Horsemanship Savvy Put To The Test At Stampede’s Cowboy Up Challenge

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The Calgary Stampede’s Cowboy Up Challenge is what the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” is all about: horsemanship, showmanship, legacies and cowboy bravado. In only its second year at the Calgary Stampede, the Cowboy Up Challenge draws participants and spectators, as much for the appeal of the heritage implied in the competition’s name as for the true horsemanship demonstrated by the challengers.

“What interested me about the Cowboy Up Challenge is that it covers the principles of all four savvies in horsemanship,” says competitor and last year’s winner, Glenn Stewart.

“If you look at all the things horsemen do, you can pare it down to we’re either on the ground, or we’re on the horse’s back,” he explains. “If we’re on the ground, we’ve either got the horse on a line, or we turn the horse loose. On the horse’s back, we’re either controlling the horse with very specific contact – like with dressage – or we’re riding freestyle, like cutters do.”

Glenn, who’s lived, guided and played with horses all his life near his current home, The Horse Ranch, by Fort Saint John, BC, describes the four equestrian savvies as on-line, liberty, finesse and freestyle. Though he admits his early years riding bareback with reckless abandon out back of his dad’s feed store after school would hardly qualify as learned horseman experiences, he’s certainly come a long way in respecting the importance of nurturing a great relationship between horse and rider.

“When this event (Cowboy Up Challenge) came up, I was encouraged by several people to participate. When I looked at it, I liked that it has a little bit of all four horsemanship components,” says Stewart. “If you’re only really good at one savvy, you’re going to have trouble with this event. I thought I had a good chance, I thought I had horses that had a good chance … and, let’s face it, when it is the Calgary Stampede, you find a way to make it happen.”

Glenn’s years of cowboying paid off and he won the first annual Calgary Stampede Cowboy Up Challenge in 2010. He’s been preparing for 2011’s competition ever since: indeed, at his ranch, Glenn’s been honing and teaching natural horsemanship clinics for some 15 years and hosting horsemanship challenges for about a decade.

The Cowboy Up Challenge is sanctioned by the Extreme Cowboy Association, the association for Extreme Cowboy Racing, founded in 2008 by Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame member Craig Cameron. In 2010, the event came to the Calgary Stampede, dubbed the Cowboy Up Challenge. Though it’s a relatively new equine sport, it celebrates a centuries old tradition of the cadenced connection between horse and rider in a timed obstacle course.

Tracey Foster, agriculture program coordinator with the Calgary Stampede says, “The Calgary Stampede Cowboy Up Challenge is an event that not a lot of people have seen before. It’s something new and different for Stampede audiences. It’s quite fast-paced and a lot of the obstacles are very unique.”

The event is held in the Saddledome, where lighting, sound and other production elements add dramatic flair and pageantry to Cowboy Up. This year’s second annual Cowboy Up Challenge runs July 9-11, and will be attended by Craig Cameron. An elite competitor pool of only 14 participants will take on the challenge this year, vying for some $20,000 in prize money. Competing in the Calgary Stampede Cowboy Up Challenge is a prestigious opportunity to participate in what is said by some to be the fastest growing equine sport in the world and for the glory of sharing in the largest purse of any Extreme Cowboy Racing event.

“We pay to second place in the first and second go round and then pay to six in the finals,” Tracey says.

For more information on showtimes, prizes and rules, visit, click Events/ Schedules and scroll to the Calgary Stampede Cowboy Up Challenge. For more information on the Extreme Cowboy Association and circuit, visit

To learn more about Glenn Stewart and The Horse Ranch, visit .

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