7 Things Musicians (and everyone else) Should Know About Being Around Horses

Since 1985, the Calgary Stampede Showriders have been accompanying the Stampede Showband in parades as a mounted colour guard made up of 12 young riders and their horses. This pairing of horses and marching musicians is unusual and a lot of prep work goes into making sure that the horses are comfortable with the band.

Every year, the Showband and Showriders rehearse together to help desensitize the horses to the craziness of parades, and teach the Showband how to act around horses. It’s a great opportunity for the mostly city-dwelling band members to learn more about agriculture and animal care, especially since the Showband spends a lot of time around animals during the 10-day Calgary Stampede. Here’s a peek at what they learned from the Showriders this year!

Showrider Hannah Braun, 15 years old, and her horse Tokahee teach a group of Showband members about performing around horses.

Showrider Hannah Braun and her horse Tokahee giving a group of Showband members tips for being around horses.

 1. Don’t run through the barns

You don’t want to turn a corner and run into or startle a horse. Don’t jump for the same reason.

2. Use your inside voice

Shouting and screaming can upset horses. Horses are reactive and pick up on the energy of other people an animals around them.

3. Stay a horse length away from a horse’s back-end

That way, even if the horse kicks out, you’ll avoid getting kicked.

Showband member Cassie Groves got to bond with Tohakee, petting the horse from the side so as not to startle the horse.

Showband member Cassie Groves pets Tokahee from the side so that she doesn’t startle the horse.

 4. Ask permission before approaching horses or offering them treats

Sometimes, like with the Showrider “Stand and Pat” events, it’s obvious that you’re welcome to approach a horse. If you’re walking through the barns or see a horse on its own, ask the owner if it’s okay to pet the horse. This is the best way to avoid getting bitten!

5. Approach horses from the side

Horses have blind spots directly in front and behind them. A horse can see you best if you approach from the side and pet their shoulders and back. Plus, if you approach a horse head-on and try to pet its face, it might think your fingers are treats – yikes!

6. Never play instruments while you’re walking through the barns

Sudden movements and unexpected loud noises can startle horses and they might react to the sight of shiny instruments and noise from musical instruments more than you’d expect.

 7. Ask questions

The Showriders love to answer questions about their horses. They spend a lot of time caring for their horses to keep them healthy and happy and are eager to share what they know with others, especially if it helps to keep their horses and others safe.

 

Labor Day Classic for Stampede Horses in Ellensburg

It may have been the Labor Day long weekend, but for the Calgary Stampede’s stock and crew it was business as usual out on the rodeo trail. The first stop of the weekend was the Armstrong Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede. I joined Barry McGrath, Catherine Laycraft, Tyler Kraft and the rest of our Calgary Stampede help to produce one of the top rodeos in Canada. The crowds were outstanding for each of the five nightly performances of rodeo, and the Calgary Stampede’s stock gave them a lot to cheer about.

This year’s Calgary Stampede Champion Bareback Rider, Clint Laye, matched up with a young horse named Wanaka Rocket for an 87.25 score and the win in the bareback riding. This win helps secure Clint’s chances at qualifying for his first National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

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Quarter horsing around at Horse Haven

The Calgary Stampede is proud to once again partner with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA)! The AQHA has impacted the lives of horsemen and women around the world–ensuring the unique qualities of this breed does not parish. The AQHA strives to provide beneficial services to both their members and their American Quarter horses.

If you’ve been to Stampede Park during Stampede time, you may have seen the AQHA booth in Horse Haven in the Agricultural Barns!

Pictured: Working Cow Horse Classic Open Bridle Champion 2014– Maximum Echo, ridden by John Swales, owned by Flo Houlton

Pictured: Working Cow Horse Classic Open Bridle Champion 2014– Maximum Echo, ridden by John Swales, owned by Flo Houlton

AQHA members are passionate about the care of the American Quarter Horse and the vast lifestyle created by the world’s most popular horse. The Stampede shares this passion for horses by presenting exceptional equine experiences year-round and during the Greatest Outdoor Show in July.

