Ahead of the game: Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo offers skills ‘n’ thrills
CALGARY – For those expecting boring, pedantic lectures, Lorne Lausen offers a reminder about the term “fundamentals.”
“As I always say, the word fundamentals starts with the letters F-U-N,” says Lausen, owner of the Lausen Indoor Arena south of Strathmore, Alta. “Mentally speaking, when you’re teaching kids how to rope, it’s all got to be fun. If it’s not, do you think you’re ever going to get them to come back again?”
That’s one of the underlying principles of the Calgary Stampede’s Invitational 4-H Rodeo, sponsored by Westcan Bulk Transport, Bayer CropScience, and Lammle’s Western Wear and Tack, which will hold its 15th annual edition on Saturday, Aug. 25 and Sunday, Aug. 26 at Olds College in Olds, Alta.
A good percentage of the approximately 100 youngsters congregating at Olds — aged 9 through 20, representing about 30 4-H clubs across the province — will be participating in their very first rodeo. As a result, the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo committee puts a special emphasis on education, with morning seminars focusing on everything from yoga to bit fitting to hoof care to trick riding. Top-notch instructors from across the province not only demonstrate the appropriate fundamentals, but convey the passion and the excitement that have launched many a rodeo career over the years.
Lausen and his colleague Bryan Mandeville, for example, will be conducting Sunday-morning seminars in breakaway roping — a variation on, and sometimes a precursor to, tie-down roping. At his own indoor arena, Lausen tutors students of all skill levels — from those who can’t build a loop, all the way up to professional tie-down ropers and team ropers trying to gain an edge — and at the Stampede’s 4-H rodeo, he starts with basic rope-swinging techniques using a dummy and an ATV.
“I’m 55 now, still in amateur rodeos, and my age is slowing me down. But what puts the biggest smile on my face? When one of my students beats me at a rodeo. There’s absolutely nothing more rewarding,” says Lausen with a chuckle. “When it comes to teaching people how to rope, especially kids, I’ve got all kinds of time. If I don’t make time for that, what else matters?”
This year’s Stampede 4-H Rodeo expects to attract young enthusiasts from 4-H clubs based all the way from the Peace Country to the Montana border. Some participants will naturally progress to the ranks of Wrangler (junior high), high school, college, amateur, and even professional rodeo — so Stampede 4-H Rodeo organizers make a point of teaching sound methods and techniques.
The legendary Dave Shields of Okotoks, Alta., a recipient of the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame’s Legendary Achievement Award, will lead a roughstock riding seminar on Sunday morning. Meanwhile Calgary’s Lindsay Miller, a competitor on the Canadian All Girl Rodeo Association circuit, will be conducting a Sunday-morning seminar in goat-tying — an event typically seen at Wrangler, high school, and college rodeos, with the requisite dexterity lending itself to tie-down roping higher up the rodeo ladder.
“It’s a fun process to take the kids doing it for the first time, and walking them through the experience. I also take some of the kids who’ve been doing it for a few years, and help them perfect their technique,” says Miller, a member of the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo committee.
“We know, from the feedback we get from the kids, that for the hands-on clinics in particular — cow riding, goat tying, and breakaway roping — they really enjoy having someone there to help them with the runs, learning the basics, and perfecting their skills.”
This year’s Stampede 4-H Rodeo will also feature Saturday-morning seminars on bit fitting by master bit maker Dave Elliott of Fort Macleod, Alta., and equine hoof care by veteran farrier Marshall Iles of Calgary. Saturday morning’s agenda will also feature a pair of non-traditional clinics — one on yoga and breathing by Strathmore, Alta.-based Becky Stone, a certified yoga instructor with an extensive rodeo background; and another on trick riding and liberty horse training by Pincher Creek, Alta.-based Niki Cammaert Flundra and her students.
“I hope it will give the students a sense of excitement surrounding horses,” says Cammaert Flundra. “We try to show them that horses are our partners. We treat them with respect, as friends and equals, and in return we ask for their respect — and that’s where the relationship begins.”
The young cowboys and cowgirls in the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo will have a chance to apply the morning lessons in the afternoon, with timed events (barrel racing, pole bending, and thread-the-needle) scheduled for Saturday and roughstock events (goat tying, steer daubing, breakaway roping, and cow riding) slated for Sunday. The afternoon rodeo begins at 1 p.m. both days.
“The sport of rodeo is certainly advancing, and the equine industry in general has been advancing in new technologies and new ways of thinking. That’s really brought to the Stampede 4-H Rodeo every year, with regard to the experts that come to do the clinics,” says Laura Frank, vice-chair of the Stampede’s 4-H Rodeo committee. “They’re ahead of the game. They’re experts in their field. And that’s really valuable.”
This year’s Stampede 4-H Rodeo is being held off-site in Olds, and about a month earlier than usual, because of work on the Agrium Western Event Center, one of the most significant infrastructure projects in Stampede history. For details and artistic renderings of this magnificent 150,000-square-foot agriculture showcase and competition venue, scheduled for completion in 2014, visit http://corporate.calgarystampede.com/about/park-development/agrium-western-event-centre/
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