Category Archives: In The News

Articles by third parties about Amazing Backcountry.

Horses and At-Risk Youth

For the past several months I’ve had a great opportunity: working with a group of teenagers; showing them how to train, work with and ride their horses at a ranch operated by the Poteet family in west-central Alberta.

at risk youth

Brielle Poteet works her horse.

This is a great group of kids who enjoy having fun and learning with horses. The work that I’m doing is no different than I teach in my clinics or individual lessons. We focus on clear and concise leadership, learning the language of the horse and then having fun with our equine partners though the connection that we build.

Coralee Poteet explains their operation and discusses why they chose to integrate horses into their program. “We are a specialized foster home working with at-risk youth. We run a live-in program that works with teenage girls to give them the foundation for a healthy life. We teach life skills, self-care, healthy social patterns and help each person work through family of origin behaviour patterns and belief systems so that they can form their own healthy style of living.

at risk youth

Learning the basics of space and energy.

Originally we chose horses because we were working with a number of kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder. Kids with RAD have trouble forming attachments and maintaining even superficial relationships; however, there have been many studies done showing that if a child with RAD can form a connection with a horse they can then use that connection as a bridge to form attachments with people.”

Well these girls are certainly forming connections with horses. What I’ve witnessed in the past few months is that they’re also growing in other ways: developing leadership and experiencing pride in their accomplishments with the horses. A few students tended to hide within themselves when in the group with horses. But I don’t see that anymore. Those that were staring at the ground and shy about coming out of their shell have found internal strengths and leadership skills that really work for their horses…and undoubtedly other facets of their lives.

at risk youth

Scott demonstrates with one of the school horses.

When horses experience concise, positive and consistent leadership, they love it. They’ll relax. They’ll lick, chew and yawn.

Why ?

Because we’ve addressed and answered their questions and concerns about the herd and where they belong in it. Muddy and grey interactions with humans drive them nuts, because the herd dynamic isn’t clear.

The great benefit is that the students can SEE and FEEL these amazing results in their horses and KNOW that they are the ones that caused it.


As a trainer and instructor, nothing makes me more happy than to witness students realizing that what they have done has taken their horse to a new level of peace and athletic ability.

Coralee adds some other understandings regarding the relationship with horses. “We have taken many different training courses that highlight the benefit of regular interactions with horses. at risk youthThey are a somatic reconditioning agent- their breathing, heartbeat, and electromagnetic field are so strong that they can influence and regulate people and animals standing within a 15 foot radius. Horses are a mirror for what’s going on internally- they reflect whatever mental and emotional process is going on inside the person that is working with them, and their responses to their worker’s requests directly correlate with what the trainer believes.”

at risk youthThis is really the essence of leadership isn’t it?We desire that our followers emulate us. In order to have the occur with a horse, we have to present ourselves – both physically and emotionally – in the way we want our horses to follow. We want our horses to be a mirror of us. My most recent article on leadership speaks to this as well. I find it not only intriguing, but refreshing, that the training that the Poteets have received so closely

mirrors our style of horsemanship.

at risk youthCoralee explains, “Since working with Scott it’s become easier to see the relationship between the inner process of the human and the outer response of the horse. Everyone involved is learning how to be a supportive, compassionate, and firm leader; and understanding that it’s not about getting the horse to be perfect, but to do everything well- even fear, frustration, and anxiety- is reflected in the way that our girls treat each other and themselves.

at risk youth

Pass the ball!

Our horses are also more relaxed. They have more try and more to give. They are better and more clearly understood by the people working with them, and I think that promotes an atmosphere of calmness and forgiveness on the part of the horse.”

at risk youthOne of my fundamental principles of horsemanship is that our job as trainers and riders is to focus on the success of the horse, not the success of ourselves. In developing our skills and producing successful horses, we realize incredible benefits: we hone our leadership skills. Our timing becomes more precise. We truly learn how to communicate with a horse and we progress to higher levels as a result of a real connection that we’ve produced through our own efforts.

at risk youth

Shaelynn Poteet navigates her horse through an obstacle.

at risk youth

Coralee Poteet and her horse.

