It’s sure to be a dream come true for local businessman and draft horse fan Terry Stewart this May long weekend, when Cloverdale welcomes a team of picture-perfect equine stars to the Cloverdale Rodeo.
Wherever they appear, the horses are sure to draw admirers of their size and beauty. They wear shoes the size of dinner plates, weigh 2,000 pounds, and stand six feet tall or higher. Prized for their rare colour – black, with a white blaze and legs, and black mane and tail – the Clydesdales are celebrities and champions.
Stewart, who for nine-and-a-half years has owned Express Employment Professionals in Clover Square Village, has long wanted to bring the black beauties to town.
“We’ve always been rodeo fans,” he told The Reporter. “You just try to give back to the community you live and work in. It just seemed like a great thing to try and make happen.”
He originally fell for the Clydesdale team 10 years ago, when he spent the afternoon touring their home barns in Oklahoma, and has since watched them in action at the Calgary Stampede, among other venues.
He was amazed at the “phenomenal” number of people who came through the gates just to see the heavy horses, and impressed by their remarkable relationship with their human fans.
“They’re so big and so gentle,” Stewart said. “These horses are gentle giants.”
He’s had the good fortune to see the Clydesdales at a number of work-related functions; the team is the official mascot of Express Employment Professionals.
While the team frequents the Calgary Stampede, the horses only come to Canada “once or twice a year at most,” says Stewart. “They’ve never been here before.”
He’s tried to arrange for the team to come to the Cloverdale Rodeo for the past four years. After all, the company is one of the rodeo’s sponsors.
Last year’s business meeting at the Calgary Stampede provided Stewart with a chance to take his plea to his company president.
“I did a song and dance to the owner of Express. I kept on bugging him,” he said. It must have been some performance, because Stewart got the good news in November that the team would be coming to Cloverdale for the first time.
“It was a pipe dream. We never thought we’d be able to get them here.”
Originally from Saskatchewan, the horses now only come to Canada “once or twice a year at most,” he said. The horses are on the road more than 200 days a year, performing across North America, pulling a replica stagecoach or show delivery wagon and raising money for charities.
They were crowned world champions in six-horse hitch at the 2013 Calgary Stampede, and claimed the 2012 world championship title for horse hitch, and best cart, at the World Clydesdale Show in Milwaukee.
Astute royal watchers may remember the Clydesdales as equine escorts to Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge at the 2011 Calgary Stampede.
The Clydesdales will perform at all five rodeo performances and there‘ll be ample opportunity to meet them outside of the Stetson Bowl.
“The plan is to have a tent, where people can see them on the grounds, so people will be able to come up and get pictures taken with them.”
The Clydesdales will also visit the Cloverdale Chili Cook-off and take part in the Cloverdale Rodeo Parade.
Six weeks to go
With six weeks to go, the countdown to the 2014 Cloverdale Rodeo has begun.
It runs May 16 to 19 at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds, and includes the invitational rodeo, along with the 126th annual country fair, offering family-friendly entertainment, from the midway to the West Coast Lumberjack Show.
The Cloverdale Cowboy Cook-off Rib Fest and BBQ Competition is back, as is the World Freestyle Round-up, featuring the world’s best freestyle skateboarders.
The Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association will present its new annual scholarship program, open to past and present student volunteers who are in their graduation year.
Tickets are $12 for grounds admission (children 12 and under are free) and $20 for rodeo performances – also free for children 12 and under.