Calgary - Whether it’s that ingrained cowgirl humility or she genuinely doesn’t remember, Suzon Schaal can’t tell you how many Calgary Stampede Champion belt buckles she’s won.
Whatever that number may be, it grew by two Thursday afternoon as the veteran Stampede competitor took the Non Pro and Open Bridle classes in the Working Cow Horse Classic held at the Agrium Western Event Centre.
“I never expected this would happen. It’s a nice surprise,” says Schaal shortly after posting a chart-topping score of 299.5 (146.5 for rein work, 153 for cow work) on Genuine Brown Gal in the Open Bridle class, besting a field of 14 riders, many of the professionals. “She is just an incredibly honest horse. She really loves her job and she is lots of fun to show because you know she will always be there for you.”
The veterinarian from the MD of Foothills won the Open division on the now 14-year-old mare in 2015, and took Reserve Champion with her in 2016. Understandably, Schaal won’t let anyone else ride the horse that has taken her to the podium five times at the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) World Championships.
“She is a pretty special horse. I took the chance to show her in the Open,” adds Schaal.
In the Working Cow Horse Classic, horse-and-rider teams are judged on their authority, discipline and precision in reined work and cow work, otherwise known as fence work. This year’s final ran on the No. 2 pattern: the reined portion consisted of a predetermined series of moves that included large circles at fast speed, a small circle at slow speed, spins (also called turnarounds) and sliding stops. In the cow-work portion, the team first boxed a steer, and then maneuvered it along the fence (the side of the arena), heading it off and turning it both ways, before circling it once in each direction, preferably in the centre of the arena.
As Open Bridle Champion, Schaal took home a cheque for $4,890 and a belt buckle, while Reserve Champion Vance Kaglea of High River, Alta. earned $4,075 for his 293-point ride (146.5 rein work, 146.5 cow work) on Reminiscin The Chics, owned by Monica E. Wille of Victoria, B.C.
In the Non-Pro Bridle class, Schaal duplicated her victory from last year on the same horse, Chics Ruffled Up. The duo posted a 296 (146 rein work, 150 cow work) after running into some trouble out of the gate. Karnell Perry of Power, Mont. took Reserve Champion and $2,075 for her score of 292 (147.5 rein work, 144.5 cow work) on Very Handy Remedy.
“The first cow was not really wanting to move around. I couldn’t get it to start to run down the fence. I tried three times, so I decided to try the other wall and it didn’t even want to try that,” says Schaal. The judges stopped the run and gave her another cow, one with much more pep.
Millarville, Alta.’s John Swales — he’s Schaal’s trainer, she’s his vet — tied for fourth in the Open Bridle, a class he’s won 10 times since its inception in 2001. He had a better run in the Open Hackamore, taking the Championship with his 301 ride (148 rein work, 153 cow work) on Cats Picasso, owned by Robbie McKay of Black Diamond, Alta. The win comes with the customary belt buckle and a cheque for $6,350. His younger brother Clint Swales, of Longview, Alta., took Reserve Champion and a $3,810 payday after posting a 298 (147 rein work, 151 cow work) on Lets Go Higher, owned by Shawna Wolfe of Pouce Coupe, B.C. John Swales credited Cats Picasso’s “very cowy” nature with the win.
“His cow work did it. He is very, very good on the cow. I got a good cow on him that ran pretty hard,” says John Swales. “He is a great horse. He has been so good to me.”
For full results of the Calgary Stampede’s Working Cow Classic, please visit https://ag.calgarystampede.com/results.
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