Spring training began in the cold wet snow and ended with the bright warm sunshine. As the horses are just like a human athlete, they need to get in shape for the upcoming Chuckwagon races. It is imperative to have real good helpers alongside us as we prepare the horses during their training.
On April 8th, we welcomed David and Kim onto the Ranch hailing from the far island of New Zealand. They had heard and watched Chuckwagon racing previously, so it piqued their interest when they read our ad for hired hands for the 2018 season. There has been plenty to learn and many horses to get to know, but all in all we’ve had a bunch of fun so far, and they have gotten right into the swing of things.
Our friend Tom was in the Wetaskiwin area, and came out for the week to give us a hand. My husband Rick, and Tom go way back to their growing up days in Grande Prairie. So he’s had a fair bit of experience handling those big thoroughbred horses.
Paul, a good friend stopped in a day or two to say hello and go for a ride. When we moved to Wetaskiwin in 2007, Paul became a permanent fixture here at the Ranch for a number of years, each spring helping us train the ponies. He loved each and every minute of it as Chuckwagon Racing has been in his blood for a very long time. Over the years, Paul helped Rick’s Grandfather, the late Tom Dorchester along with Rick’s uncle, the late Dallas Dorchester as well as our son Cody, when he raced in 2016.
Garth hails from just south of us in a small hamlet called Maskwacis. He has been involved in Chuckwagon racing for many years, as an outrider and a hired hand in a few different camps. We are looking forward to him joining up with us during the Calgary Stampede for the 10 days of racing. Always a good hand with a smile, a funny joke and laughter that keeps the crew upbeat.
Our relative Bruce, has been coming out regularly over the years since we moved to Wetaskiwin. His heart is in helping. He loves the horses and always has many stories to tell from days gone by. We are very fortunate to have him oversee things on the Ranch while we are away on the road during the racing season.
And then there’s the grandkids! They make me smile day in and day out. Little Ryker is at the fun age of 2 years old. He is a going concern, loving the great outdoors, trucks, trains, sandboxes, quads, tractors and more. He knows his Papa drives a Chuckwagon and loves to stand and watch as they go around and around.
As the seasons pass by, we so appreciate the help of our son Cody. While he puts many hours into his welding job, he always makes time to help us harness, hook and drive. Both Rick and Cody say the best days are the training days.
When Cody raced in 2016, we were very proud to hear some of the retired veterans of the Chuckwagon world, say “That kid’s got it!” “He’s a natural.” We look forward to him joining the ranks again some time in the future. We’re not sure when that will be, but when it is, it will be the right time.
As the training continued, the outriding horses needed a rider. And well, Rick was it. Back in the day, he was one of the best outriders, riding along side others such as Mike Vigen, Brent Wolsley, Jerry Bremner, Jim Nevada, Gary Lauder, Jim Sheilds, Randy Armstrong and more. He did very well, but I don’t think he will be competing anytime soon, even though the outrider pen is pretty small this year.
As we neared the day to head out on the trail, the list of things to do was compounding daily. Yet, I still enjoyed taking some time and helping the crew harness and hook the outfits that needed to go. I always like to be out there as I think I might miss something if I’m not there.
After a plentiful day of training, the horses and “Team 23” enjoy a good back scratch that always feels so good!
From the Travelin Trailer
Sue, with Rick and “Team 23”
P.S. There is always time for gratitude and new beginnings.