This is a fun dynamic group to work with.  The girls are progressing in leaps and bounds. We’ve recently started introducing obstacles and games to our training.  Just like our clinics, it’s great to develop these essential horsemanship skills, but putting them to practice in a way that produces fun and success for all is truly the icing on the cake.

Here’s a big “WAY TO GO” to the Poteet family, their girls and their horses!

Thank you for the opportunity to work with you and share in your success!

Scott Phillips, May 2016

That Special Horse – 2015 Contest Winners

Well after much deliberation (and some tears, apparently), the judges have finished going through all of your stories and the long awaited results follow!

But first…we have to give a big THANK YOU to our prize sponsors:

Brand Y Tack and Supply

Brandy has donated many great prizes for this contest. When in the Sylvan Lake area make sure you stop in for all of your equine needs, a smile and a cup of coffee!

Lisa Blanchard donated the horse blanket and provided contest advertising and promotion. Not to mention helping me build a rail fence!


Irvine Tack and Trailer has been a long time sponsor for our various activities and we’d like to thank them once again!



And we can’t forget ourselves. We’re sponsoring 2 spots in our Amazing Horse Country clinics this summer. Check out all the details here.

And second…we have to give a big THANK YOU to our contest Judges!

Choosing the Grand Prize winner is Monica Culic.

You’ll recognize Monica as the producer of The Horse’s Mouth TV, Calgary Stampede M/C, keynote speaker, published author and the owner of Equinicity Communications Inc.

Monica is also the proud owner of a Canadian mare named Secret.  Monica has a wealth of her own horse stories, too!

And…the additional judges were my own mom and dad. Two very special people in my life that have supported my ‘crazy’ decision to pursue horses as a career. They have been captivated by the beauty, power and irresistible charm of these amazing animals. They know a connection between a horse and a person when they see it – or read it!

So are you anxious yet? Did you even read any of that above? Or did you just scroll down here for the meat and potatoes of this post? Hmmm….I could keep everyone waiting another day.

But man – the Facebook posts I’d get if I did that!

Ok. I relent. Here you go.  Note – if you are a prize winner, we’ll be contacting you this week.

Grand Prize Winners of the 2015 “That Special Horse” Contest are:

The authors of the following two stories both receive a spot in the Amazing Horse Country Clinics this summer.

Echo, the Family Pony – by Gale Dodd Hayday

Gales story was engaging, well written and interesting. A real treat to read. Though the other contestants work was solid, Gales story captured the spirit of the relationship between a human and horse. She truly epitomized the purpose in your mandate: “that special horse.”

Merlin – by Susan Curnow

The first paragraph says it all: When you have a horse for any length of time, it becomes more than a horse but a family member. You understand its moods and quirks from a daily interaction that goes beyond pet.. Merlin was like that.

Most Likes

Big John, a True Gentleman – by Timmi Shorr

For the most liked story, Timmi wins $50 in Irvines Gift Certificates!

Runner-Up Prize Winners

Rocky – by Yvonne Miller
He was such a good teacher and so responsive to the riders, be they old, young, novice or experienced.
Yvonne wins the Weaver Barbed Wire Collection! This great looking set includes a matching headstall, breast collar, spur straps AND reins! Brown skirting leather highlighted with a crisp, deep hand stamped barbed wire pattern and stainless steel hardware.

Prize Sponsor: Brand Y Tack and Amazing Backcountry

The Gift of a Horse – by Natalie Axten
He taught Natalie that there is so much more to life – to relax, enjoy a wonderful horses and her surroundings.

Natalie wins a an EOUS Solid Fleece Blanket. An outstanding neckline sets the EOUS Solid Fleece Stable Rug out from the rest. The details make it ideal for show awards or to use at the show grounds, and yet the quality of the workmanship makes it perfect for everyday use as well!

Prize Sponsor: Lisa Blanchard.

Liberation – by Alana Goldney

Shows the tremendous healing power of horses.

Alana wins A Bridle Bag : Your bridles, bits and reins are worth a lot of money. Prevent them from getting snagged, scrached or covered in dust (or other horse things!) with this great bridle bag.

