By Jody MacPherson
Originally published in the Saddle Bags Newsletter, Calgary Stampede, Summer, 2005
You won’t see this kind of horsepower on Glenmore Trail every day. In fact, you might not see it ever again!
On July 3, 2005 this busy commuter route in south Calgary will funnel about 200 of the Stampede’s bucking horses and 20 dusty trail riders into the heart of the city for a rendezvous with the Calgary Exhibition & Stampede. It’s a far cry from the usual parade of automobiles that crowd the roadway each day and may make for a surprising sight in your rearview mirror.
The horses will have just traveled about 250 kilometres over six days from the 220,000 acre Stampede Ranch near Hanna, Alberta.
“Horses don’t travel like cows,” says Robin Burwash, Stampede Rodeo/Ranch manager. “They can travel all day at an extended trot or faster so this will be a pretty fast-paced trip across some wide open prairie.”
“The horses will be going full-out, looking for a spot to break loose,” he says. “It will be a real test for the wranglers.”
The historic ride is part of the Calgary Exhibition & Stampede’s celebrations marking the Alberta Centennial. Each of the cowboys has paid about $15,000 for the privilege of taking part in the trail ride. All proceeds will go to the Calgary Stampede Foundation’s programs for youth, according to Burwash.
The herd will leave Hanna and travel through the Circus Coulee to the Hamlet of Dorothy, a modern-day “ghost town” filled with abandoned buildings and about a dozen hardy residents. From Dorothy, they’ll travel uphill to the Village of Hussar, famous for its grain elevators and busy rail line.
From there, the horses and their cowboy chaperones will trail down to Crowfoot Ferry entering the spectacular Siksika First Nation Reserve, then along the Bow River Valley to Gleichen for a special celebration of Aboriginal culture on July 1. The wranglers will be treated to Aboriginal dancing, games and food while they rest up for the final last two days of their journey.
Burwash says this trail drive into downtown Calgary might be the last one due to the increasingly difficult logistics involved in bringing 200 lively bucking horses through a rapidly expanding city. The herd was successfully ridden into the Stampede city twice before, in 1987 and 2000, but the population has grown by close to 100,000 people since the last ride.
When the horse herd stampedes into the city early on July 3rd, the Stampede will again bring the ranching traditions of the west into focus for urbanites who may enjoy the reminder of the origins of the word, “horsepower.”