Calgary – When you’ve got it, you’ve got it – and First Knight Striders Black Satin, owned by Holly Whyte and Bill Clark of Tomahawk, Alta. has it in spades as the six-year-old mare was awarded the Canadian National Supreme Halter Champion title for the fourth time at the Calgary Stampede on Thursday afternoon. What does Whyte attribute the winning streak to?
“It’s her breeding, absolutely. Plus her confirmation. And she loves to show. She is a very showy mare,” Whyte said. The horse is out of three-time world champion First Knights Lord of the Rings, bred by KC and Stephani Pappas.
While they may be tiny compared to towering draft horses — the miniatures top out at 34 inches tall maximum — these steeds pack a lot of punch in a small package. They were originally bred for pulling carts in the coal mines of England and can pull up to three times their weight. Hunter/jumper, pleasure driving and obstacle were among the dozens of classes in the two separate American Miniature Horse Association-sanctioned shows that took place in the Northern Lights Arena and the Agrium Western Event Centre.
But what do these exquisite equines do when they’re not wowing the crowds at Stampede? First Knight Striders Black Satin gets the winter off and loves nothing better than running in the field with the couple’s 50 other miniature horses and Shetlands, Whyte said. But the mare is also expanding her career options.
“She will continue to do halter and I will continue to work on her driving career,” Whyte said. “She’s coming along well; she is still learning, though.”
Stampede regular Cheerio, meanwhile, serves as a therapy animal now that she’s no longer in the ring. Cheerio’s owners Peter and Terry Holt open their Hollyhock Meadow Miniature Horse Farm north of Edmonton, AB to groups from local seniors’ centres.
“I love seeing the interaction between the horses and the seniors, seeing what it can bring out in their responses. We get a lot of seniors with dementia, but they can still remember horses from their past,” Terry said. “We get into some interesting discussions around having horses and what it was like in their day. Just seeing the horses perk people up is very rewarding.”
The couple have been raising and showing miniature horses for 25 years, after inheriting a herd from Terry’s parents. Her father took horses to senior’s homes and hospitals, a tradition the Holts continue. Seeing a miniature horse lope into their room brings a smile to many a resident’s face, Terry said. The Holts also leave some of their horses for extended periods of time.
“We have a major program with two facilities where we take horses in and their recreation people look after them. We build them a barn and a little fence. It’s a great hit,” Peter said. “It brings people out. They come to see the horses and then they mix with other residents, so it’s quite social. We have a mare and a foal that will go to the city this summer for nine days.”
Over time, most of the programming has shifted to Hollyhock Meadow, where the couple hosts groups of seniors. They show off their 30-head herd, take seniors for cart rides and hold demonstrations of events you’d see at the Stampede, such as barrel racing and an obstacle course. They’ve also hosted tours for children with developmental disabilities and the horses seem to know to be extra patient with the kids and give them some extra love.
“They have such a lovely temperament. If they’ve been trained well, they are very safe to be around. We also select the right horse for the right day,” Terry said.
For the full results from the Calgary Stampede’s Miniature Horse tk, please visit https://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 10-day 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.
See more at calgarystampede.com