeting some of the other competitors and athletes. Our farm manager, driver and foster parent – we’ll call him Bob, trailer-ed us to Lyalta and helped us to get ready for the first day’s events.

Dot and Dolly in training

Dot and Dolly doing some roadwork with Bob and Bob

Bob got us ready and we had an outside trainer – we’ll call him Bob too, inspect our harness to make sure our equipment was set up right. Then the day started. I was so excited, I couldn’t stop prancing up and down. All I wanted to do was run. Pretty soon, though I regretted my ‘race day’ planning because I succumbed to exhaustion. If I had only paced myself better, I wouldn’t have hit the wall later in the day. I always find the first 10 minutes of exercise the hardest, but I did ‘hit my groove’ later. Dot was worse than me. She started out fast and really pushed me psychologically. She never says anything, but I know when she is ready to really move. Then she just stopped and didn’t want to go. When we don’t work as a team its really frustrating and I ended up doing a lot of the work. Bob had quite a talk with us both during and after the session, trying to motivate us to work together and just keep moving. He was right, but I was too tired to listen.

The next morning, I was feeling good but a little stiff. But no rest for us, we got back at it. Amazingly, I had more energy than the previous day. I think I was actually getting fit! We went around and around the field. This time we walked, but we were pulling a lot of weight behind us. We kept in unison and it was soooo much easier! Bob saw it too and kept praising us for doing it right. I really felt like we were doing it perfectly and I know Dot did too.

Dot and Dolly’s First Blog Post

Hi. My name is Dolly and I’m in training for the upcoming 2010 Stampede. I would like to share some of my thoughts, dreams and aspirations over the next few weeks as we get closer to the big event. We don’t get paid for our role at Draft Horse Town, but do we get free room and board. That way we can maintain our amateur status and we don’t just get pigeon-holed into one event. Draft Horse Town will bring in about 250 of my colleagues for one of the biggest “draft” gatherings since the turn of the century.

Dot and DollyMy team mate is Dot and we have been working together for most of our adult lives. We know how each other thinks; I finish her sentences; and it is just amazing how well we work together. We even look alike – both of us are in the “large” category and have long blonde hair. I am a little more of a free thinker and Dot is the disciplined one, but we both get the job done. Personality wise, I am very shy and image conscious, while Dot is the friendly one who is always the first to greet people. Dot drives me crazy – she can eat as much as she wants, but never seems to gain weight. She is large boned, but just seems to carry herself so well. I am well liked; she is just downright popular. I have secret fits of jealousy, but the truth is … I don’t think I could get on without her.

My background is quite simple. I am of Belgian ancestry and I live with 6 friends, including my team mate Dot, on a farm just south of Calgary. Like many athletes, I try to train year round, but the weather is a significant factor for me. I struggle with my weight and, despite being a vegetarian, I cannot seem to overcome a genetic pre-disposition towards the ‘buxom’ side. Nevertheless, I am now regularly working out and expect to quickly transform myself into a picture of muscular health. A little under three weeks to go.

I’ll be blogging throughout this year’s Stampede and hanging out in Draft Horse Town from time to time. Autographs anyone?