Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Canadian Wild West, Part II

Half way through my post Calgary Stampede post, I realized that it was too long to make into a single post. If you did make it through the entire post, I commend you! It was long, even for me. Today, I finish up...

On day 4, we have the main attraction of the Stampede, the rodeo. This is an incredible show of athleticism of both man and beast. It's also amazing to see the cowboys jump on a bull or horse and just aim to sit on it for 8 seconds. The longest 8 seconds ever! I did pick up a few tricks about what to watch for when they're bucking those broncos or bulls! Not that I hope to ever have to use it... but first, lunch:

Jalapeno mini donut poutine (you read that right!)

ADW is a (Chicago style) hot dog connoisseur!
The rodeo takes place in the Grandstand--the same place as the chuckwagon races. They just corner a smaller section of it and it becomes a closed off arena of sorts. It is in the sun though, so we start out afternoon under the hot sun but are lucky that the sun is moving a shadow over us. The rodeo is amazing to watch. Our seats weren't too bad as we were on the second level. We watched the saddle bronc, bareback, steer wrestling, team roping, barrel racing, and bull riding. There was a kids event of riding the wild pony. I tell you, you'll die because it's so freggin' cute.

ADW even sat next to a real cowboy who was there to watch his grandson compete in the novice levels. He competed in his younger days for some roping type events and I think ADW had a really enjoyable time chatting with him. The rodeo clowns... those guys are hilarious. The commentator clown was just killing the audience with his sense of humour and antics. He was highly entertaining while twerking (yes, that's right) and dancing up a storm between competitors.

I could not say I was the least bit disappointed with the rodeo. It was exactly as I expected it to be! Unfortunately, I didn't bring my zoom lens so I didn't get any photos but you'd get the same impression when I went to the rodeo at the Royal in 2013.


To finish our trip, we made our way to Spruce Meadows. T was actually there (from the stable!) and she told ADW that earlier in the week, she was watch some serious eventing. I love Spruce Meadows because there's no admissions to get on the grounds and the grounds are just amazing. Every lawn and garden is manicured to perfection. The amazing thing I noticed too was that the arenas were not sand rings.. but grass rings! I can't even imagine the amount of maintenance that is required to groom the grass arena after a show. But, everything looks absolutely perfect. We watched some show jumping and visited the gift/tack shop during our leisure stroll around the grounds.

Welcome to Spruce Meadows!
Amazing grounds where even the non-equestrian can even appreciate

Sailing over the jump effortlessly

Always amazing to see the sheer power of the horses pushing
 themselves and their rider over the jumps

Needless to say, this vacation was exactly what I needed before I get back into the swing of pulling my life back together. I definitely returned well rested and with a clearer head. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Canadian Wild West

Welcome to the Canadian version of the Wild West: Calgary Stampede!

It's one of those events that you gotta add on your "do see/do" list just because it's so freggin' iconic; it's like Oktoberfest or the running of the bulls. Amb and I left Toronto on the 6th and with no plans for when we arrived, checked into our hotel, ate a late lunch and then headed into the city to check out the festivities. We are greeted by a lively, busy and festive feel populated with folk donning western apparel. Arriving in our very normal and very casual travel outfits, we made our way to Riley & McCormick to see if we could find something to help us mix into the crowd.

Getting cowboy'd up! YEEHAW!!

I suggest checking out R&M because their selection is SO extensive and there's something "fun" about it (they have a life-sized fibreglass horse out front that says, "I'm too old to be ridden!"). But seriously, they have a wall of boots and a wall of hats in different colours and materials. The price range is wide too, so don't be shy if your budget is modest and go nuts if it isn't!

That is a lot of boots... and I still only found one pair that I liked

Amb is excited to pick a hat for that lovely melon of hers!

At this point, +ADW is watching the rodeo and will watch the chuckwagon races in the evening because he's here for business (really, that's what he's here for!). We're left to our own devices and walk 8th Avenue SW because a portion of it is pedestrian fitted. We play a game of "spot the real cowboy" and make bets about which one of the cowboys we see strutting down the street is an authentic western cowboy versus the office folk and tourists who like us, are just playing cowboy.

As evening approaches, we are hungry and a little bored (it doesn't seem like many cowboys frequent the downtown) and make way to a place called the 'Palomino Smokehouse'. With our luck, a very inebriated young lady snuggles up to Amb while we're getting our IDs checked and the bouncer asks, "... is she with... you two?" To which we quickly quip, "no, no she's not!" Once she's shoed away, Amb nervously looks at the bar and then me and meekly asks, "are we still going in?". Oblivious to her apprehension, I boldly declare that we must because this place looks so authentic and ADW would so go. Plus, the bouncer has a friendly face while being physically intimidating so I feel comfortable. We spend the evening drinking (a little), snacking (a lot) and listening to live music by a local folk band named Sealegs who played with the Godfather of Yellowknife first and then went on set. They were highly entertaining and played a bunch of songs that Amb knew.


Moove on over to day 2 of our trip and we're getting ready for the evening chuckwagon races. We have lunch at the Calgary Tower to get up high and an impression of the city landscape. We have a little fun in the gift shop...
Amb getting fresh with Randy the RCMP Grizzly

ADW is always getting us into trouble...

ADW has found the hat that fits!

After lunch, we head to the Stampede grounds...

Hold onto yer hats!
Amb and I are prepared since we checked the guidebook prior, and circled the exhibits and events that interest us so we proceed to drag ADW around for our amusement...

The Ag building is full of fun exhibits for the whole family

This one's for Ariel!

