Source: Photo: Amee Reehal
1. Cowgirl star
Rodeo World Champion, Fallon Taylor is not only a skilled barrel racing star (a timed race that includes skillfully circling barrels from atop a horse), but she could also be called the Venus Williams of the rodeo. Known for her bold red hair and flamboyant, sequence outfits, Fallon has put a face to the sport. Women already dominate this event, and now Fallon is working to change tradition by becoming the first female to wear a helmet ‘ a decision she made after suffering a severe accident that resulted in major head damage and broken bones.
2. The Stampede’s start
The Calgary Stampede officially kicked-off over 100 years ago in 1912, however bull riding can be traced back 3500 years to the Minoan culture. The Calgary Stampede was actually founded by American, Guy Weadick, a trick roper. Weadick’s intention was to organize an annual event to represent the Wild West. He’s also credited with officially staging the popular rodeo event, Chuckwagon racing.
3. It’s all about the core
The riders spend plenty of time training on their horse or bull, but they also spend just as much or more time in the gym. Some riders may spend 5-6 days per week in the gym, working on their core, a particularly important focus for bareback or bull riding athletes. Additionally, they train their legs and arms to ensure they are strong and in peak condition.
4. On-site vet help
This stampede has vets on site who are constantly caring for the animals, checking their temperature and making sure they are not in distress and treated well. There is a deep respect for the animals from both riders and spectators, knowing that these animals are amazing and skilled competitors, too.
5. A star is born
When not stampeding, many of the Calgary Stampede horses are also big and small screen stars with parts in movie and television series, including Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and CBC’s Heartland.
6. Need for speed
During competition, a bull may shoot out of its pen at 100 miles per hour, so speed work for the riders is an integral part of their training, too. Bull riders spend plenty of time on a running track working on their speed and improving their agility.
7. Eight seconds of pain
Out of the nine rodeo events, bareback horse riding, where cowboys must try to stay on a bucking horse for eight seconds without a saddle, is the most grueling on a cowboy’s body. That’s not a deterrent though and many ride despite having major injuries from past events, as the prize money is lucrative.
8. Cheat day
Another ‘sport’ that’s popular at Stampede is the food tasting at The Midway. Try your hand at an ice cream cone the size of cotton candy or order your soft serve in a hollowed corn tube. Also available: anything deep-fried ‘ from bacon-wrapped pork fat to fried pickles and Oreos. Or, contribute to the over two million mini donuts that are sold and eaten to ensure the final count remains super-high.
9. Country playlist
Beyond the rodeo, there are 170 live music events at the Calgary Stampede. So, if you like country music, then singers (and married couple) Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton should fit the bill. The Stampede is the highest-grossing festival in Canada, beating out all other food, music or sporting-related festival events.
10. Eye on the prize
With over two million dollars in prize money, there’s a lot on the line and a hefty purse to boot for these riders. Many riders compete in various rodeos both locally and abroad, but the Calgary Stampede is an invitation-only rodeo meaning they select the best riders from around the world.
*Writer Grace Toby went behind-the-scenes with GMC, a title sponsor of the Calgary Stampede, accessing the all-new mid-size GMC Canyon, the official vehicle, that incudes built-in, high speed WI-FI, making it easy to get as close to the action while staying connected, without skipping a beat.