Calgary Vacay: The Horsey Part

For the second part of our Alberta getaway, we spent some time in Calgary and went to the Calgary Stampede.

Instantly found the nearest horse sculpture in Calgary

The Stampede was really fun and in some ways different than what I expected. Sort of a State Fair vibe with extra agricultural stuff. I of course made sure to drag my husband and in-laws through the horse barns and to watch a lot of horse events.

There were like six Clydesdales in a row taking naps and this one had his little snoot buried in shavings so every time he exhaled it was like a little shavings-confetti party.

One of my favorite things we saw was the Cowboy Up Challenge. It’s ‘extreme cowboy racing’ – you’ve probably seen the videos online. If not, here’s one I took:

We also saw other events like team penning and some dog-related events like the World Sheep Dog Championships. Those are some seriously trained dogs.

Obviously I got a Western-ish hat and definitely ate the Butterbeer-themed soft serve

One thing that really struck me was how well trained every single horse was. I guess maybe I should expect that at a world-class event but honestly every horse was fine to hang out in the crazy surroundings or carry a flag or stand in a packed holding area without so much as a pinned ear.

I literally took this photo because I was so impressed with the sheer number of horses standing side by side so calmly while watching the others go out and cut cattle.

I tried to imagine a group of eventers standing like that while watching someone else go do cross country or something. Couldn’t really imagine it. Probably because event horses tend to love cross country and get super pumped about the idea that they get to go run and jump the things.

(Disclaimer: This is not a bash on eventers or even a blanket statement about all horses. I know there are lots of perfectly well-trained and well-behaved horses out there.)

It was just interesting to me and made me think about how when I own a horse in the future, I want to instill some of that patience and steadiness both on the ground and in the saddle.

Perfect example: Go run around with a flag in your rider’s hand and then stand in a perfect line and don’t move. Every horse was like, yup, can do!

Anyway! We also went to the rodeo, which was really fun! My favorite event was probably the barrel racing. The wild pony race was memorable. I’d never heard of it before but it is this insane thing where teams of three children are given a (presumably unbroken) pony in a halter and leadrope and they attempt to get one of them to sit on its back as fast as they can. And I thought mutton bustin’ was a weird thing to let your kid do!

Maybe my favorite part of the whole rodeo was when they highlighted their Born to Buck program and brought out some mamas and their foals. I had appreciated seeing that the bucking horses appeared to be in superb condition – shiny coats and well-muscled. It was cool to see that they are bred like equine athletes in any other sport/discipline. They also mentioned that when some of the horses don’t want to be broncs, they are often turned into riding horses for the outriders, etc. Also: Cute baby ponies!

We ended our vacation at the Calgary Stampede evening show, which was…kind of a trip. It started like this:

Why yes, those are people in giant inflatable cow costumes dancing around on stage. They were never explained nor did they return for the rest of the show.

There was singing. There was dancing. There were an alarming number of creepy animal costumes. There were aerialist acrobats and a troupe of Argentinian gauchos, which I would describe as a cross between tap dancing and cracking long whips. There was a laser show performed by a man in a giant translucent bubble. I can’t tell you how many times I turned to my husband and shouted gleefully, “WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?”

It all culminated in a fireworks show so close to the grandstand that it felt like we were inside the fireworks. Which was cool but also kind of terrifying. And that was a wrap on our trip! I can’t wait to go back – there’s so much more that I want to do and it’s such a beautiful part of the world!


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