Miniature donkeys like Jethro

Blacksmith demos. Point out the blacksmiths!

Miniature pony scratching him bum

Western cutting competitions

Piglet heap!

Driving demonstration

Nobody comes to Stampede without trying the food on the grounds:

Hot beef sundae

Pizza foot-long

ADW briefs us on what he's learned about the races as we're waiting and we are totally blown away:
chuckwagon racing is an equestrian rodeo sport in which drivers in a chuckwagon led by a team of Thoroughbred horses race around a track. It is a team event, led by a driver who commands a team of horses pulling the chuckwagon, and is supported by two or four outriders, each racing individual thoroughbred horses that follow the chuckwagon. Each race typically involves three or four teams, and begins with the outriders "breaking camp", by tossing two tent poles (with four outriders only) and a barrel representing a camp stove into the back of their wagon before mounting their horses and following the wagons as they complete a figure eight around two barrels before circling a race track. The first wagon to cross the finish line typically wins, although various time penalties are handed out for infractions such as a barrel being knocked over, a tent pole or stove not loaded, wagon interference or an outrider crossing the finish line too far behind his wagon driver. (Wikipedia)
There are 9 heats and the starts are madness. Try getting 16 thoroughbreds to make that figure 8 loop and then run around the track at top speed. There were a few mishaps and each race is not long. The surprise of the evening is the "evening show" that follows. Without expecting anything, we were totally blown away by the Canadiana routine that was put together. A stageful of dancers and singers all in costume and singing about... Canada! The show was fast paced and accessible for all audience members while being educational (I love getting schooled!). It also ended with a family being made Canadian citizens and a humongous pyrotechnics display. Go big or go home was certainly the point tonight.


Day 3 was a quiet affair away from Calgary while Amb went to visit family, ADW and I drove out to Banff for a trail ride into the Rockies.

I love how small the Rockies make me feel, every time.

ADW loves those paints/pintos

I'm on a cuddly horse named Guinness

Taking this photo was precarious!

Mountain on one side, drop on the other!

Who's that handsome rugged face? ;)

Spray River

After the trail ride, we make our way to Lake Louise. I didn't quite do everything I wanted to last time so this was my chance at completing my "list"... we saw Lake Moraine (did you know that this is the lake on the previous Canadian $20 dollar bill?) and Lake Louise in the summer (last time it was frozen and covered in ice and snow).

Stay tuned for the second and final part of this adventure!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lesson #190, 191, 192: Catching Up

This was a quiet lesson where it was just me, Ariel and Sheri.

I had a really good time with this lesson because we worked on me getting through some jumps on a small course level. After our warm-up, Sheri had designated two jumps for me to work on some course stuff. For the most part, things were going quite well but I continue to curl up a bit at jumps and as I'm reminded, that could go really badly if something goes wrong. I am running out of ideas to get me sitting up most of the time. Maybe it's my poor posture or something but I probably should get moving on that by now.

That said, two jumps that she reversed the direction and guess what? I took them in the same direction as before. *facepalm* We both knew what I did wrong and I chuckled, "this is why I won't show. I can't even remember a course of TWO jumps!" LOLOL. Of course, the reverse direction was a problem for me because it's the direction that both Ariel and I have issues with. It all starts with me, and then trickles to her because while she is capable, it doesn't take a lot to mess her up.


My Saturday lesson was the lesson before heading out to Calgary Stampede. +ADW was already west so it was just me and another adult student. She was working solely on the flat and was in a dressage saddle. We both started a typical warm-up round and round and then I got started on a jump on a bending line (?) because it was placed at C along the rail so I had to take it while coming in on a bend and not straight away. It was a low jump but it went pretty well and I was rather pleased with myself! Not terribly exciting, this one... just one focus for the day. :)


Our first lesson back was the following Saturday and we rode outside. I am not a fan of riding outside... I think it might be the wind rushing past you or the fact that Ariel gets easily distracted but I know I'm always on a slight increased level of alertness. And I'm sure the mare is picking up on that vibe and equally a little more buzzy.

I was hopeful though, that our trail ride during our visit to Banff would loosen up my hips. I did ride that trail ride in the mountains without stirrups for majority of it because my legs are so short that I needed the kiddie ones but they just weren't sitting right so I said screw it. More on that ride later. My hip was a little more put together and not feeling as tight as it usually does.

We did some small course work to just get me back into things but man was Ariel putting up a fuss. It was probably due to my twisted side not twisting properly and so I was like a human pretzel up there, trying to tell her to go one way only to be miscommunicating because it wasn't right the way mare wanted it. Fair... she's honest about being bang on and not making assumptions. Something I do pride myself on but also now realize that reading between the lines would be SO appreciated sometimes! :P

Friday, July 3, 2015

Canada Day Post (re-cap)

This post comes late but I didn't have much to post about until today...

+ADW is in Calgary for Canada Day so I made my way out to the stable to for the Georgetown Canada Day Parade. Like the Christmas parade, this was good fun where I got to hang out with people I seem to naturally have an easy time meshing with (did I ever mention I'm usually socially averse?).

A few photos...

Molson rump

Waldo is the resident mini

I get the impression he likes this more than he should...?

I'm working hard at... something.

Lex with Frank pulled by Amadeus. We all know who's calling the shots

Our fearless leader for the day!

Molson and Artisaurus (Art)
It was a perfect day. No rain (despite the forecasts) and the horses were great considering the number of flapping flags, screaming children on bikes and scooters and the sounds (someone set off a firework or something at some point and nobody freaked out). Big success and amazing performance by everyone!!