CALGARY – Canadian title hopes on this night? Let’s just say
they were going . . . going . . . Oregon.
Opening night of the Calgary Stampede’s 2011 Heavy Horse Pull,
sponsored by Soderglen Ranches, UPS,
Burnco, and Wrangler, shaped up as a classic Can-Am clash, with
three teams from Oregon and three
more from Saskatchewan in the lineup. But the experience of
seasoned Pacific Northwest teamsters like
Bob McGowan and Randy Dodge carried the day, as outfits from the
Beaver State claimed the top three
positions during Friday’s lightweight division final.
Dodge, of Albany, Ore., and his Glover International
Trucks-supported Belgian duo of Red and Rocky
pulled an 8,500-pound sled the full 14 feet under the Big Top,
securing a winner’s cheque of $3,000 and
earning Dodge his first Stampede title since 2007.
“I expected that. Red and Rocky are a pretty good team
together,” said Dodge, who declined a shot at
matching the Stampede’s existing division weight record of 9,500
pounds. “I’ve had them split up,
working with other horses, in the past, and they didn’t do so
good. But they just seem to click as a pair.”
McGowan, of Lebanon, Ore., finished second overall, and
collected $2,500, on the reins of his Befus
Construction-supported Belgian pair of LeRoy and LuLu, who
pulled that 8,500-pound sled 156 inches.
McGowan’s Belgian team of Plugg and Nagg, supported by Lone Wolf
Wireline, placed third, pulling 8,500
pounds a distance of 145 inches, and won $1,500.
Kim Hewalo of Pilot Butte, Sask., was teamster for Friday’s
top-placing Canadian outfit, ending up fourth
with his Ted and Enid Jansen-supported Belgian team. J.R. and
Omar managed 12 inches at 8,500 pounds.
The surprises of the night, though, were LeRoy and Lulu, who
were competing in their first pull. Bob’s wife
Brenda was scheduled to hold the reins in her own horse-pull
debut on Friday, but the McGowans decided
to let Bob handle those duties while the equine pair earned some
seasoning . . . and the Belgian
behemoths very nearly ended up winning the deal.
“We brought LeRoy and Lulu just hoping they’d get their first
pull under their belt, even though it was a
big pull. We hoped they’d behave nice enough that we wouldn’t be
ashamed of ’em,” said Bob. “Brenda’s
worked them every day for the last three months. It’s her team.
She’s never pulled, either, so the team
needs a few pulls with somebody with some experience.
“And by golly if they didn’t just do terrific right there.”
This year’s Stampede Heavy Horse Pull, the richest in North
America, has drawn teamsters from as far
away as Oregon, Washington, and Saskatchewan, with outfits
primarily featuring Belgian and Percheron
horsepower. The teams of the Stampede’s lightweight division tip
the scales at a combined two-horse
weight of 2,400 to 3,000 pounds.
McGowan, who’s searching for his first Stampede division title
since 2009, is celebrating his 40season in
the horse-pull game. He and Brenda travel to pulls across the
Western United States, but have hauled to
Calgary for the better part of a decade because “it’s the
greatest horse pull in the whole world.”
Wayne Nagy of Melville, Sask., and his No Point Ranch-supported
team of Clyde and Colonel were fifth
overall, while Nagy’s stepson David Lockhart, also of Melville,
was sixth with his Jane Grad-supported
outfit of Stoney and Sage. Both teams dropped out with measured
pulls at 6,000 pounds.
The Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull will resume Saturday, July 16 at
7 p.m. under the Big Top with the final
of the middleweight division, whose teams weigh a combined 3,001
to 3,500 pounds. The heavyweight
final, with teams tipping the scales at 3,501 pounds and more,
closes out the three-night show on Sunday,
July 17 at 7 p.m. under the Big Top.