Arizona Mini Mystique
AZ MINI MYSTIQUE GOES TO THE CALGARY STAMPEDE
I think it was a good thing that we didnít know what was going to happen when we first told the Calgary Stampede Committee that the AZ Mini Mystique would love to go to Canada and perform for a week. Consequently, we practiced almost every week for months. We wanted the United States to be proud of us. We all got our motor homes and trailers fixed up and ready to roll. New costumes had been made, horses received all their shots, equipment was shined and carts were painted.
One week before we left, the vet and Ron and JoAnne Souza were getting the papers ready to be signed by the international vet. Since a disease had appeared in FL, NM and TX and different states were being quarantined daily, the papers had to be redone three times. Finally, all was prepared, the signatures obtained and we passed the first hurdle.
The time came to leave. There was Ron and JoAnne Souza, Bob and Linda Smith, Mary and Terry Daughtry, Ann Kosin, Michelle Perryman and Tim and Shirlee Callahan. We loaded up three horses in a mini trailer, seven horses in a big trailer, ten carts on a flatbed, and all of our equipment in a large horse trailer. Friends Ė Marcia and Jimmie Sizemore, although not a member of the team, were meeting us with their four horses because they knew the way, knew where to stop and knew what was going on at the border. We were excited Ė and then it happened. We reached the Gap which is on the Navajo reservation. Marcia and Jimmie lost their recently repaired transmission on their motor home. As we all came to a stop on the side of the road to help them, something went wrong with the mini horse trailer. We limped to the one and only gas station/store at the Gap and checked everything out. Of course, the three horses in the mini horse trailer had to come out because it seemed that the spring had broken.
What to do? Marcia and Jimmie called for someone to come and tow their motor home and horse trailer back to Flagstaff. Bob and Linda finally had to do the same thing for the mini horse trailer. While we were there standing around with the three horses, talking to people and children, a man approached me and asked if we had papers on the horses. I asked him who he was and he told me that he was the Navaho police and that he confiscated horses that didnít have papers. Of course we had papers but he was very scary and looked them and the horses over carefully. He pointed out that one of the papers didnít match the horse and we explained that there were two papers and the info just didnít get transferred. After a long debate, he finally okíd us but we made sure that we didnít take any more horses out of their trailers. After that we were very uncomfortable staying there while waiting for the tows and we started wondering if this was an omen. The tow trucks finally came. We switched horses around and loaded all 10 horses into the big horse trailer and then said good-bye to Marcia and Jimmie and Bob and Linda as they made their way back to Flagstaff. We had directions on where we were going and staying overnight and made plans to meet up with everyone down the road.
Then Ė disaster struck again at the Gap. One member, Ann, was crossing the two lane highway to get back to the motor home and she fell in the middle of the road. She landed on her face and wrist that had been broken and pinned four years previously. Her face looked like she had lost a big fight and the pain in her wrist was horrible along with the other aches and pains she accumulated in the fall. She gamely said to continue the trip and in the motor home, I cleaned and scrubbed the gravel out of her face, iced her hand and arm and made her as comfortable as possible. That night I took her to the emergency room for x-rays and pain pills. The next morning she made the decision to return home and so we got her a motel room where she waited for her son to come to pick her up and we continued on our trip wondering if we really should be going to Canada. Again, was something telling us to go back home?
We found all of our overnights Ė mostly peering through the dark looking for our stalls with flashlights and bedding down our tired little guys and girls. We stayed in Panquitch Utah, Dillon MT, and Lethbridge Alberta Canada. When we arrived in Dillion at 3:30 am, we realized that Maryís horse trailer had a blow out and needed a new tire. The next morning while Mary and Tim went looking for a new tire, the rest of us had an interesting time at the quarter showers. One quarter lasted 30 seconds to a minute and resulted in super fast washings. At least, Bob and Linda Smith caught up to us with their fixed horse trailer and could take their three horses back. The trip through the border was relatively easy. They never looked at our horses or went through our trailers. Thank goodness, something right happened at last. Things were looking up.