Prize Sponsor: Brand Y Tack

Alaska, My Heart’s Breath – by Sandy Bell

She was shown humility, courage, forgiveness and how quietness speaks volumes when communicating with horses.

Sandy wins a Hoofprint Framing Kit!  This is really cool and totally captures the spirit of this contest. You can take an imprint of your horses hoof! The kit comes with all you need including sand and your choice of wood frame.

Prize Sponsor: Brand Y Tack

Miss Lupita – by Cindy MacDiarmid

A horse that senses when people need her is a great comfort.

Cindy wins $50 in Irvines Gift Certifcates!
Shop in store or online at one of Canada’s biggest tack retailers.

Prize Sponsor: Irvine Tack and Trailers

Perfect Timing – by Leona Tompkins

The discovery of the power in the connection with a horse – by a person new to horses.

Leona wins a Framed Print – Four riders enjoying their horses with a sunset for a background. What could be better?  The print is framed with a barbed wire inset. Very artistic!

Prize Sponsor: Brand Y Tack

Head over Heels into Horsemanship – by Susan Larsen

Susan demonstrated some amazing ‘stick-with-it-ness’ with a horse through tough training episodes to serious health issues, and learned so much in the process.”

Susan wins $25 in Irvines Gift Certifcates!
Shop in store or online at one of Canada’s biggest tack retailers.

Prize Sponsor: Irvine Tack and Trailers

And that, my human and equine friends, is the end of our first contest of 2015! ??We heard more than one comment from story writers that this was a great opportunity to finally tell their story. We also heard, more than once, from the judges how hard it was to decide.

That says something.

We’ll see you on the trail!

Scott Phillips, Amazing Backcountry

That Special Horse – Story Contest Windup

Amazing Backcountry Contest Image

I felt connection, saw progress and was fueled by hopes, dreams and belief in goodness.

Pistol felt my vulnerability. My weaknesses. She never took advantage of them. I forged a new kind of trust with her.

That pony taught me so much about horses, their language, their deep hearts and emotions…their overwhelming desire to be accepted and respected.

She is a healer for other humans too, besides me, and seems to be drawn to comfort people carrying deep sadness.

I saw and felt his comforting presence and told my horse we would be just fine because Big John would look out for us. I believe he still will from his endless pasture in the sky.

There are so many good lines in your stories.  I could publish pages of quotes. Everyone who has owned or experienced a horse has a story. I’d like to thank you for sharing yours. We will have the winners list up soon (Easter weekend was perhaps not the best time to end a contest)

In reading your stories some aspects of your relationships really shone.  Some of you had life altering experiences with your horses.  Some of you sacrificed countless hours, not to mention dollars, pursuing goals, dreams and even extensive rehabilitation.  Some of you defined horsemanship as you had come to understand it: your horse as a teacher. Some of your stories echo the unfortunate heartache of losing your equine companion.  Some of you discovered that, in the horse, you found someone that understood you without prejudice or condition.

Amazing Backcountry Contest ImageJust what is it about horses that evoke such deep emotional responses ?  Is it their power, energy…their life?  Do we envy their freedom and strength and bask in our ability to share in that with them?  I have my theories.  Despite the fact that the possible answer is undeniably poetic and beautiful, it is also at its core quite simple and sensible.

I believe it is important for us to share our stories. As we share and learn with each other, not only do we make evident the importance of horses in the lives of people, we validate it. I have many of my own stories to tell too. They will all be in the book, if I ever get it finished…You may have already read some of them on the website or in magazines, generally as educational pieces. In order to touch briefly on the horse-human equation I’ve already started writing about, I’ll brush the horse hair off my keyboard and recount a personal experience.

Recently, I spent an extended period of time in the hospital, mainly due to the mistakes of some doctors which resulted in unplanned surgery and subsequent recuperation. Through the struggles and discomfort I had, I was able to keep an excessively positive attitude. This was noted by nurses, doctors, friends and family alike; I could not help but be positive and joke around. Why? Because I had a goal that I was getting closer to being back with my herd.  Every day that I felt better was another step closer.

At one point the physiotherapy crew was coming to my room, with the intent to get me up and moving around using a walker.  I was not aware that they were on their way, and by chance, met them in the hallway. I was energetic, happily scooting around on crutches with IV machine and various other tubes barely under control.  The walker had lost its appeal before I left the door of my room.

