Calgary Stampede comes to Toronto and I want to go to Banff, Alberta

Barrel Racing

Barrel Racing Photo Credit: Mike Ridewood / Calgary Stampede

The Calgary Stampede came to Toronto this week. Well, not the stampede specifically, but representatives from the world-famous Canadian extravaganza, along with some partners (yes, giddy up), were in town to promote the annual event kicking off this year on July 8 and running until July 17, 2015  in – you guessed it – Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

I’ve never been to the Stampede, and I should disclose that I don’t like rodeos. I cringe at horses made to buck, and I have only recently been able to watch barrel racing with any appreciation. And don’t get me started on the chuckwagon races that have resulted in horse deaths at past stampedes. (Ok, some arguments can be made about professional jumping and Eventing too, but chuckwagon racing is more in the news).

Calgary Stampede

Open activities at the Calgary Stampede Rodeo

That said, I get that some horse people love rodeo and Western events. In fact, for some horse people this is the horse world – especially many trail riding outfitters, like Banff Trail Riders, also at the Toronto event.

But first, the Calgary Stampede…

Here’s what I would like to see if I went to the Stampede: The RCMP horses, the parade through the streets of Calgary; the opening gala show with apparently more than 1800 costume changes; women’s barrel racing; a behind the scenes look at the stables and Harry the Horse, a costumed mascot who apparently makes about 100 appearances throughout the event.

Second, Banff Trail Riders…

After meeting Jonathan Welsh, operating partner of Banff Trail Riders, this experience is now on my bucket list.

Calgary Stampede

Young horse Photo Credit: Tye Carson / Calgary Stampede

Welsh, not a horse person by birth (though his partner is), bought this operation (and 300 horses) a year ago from the former now retired owner. As a specialist in tours and travel, he noticed a demand for horse activities so he bought the company. Banff Trail Riders accommodates those looking for a simply one-hour ride up to a full six-day Western lodge and camping experience … and anything in between.

“We have a gift store so we can deck you out in full western apparel,” he says, which is particularly attractive to European visitors looking for the cowboy experience.

I’m dreaming of the two-day overnight trek that starts in Banff and ends after a four-hour ride (both nights) at a comfortable lodge complete with indoor bathrooms and down comforters (Welsh assures me). Second on my list is the ‘Cowboy for a Day’ choice: a seven-and-a-half hour ride that travels through the Spray River Valley area and includes a trail-side lunch before returning to scenic Banff, Alberta.

Calgary Stampede

Indian Princess Photo Credit: Chris Bolin / Calgary Stampede

Maybe next summer…

In the meantime, stay tuned for my own cowboy experience, in Las Vegas nonetheless, coming up next on horsetrotting.net.

If you liked this post, checkout our coverage of  The Royal Winter Fair in Toronto.

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