We got to Calgary and found our way to the barns. Tim and I got to park our motor home right next to the barn where we kept the horses. Everyone else had to park one mile away and take the shuttle back and forth. Of course, being so close to the horses had its advantages and disadvantages. We were in charge of the morning feedings, checking the horses and were the center point for the gathering of everyone. The disadvantage was that they had fireworks EVERY night at 10:30 pm for one hour and music afterwards till midnight. The fireworks were situated so that they shot right over our motor home and barn. In fact, the fire truck was parked right outside our door and we were told that we could not leave our motor home or the barn when the fireworks started. Well folks, fire works are pretty the first or second time around. After that, you just wait and wait until they stop so you can finally get to sleep. At least the horses did well with the loud banging and the fall out on their roof top. They had their lights out, windows closed and plenty of hay to keep them busy. By the second night, they could care less what was going on outside.
The 4 Ĺ or 5 mile parade came up first. There were thousands of people lining the streets, yelling, shouting and applauding. They really liked the minis and gave us a warm welcome. In front of us were two tanks that would stop and, with a lot of noise and tearing up of the pavement, would turn circles. That was more than interesting for our little guys but half way through the parade they accepted that noise also. It was a long parade and Coughdrop decided that he was through before it ended. He wanted out of there. At least he waited until we turned the corner to go down the road to the park where the trailers were before he ran away. I figured that if I could keep the cart upright and not tip or fall out onto the pavement that he would eventually run out of gas. He did and Ron, one of our drivers, headed him off and got in front of him and walked back to our trailers. Hmm Ė we were having fun Ė right? By the way, we took 2nd place in our division!
The next day we were to perform in the Saddledome which is normally a hockey arena that was made over into a horse arena with lots of dirt. We have two leads in our group, JoAnne who is lead for the odd side and Ann who is the lead for our even side. Remember Ann Ė sheís the one that fell and went home. Now my normal position was number 3 on the odd side. So with no practice beforehand, I became the number 2 lead on the opposite side I normally drove and I was driving a horse, Coughdrop, who didnít want to be there and, to top it off, the arena was rough. Consequently, our first performance was not great and fortunately, was not viewed by a lot of people. They liked us anyway and applauded us. Maybe they didnít see the mistakes. Since we still had Annís horse, Rocky, with us, I elected to drive him for the next performances since he knew what to do and could teach me. Coughdrop stayed back in the stall and didnít even miss us since he wasnít feeling real good. The performances became better, the footing in the arena became smoother and all the people who came to see us were very appreciative with their hooting and applauding. Our team member, Ann, flew up and was with us for the last four days. She even got to drive her own horse on the final day. At long last, a good time was had by all.
If you have never been to the Calgary Stampede, you should go because it is an unique experience. The big Chuckwagons ran on the race track right outside our barn. Each Chuck had a four-up and four outriders and there were four chucks racing each time. It was an awesome sound with 32 thoroughbreds thundering and four chuck wagons roaring while racing around the track. Our team especially loved the miniís Chuckwagon Races. This is just like the big races but done on a smaller scale with no outriders and was conducted more for entertainment than for the prize money. Because the mini drivers from Canada were in our barn, we got to meet and talk with them and thoroughly enjoyed their stories. Some of our team members even thought they might want to try the races - hmmm.
The Calgary Stampede is so large that even being there a week didnít allow us to see everything. We did enjoy the food, the shopping and, most of all, the nice people. The weather was cool, cold and raining. And, of course, we enjoyed showing off our great little guys and girls.
Going home, however, we ran into another problem. At the border, they sent the truck and motor home carrying equipment over the border to the US rest area. Inside the border offices, the guards decided they needed to see the people who owned the horses. Of course, four of us were at the rest area they had sent us to. We tried to walk the mile back to the office but ran into miles of fencing. Finally we had to pile into a truck and go back as if we were returning to Canada where a US border guard met us and ushered us down a wrong way street to the parking lot and into the offices. It took us a lot longer to back into the US than going to Canada but we all made it.
The trip was a unique experience and one that we enjoyed Ė at least most of the time. The question is Ė would we do it again? Donít know the answer yet but it gave us good experience for 2010 when we head to Kentucky to perform at the World Equestrian Games.