Well so much for that plan, they joked.  One of them followed up with, With most patients, we have to work to kick their butt out of bed and get them moving.  With you it’s the opposite: you’re the type of person we tell to slow down!

I will tell you why.  It was because of my burning desire to be with my horses. Even from a distance their influence on my daily life tugged at me constantly, but positively. I joked quite a bit about kicking out my roommate in my hospital room and replacing his bed with a stall so I could bring in a horse to replace him. Farfetched, yes, however I was absolutely serious about spending time with a horse.  I make no secret of the fact that I feel better and heal better around horses. Obviously many of you do too– your stories…well, they tell the story!

Amazing Backcountry Contest ImageHealing with horses is well known and common.  Horses are part of therapeutic programs; some even government funded.  What many people don’t realize – something that is a core of my training program with people, is that just as a horse can create a positive dynamic for a person, a person can create the same dynamic for a horse. And once the horse buys into your ability to offer that, (and this doesn’t take long) well then you have just opened up the door to a whole new level of understanding horsemanship. From the horses perspective.

From my hospital room I thought mainly about Ty.  A 20 year old gelding that I have nursed through many life threatening injuries including a broken neck. It is not possible to express our bond within the limits of the English language.  Ty reciprocates energy in a natural way of a herd leader by providing a space full of peace and positive energy. I was looking forward to healing in that space.

Unexpectedly Spud, my 10 year-old-ish paint horse, filled this role.

A quick aside: Spud and Ty are joined at the hip.  Although Ty is the leader, Spud will go to bat for him in an instant. Most recently when Ty was injured and in a pen by himself, Spud wouldn’t leave the area.  So I put the two of them together. Spud stood by Ty’s side for weeks. At one point, one of my rascals unlatched the gate: Ty got loose!  Spud was in a panic.  Ty and the herd were in the pasture well out of site. But Spud stood at the fence near my house calling until I came. I had no idea Ty was loose until I walked to his paddock and found the gate swinging in the wind. Still excited, Spud took me out to the pasture and – no word of a lie  helped me lead all the horses back. It was more than obvious that Ty was not going to be caught and the only way to get him back was to take the entire herd.  Spud did this for me, and only settled down once Ty begrudgingly following the herd back – was safe and secure. Spud seems to be exceptionally alert to the mental and physical state of horses and people.

Back to the near present.  I had waited a long time for some horse time. Hobbling on crutches on the ice, I carted a lawn chair out into the paddock. Immediately Spud trotted up to me, assuming a comfortable spot by my side, and put his head down by my shoulder. He stood by me for the better part of an hour, until I had to get up. Exactly like he did when Ty was injured.  A protector? A source of strength and healing energy? A shared place of peace?

All of the above, most likely.  I had been in a lot of pain, but sitting there with Spud,  I felt none.  None. I was surrounded by the positive energy of those horses.

I was at home again.

Amazing Backcountry Contest ImageA herd leader like Ty can create a space of peace around him that the other horses want to stand in. We can do this too. How ? Think about it. What does a horse really need?

Freedom from fear/predators, freedom from hunger/thirst and freedom from herd related stress.  What remains is peace. It is as simple as that.  What makes a horse special is their natural ability to share and communicate that.

Part of my training methodology involves emulating the horses natural behaviour, particularly how they communicate through energy and feel. And of course putting that to good, productive and most importantly fun use for the mental and physical benefit of both horse and rider.

Amazing Backcountry Contest ImageWhat I believe I, and many of our story authors have come to realize here, is that the horse is entirely capable of sharing their peace, energy and emotional strength intimately – with a human.  I also believe, amongst other things, this is something that draws us close to our equine companions. ??Closer on some levels than we are sometimes willing to let ourselves be with other people. The ability for us to let down our guard and energetically, empathically and emotionally share our very selves with an animal that instinctively communicates that way is an indescribably incredible gift. It’s encouraging to me, as a trainer, to see that many of you have discovered that.

Once again, thanks for entering the contest.  I hope you enjoyed writing your stories as much as we enjoying reading them.

