Calgary – “Cowboy up” is a familiar phrase for gritting your teeth and getting through the tough stuff, doing whatever it takes to get the job done. “Cowgirl up” is no different and was on full display at the Calgary Stampede this week.
Take Teala Caton, who competed in the demanding Cowboy Up Challenge a mere two-and-a-half months after giving birth to her second girl, Aubrey. Women riders finished in the top three spots in the exacting finals held Monday in the Saddedome.
“I’d thought about entering for a long time, and finally decided I don’t need to do it this year. And I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but Pete (Fraser, the event’s lead advisor) did wait until after baby was here to call,” Caton said with a laugh. “Once I knew everyone was happy and healthy, it was kind of hard to say no. And it’s the Stampede! It’s a one-of-a-kind experience.”
The Cowboy Up Challenge, sanctioned by the Extreme Cowboy Association (EXCA), is a heart-pounding demonstration of horsemanship, hold-your-breath challenges and sheer entertainment. Thirteen obstacles — the telephone booth and narrow bridge that was more like a balance beam for horses were particularly difficult this year — tested the 10 riders’ and mounts’ skills and relationship. The competitor’s running times and judge’s marks for each obstacle (on a scale of one to 10) are used to determine the winner.
Women topped the leader board in the two days leading up to the finals and in the end Annie Chance of Joplin, Mo. rode off with the championship belt buckle and cheque for $10,000, while Magen Warlick of Stephenville, Tex. was named Reserve Champion, earning $5,000. Caton placed third, taking home $3,000 for her efforts.
“That was probably the best course I’ve ever ridden. It was extremely challenging and took a lot of effort from the horse and rider, both speed and finesse,” Warlick said after her impressive win. “It’s probably the favourite course I’ve ever run.”
She laid down her winning ride on Smarty Pants Marty, the four-year-old mount she partnered with to become a two-time National Champion and 2016 Futurity World Champion. The pair also won Day 2 of the competition.
“He takes care of me when I’m weak and I take care of him when he’s weak,” adds Warlick.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Caton. Knowing that she’d be riding Marshmallow, an Andalusian-Quarter horse gelding born and raised on her parent’s operation outside of Eckville, Alta., made the decision to compete an easier one for the 27-year-old cowgirl who won the 2015 Non-Pro World Championship.
“All the skills I have as a developed rider, he’s been involved in the learning process. When there were growing pains, we had them together. There’s no training left for him. For Stampede, it’s just getting him fit and conditioned. For me, I will be as ready as I am going to be. Mentally and physically, it has been a bit of a challenge, though,” says Caton.
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 celebrates our western heritage, cultures and community spirit. All revenue is reinvested into Calgary Stampede programs and facilities.
See more at calgarystampede.com