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Aggie Days Action

Over the past five months your Royal Trio (with an unbelievable amount of support and guidance from our equine sub-committee) has been working hard to get our royal steeds in tip-top shape.  We’ve been out at Heathercrest Ranch numerous times a week to exercise and to really get to know our “Princes” before we begin a summer full of rodeos and parades, including Stampede!

All of our hard work was put to the test not too long ago at Aggie Days, which is a five day agricultural fair for kids at Stampede Park.  Princesses Shannon and Stephanie and I participated in the beginning of the rodeo for the grand entry,  then returned after taking care of our horses to enjoy the remainder of the show and sign some postcards.

(l-r) Princess Stephanie and Snoopy, Hawk and myself, and Princess Shannon and Kansas

(l-r) Princess Stephanie and Snoopy, Hawk and myself, and Princess Shannon and Kansas

Even though I’ve been on horses my whole life and often feel more comfortable on them than on my own two feet, it was quite nerve-racking waiting behind the chutes to enter the arena.  I had been waiting for that moment since the day of the crowning back in September: my first grand entry.  I can’t really recall my name being announced, but I didn’t have to worry about missing my cue; the second the gate in front of us opened, my trusty steed Hawk was off like a shot.


[Video] Caption: Hawk and I; and one of our first grand entries!

Due to all my worrying and nerves beforehand I forgot one simple fact: while I was very new to this whole grand entry thing, my horse was an old pro.  After we galloped around the arena and made our way to our position for the national anthem (in front of 3000 screaming and cheering kids!) I had a little time to think and relax.  I realized that the past few months of riding practice (and likely the numerous horse cookies gifted to him by me) had created a bond between Hawk and I, and I knew that if I ever had a little panic attack again, my horse would take care of me.

 

                                   Hawk and I post grand entry

 

Aggie Days has been one of my (many) highlights for this year, and the mini celebration of farm life, in addition to our first grand entry, has gotten me so excited for Stampede.  I can’t believe it’s only two months and twelve days away… not that I’m counting or anything.

QD

Check out the traditional techniques and athletic competitors under the Big Top

Ranchers have traditionally used horses to herd and care for their cattle and the Calgary Stampede Cutting Horse Competition celebrates that rich history, which originated in the southern US.

The skills are still in use today on some ranches, and the competition dates back to the early days when bragging rights on the best horse, and even their bloodlines, were at stake. I am sure wagers were made about which horse performed the best, and this tradition has evolved into the high stakes competition we have today where over $50,000 can be won by youth, non pro and open competitors.

After a discussion with my friend Christine Sowiak, chair of the Western Performance Horse committee, I gained a far greater appreciation for the history of the Calgary Stampede Working Cow Horse Classic.

Celebrating the athleticism of the horse, this competition has roots in the horse training traditions of the California vaqueros, as far back as the 1700s. The competition includes a reined work pattern, where the horse maneuvers through a series of maneuvers including figure eights, straight runs, lead changes, sliding stops and 360 degree spins.

The most challenging and exciting part of the competition is the cow work – where the horse must control the movements of a single steer at a full out run, heading it off and turning it both ways along the fence, then bringing it into the centre of the arena to circle once in each direction. The Working Cow Horse Classic features finished “bridle” horses advanced in their training, as well as younger horses shown in the traditional hackamore.

The horse used by most competitors is the Quarter Horse – which is named for its speed at the quarter mile. This sprinter has the muscle and build to make it perfect for working cows and making the quick direction changes needed to keep the cow under control.

Check out the Calgary Stampede Cutting Horse Competition in the Big Top on Wednesday, July 14 at 12 pm and 2 pm, and Thursday, July 15 at 3 pm and 5 pm.

The Calgary Stampede Working Cow Horse Classic starts Friday, July 16 at 1 pm and Sunday, July 18 at 11 am – I hope you will take the opportunity to check out these great athletic horses and their riders.