As you know the Grand Prize of this contest is a spot in one of our clinics this summer.  The goal is to develop your horsemanship skills in a fun and supportive environment, and put your learning to the test on the obstacle course. With nightly campfires, free camping for you and your horse, an exceptionally reasonable price and generally just a darn good fun time….

…why not join us? For more information on the clinics and to register, just click here.

Stand by for a BIG announcement on the contest winners and our Amazing Sponsors!

New Equestrian Campground

Mackenzie County in the north Peace Country will soon have a new equestrian campground. Construction began in November, 2014, with the selective clearing of trees to establish a loop road for the site. The campground will facilitate access to excellent trails in a unique area of sandhills. This is a true community project: a demonstration of what can be accomplished by a handful of people with a shared interest and some frontier spirit!

The Project
The project itself is a joint effort of Mackenzie County and the Hungry Bend Sandhills Wilderness Society (HBSWS). The County sought to partner with a local community group to increase recreational opportunities in this remote rural area. The HBSWS is a registered society made up of several local people dedicated to preserving the natural landscape of the sandhills. The hills are recognized not only as a prized recreational area but also valued historically and geologically. For more information about the region, visit the Fort Vermillion website.

Machesis Lake Horse CampThe new campground will be located within the boundary of Machesis Lake Recreational Area, which is administered by the County. The existing infrastructure (gravel road, signage, and camp attendant yard site) lends itself well to construction of the horse camp road and parking sites, as well as to future maintenance of the outhouses, corrals, etc. Machesis (Mah-chee-sis) Lake can be found at SE34 107-16-5.

For about 25 years, trail riders, ATV enthusiasts, and hunters used a random camping area outside of the park boundary, but due to deadfall and erosion of the track into the parking area, access to horse trailers became increasingly difficult. Caretaking was limited and irresponsible use was increasing. All parties involved in planning the new campground agreed that locating the site within the park allows for better management and environmental protection.


Machesis Lake Horse Camp

The entrance to the camp loop road after the trees were selectively logged, leaving as many as possible. The author stands in the foreground.

The Process
The behind-the-scenes work on this project began in 2012 with numerous emails and phone calls between County staff and Hungry Bend Sandhills Wilderness Society members to discuss potential sites and requirements for equestrian campgrounds. HBSWS members researched sites in the Willmore Wilderness Area, and talked with the Alberta Trail Riding Association, Alberta Equestrian Federation, and outfitters and friends who use various staging areas in southern Alberta and the USA. Environmental scans on foot and on horseback in the spring and fall determined that the area was not home to any rare species and that drainage would be appropriate. Flagging of the proposed site and existing connector trails were completed by volunteers in the summer. County staff joined the effort to inspect the site on foot, and provided accurate maps and aerial photographs.

The site was chosen based on several factors:
Proximity to an old ski trail which allows easy access to other trails and avoids the main road, providing greater safety
A sand ridge to the north makes a barrier to the road

Southern exposure encourages spring snow melt and earlier access by vehicles

Trees are mostly deciduous which potentially will regenerate more easily; vegetation is a good mix of ages which contributes to sustainability of the environment

Flat ground for parking RV’s and limiting erosion

Good drainage

No evidence of sensitive species of plants or animals

Traffic must pass the caretakers yard for greater security

Natural breaks in the trees enable less invasive road construction

There is room for expansion if warranted in the future

Machesis Lake Horse CampThe Proposal
From the research done a formal written proposal was developed and presented by the HBSWS to the Countys Community Services Meeting, followed by less formal in-person discussions with County staff as needed. The proposal included letters of support from the Rocky Lane Pony Club branch and the Rocky Lane Agricultural Society as representatives of the equine industry in the region. Maps and photos showed the existing trails and the potential for tourism, recreation, and education. Balancing the increased use of the area with environmental protection was key for the HBSWS members. Effective management strategies for manure collection, traffic safety, and wildlife were outlined.

The Partnership
Mackenzie County approved the proposal, and allocated $25,000 in their 2014 budget for the project. This funding matched community donations of lumber for picnic tables and metal pipe for hitching rails and corrals, as well as heavy equipment and labour which was sourced by the HBSWS. The County was responsible for communicating with Alberta Tourism, Parks, and Recreation to receive a Historical Resources Impact Statement. Detailed plans and maps of the site were required and produced by the County. Parks staff also visited the proposed area in person.

