Veronica Swales was all smiles at the Nutrien Western Event Centre on Thursday afternoon.
After all, Swales, of Mossleigh, Alberta, finally accomplished her goal of winning the prestigious Open Bridle title at the Calgary Stampede’s Working Cow Horse Classic.
What made it even sweeter is the fact she beat her brothers, John and Clint, who have both previously emerged victorious at the Stampede on numerous occasions.
“My brothers have won lots, but I haven’t got to win the Open Bridle yet,” said Swales, still grinning after accepting the champion’s cheque for $5,120. “It feels really good. I’ve won the Non-Pro Bridle here, but I haven’t won the Open yet, so it was pretty sweet to be able to win it.”
Aboard her 10-year-old quarter-horse gelding Annie’s Playin Cat, Swale scored 148.5 points for her rein work and added 145 more points for fence work for a total score of 292.5, which topped the Open Bridle leaderboard.
“That was one of the strongest rein works my horse has had,” she said. “The fence work, usually we’re super tack down the fence. I didn’t have the greatest cow, so we maybe could have been a little bit better, but I’m not going to complain because we still marked really good.”
In the Working Cow Horse Classic horse-and-rider teams are judged on their authority, discipline and precision in two distinct areas – rein work, and cow work, otherwise known as fence work.
Rein work, labeled “Western dressage” by some, is based on a predetermined pattern of maneuvers, including figure-eights, straight runs, sliding stops and 360-degree spins. Cow work, the truly thrilling portion of the show, sees the horse-and-rider team first box a steer, then send it at full tilt along the fence, heading it off and turning it both ways, before finally circling it once in each direction in the centre of the arena.
The Working Cow Horse Classic hosts bridle and hackamore divisions for fully-trained horses and four- and five-year-olds, respectively, with open and non-pro designations for various levels of rider experience.
After years of trying, Dale Clearwater won his first-ever Open Hackamore title at the Stampede on Thursday.
The 40-year-old cowboy from Hanley, Saskatchewan, first started competing in the Working Cow Horse Classic event in 2004 and has only missed one competition since that time.
“I’ve never won this deal before,” said Clearwater, who posted an impressive score of 297 points atop Deluxe Strlit Night to win a cheque for $4,050. “I’ve come reserve a few times and been in the money, but this is pretty cool to be able to win the Stampede. It’s one of those ones that keeps evading me and now it’s finally here, so it was a lot of fun.”
Although he raised and trained Deluxe Strlit Night, Clearwater doesn’t own the four-year-old quarter-horse mare anymore.
“We owned the stud and the mare and we raised her and then we sold her to our client Mel Mabbott (Green Pine Ranch) and he’s gone on with her this year,” Clearwater explained. “He’s been fun to have aboard.”
Meanwhile, it was hugs all around for Non-Pro Bridle class champion Phoebe Bushnell.
Bushnell, of Black Diamond, Alberta, and her seven-year-old quarter-horse gelding, Low Ridin Cat DR, captured their first-ever Non-Pro Bridle crown in front of an appreciative crowd at the Nutrien Western Event Centre.
“I am so unbelievably happy,” said Bushnell, who was awarded the top score of 291.5 by the judges to pocket herself $2,340 in prize money. “I’m absolutely thrilled.”
Bushnell praised Low Ridin Cat DR for being calm, cool and collected after taking centre stage to show off his skills in the arena.
“He’s my best buddy,” said Bushnell, who competed for the first time at the Stampede. “He’s my pride and joy. I love him to bits and pieces and he puts his heart out there every single time for me. He’s little but he sure does have a big heart and a big attitude to go with it.”
Not a bad showing for the pair, considering that Bushnell fell off Low Ridin Cat DR just 12 days earlier while competing at the Ponoka Stampede.
“Saturday, I fell off and broke my nose and got a concussion and Sunday we came back and we were top five, so that was good,” Bushnell said. “I was a little nervous, so it wasn’t great, but we worked really hard this week.”
For full results from the Working Cow Horse Classic competition, please visit ag.calgarystampede.com/results.
About the Calgary Stampede
The Calgary Stampede celebrates the people, the animals, the land, the traditions and the values that make up the unique spirit of the west. The Calgary Stampede contributes to the quality of life in Calgary and southern Alberta through our world-renowned Stampede, year-round facilities, western events and several youth and agriculture programs. Exemplifying the theme We’re Greatest Together; we are a volunteer-supported, not-for-profit community organization that preserves and promotes western heritage and values. All revenue is reinvested into Calgary Stampede programs and facilities.
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