Machesis Lake Horse CampThe Potential
This new campground, the first of its kind in northern Alberta, will be the staging area for access to miles of cut-lines and old wagon trails that wind through the sandhills in poplar, jackpine, and spruce forests. There are several small lakes, views of the Peace River, and wildlife to be seen. (The blueberry and hazelnut patches are top secret, however!) The footing is excellent from spring to early winter, and due to the sand, shoeing horses is generally not necessary. Once completed, the camp will have approximately 8 camping spots, an outhouse, pens, hitching rails, fire wood bin, manure bin, fire pits, and picnic tables. A holding tank for water may be provided during summer. The County will manage fee collection and up-keep. The Machesis Lake Horse Camp promises to be a popular asset to the equestrian community in the north.
Gale Dodd Hayday

Need a Bridge Moved?

Need a bridge moved? We get some fun opportunities here at Alberta Carriage Supply, but the chance to move a bridge into the back country with horses was one we were happy to take on.

David Farran with Dick & Duke, Terry and Linda Bailey driving Leroy (LeRoy) & Lulu, and myself and my wife Marsha drove Hank & Pete.

The Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association (GBCTA) is a purely volunteer group of Bragg Creek residents that are working hard to design, build and maintain trails and pathways for the benefit of residents and visitors of Bragg Creek.

The group had pre-built a bridge and needed to get the pieces to the construction site for re-assembly. That’s where we came in.

Being a flat-lander and not knowing the trail, I overloaded the gear. We got stuck in a bog on a hill and had to unload a portion of the load on the side of the trail and pick it up on the second trip in.

We did get the job done in three trips though, 6 power poles (32 feet long) and all the small pieces as well!

If you are interested in volunteering or donating, check out their website

Dale Befus

Mail Attachment-5 Mail Attachment-2 Mail Attachment-1 Moving a Bridge Mail Attachment-18 Mail Attachment-15 Mail Attachment-13

Trail Rangers – Rebuilding Kananaskis Trails

Hello back-country users, I would like to share with you a unique project taking place in the southern portion of Kananaskis Country.

Last year the heavy rains and flooding that destroyed so much in towns and cities of southern Alberta also did a lot of damage in the high country. I had the opportunity to see some of the destruction last year with Dewey Mathews of Anchor D Guiding and Outfitting, and it was suggested that is difficult to repair trails and follow the rules of  No motorized vehicles.

Trail Rangers – Rebuilding Kananaskis Trails

As a partner in Alberta Carriage Supply, I am always looking for ways to help people put their horses to work.  This seemed like a perfect opportunity rather than an obstacle. I proposed repairing the trails with draft horses.

This may seem like a good idea, but is it possible? I called Bill Graham of the Road Builders and Heavy Construction Historical Society of Canada. I know Bill and the RHHS from their participation in Draft Horse Town at the Calgary Stampede. Bill has been involved in heavy construction for most of his life (among many other ventures) and has a penchant for collecting old motorized and horse drawn pieces of construction equipment. He also likes to see it work and get dirty. Bill liked the idea.

Dewey, Bill and I had a meeting to discuss the project. As we talked about the project, the excitement grew as we realized it was possible. Our planned 1 hour meeting turned into 3.

As a partner in the venture, Anchor D will obtain the necessary permits, provide meals, accommodation, and back country knowledge. RHHS will provide horse drawn construction equipment and road building expertise. Alberta Carriage Supply is charged with finding teams, teamsters, labourers, training and co-ordination of the project.

Trail Damage

Trail Damage

The damage to trails is extensive. In some areas, bridges and crossings were washed away, some trails had water cuts in them 3 feet deep and some parts of trails sloughed away.  Debris of deadfall, rock and silt has changed the look forever.

Our goal is not to put things back as they were, but to make the trails safe for all back country users.

To accomplish this we will be using road plows, dump wagons, graders, fresnos, wheelers, and even a horse bull dozer. The equipment is all close to 100 years old, so does not have any safety guards and is inherently dangerous to man and beast. To ensure we have a productive experience, we require that all participants attend a 2 day clinic at Alberta Carriage Supply to learn how to safely operate the horse drawn equipment.

Wagons on the Trail

Wagons on the Trail

So who can be a part of this?  Anyone with a smile and a love of the back country! We need help, teams, teamsters and labour to make this a successful operation!

Trail Rangers Details:

Working Days: September 8 -11 in Kananaskis Country

Training Dates: August 17 & 18 (Alberta Carriage Supply)

Cost: $250.00 per person  includes 3 good meals per day, tent, cot & foamy, & training
$75.00 per horse for feed.


To sign up, or for more information, please contact Dale at:
Phone: 403-934-9537

Cavalia’s Odysseo opens in Calgary

The poetry flowing from this grand adventure shines a light on a more humane world where human and horse may live in harmony. For just a few hours, the spectator sets off to discover new horizons, the limits of his imagination, and gets to experience a waking dream in a world where beauty, serenity and hope reign.

– Cavalia Press Release


Nomads – Credits: Pascal Ratth??

No one in Alberta would argue that we have  just been through a long and tedious winter. Hence many of us have not been able to put as much time into our equine pursuits. Shows like Cavalia however, are great for re-igniting our passion, inspiration and excitement for horses as we launch into spring. Here is the opportunity to see a stunning demonstration of accomplishments with horses, in a unique and artistic way.

Reviews of Odysseo typically include the words dreamlike, breathtaking, thrilling, poetic, enchanting and magical. You don’t want to miss this show.

On April 24th, we joined a full house of 2000 for the premiere of Cavalias Odysseo.

Odysseo follows in the grand hoofprints of the original Cavalia in theatrical style. If you were fortunate enough to attend Cavalia when it came through Calgary in 2012, you will be familiar with the complex stage production, the stunning horses and incredible acrobatic performances.

Odesseo builds on the original production with an unbelievable stage. The 1626 square meter performance area includes a three storey hill built on a base of 10,000 tons of rock, so yes, you can actually see horses galloping into the sunset!  The landscape takes the audience through beautiful world scenery from Easter Island to the Sahara, to Mongolia. With lighting and technical effects, the ground can appear to be sand, grass, rock – just about any surface imaginable, including water. Real water that is, using an underground water system and 300,000 liters of water to almost instantly create a lake.


Odysseo Finale | Credits: Lynne Glazer

Think your home entertainment system is awesome ? To complement the stage production, the Odysseo background is composed of 3D high definition graphics, using 18 simultaneous projectors on an immense cyclorama the size of three IMAX screens. Married with the technical complexity of the stage setup, this is unarguably a revolutionary show.

You’ll be witness to some daring feats of acrobatic prowess, and displays of liberty horsemanship the likes of which you have never seen. Not to give anything away, but just try to imagine a liberty act with 32 horses in perfect harmony…

The Odysseo show has 70 horses of 11 different breeds, the most prominent being Lusitanos, Arabians and Quarter Horses. Truly an international production, the horses are from Spain, Portugal, France, The Netherlands, Germany, The United States and Canada, including 2 Canadian horses. There are no mares in the production which makes sense given that there are over 20 stallions.

This show capitalizes on something that no other show does: the horse simply being a horse. Oh yes, these horses are superbly trained, and the connection with their handlers particularly in the liberty work is both obvious and impressive.  But many of the scenes feature horses playing with each other. One particularly moving scene begins with the stage full of horses all lying down with their riders relaxing beside or on them.  I spoke with one of the trainers who mentioned that no show is ever alike.  The horses are spirited, energetic, and are allowed to have fun and express themselves.  For example, in a scene where many horses were on stage, one of the equine performers decided he was going to do his own thing, generating laughter from the audience. What I appreciate is that the handlers simply smile and work with what the horses give them. This dynamic is also the reason the show features live music.

The equine performers are truly the heart and soul of this show. Cavalias philosophy on horses follows.

We are committed to nurturing them and prioritizing their comfort and well-being. The Cavalia approach is based on training methods designed to ensure the horses enjoy training with us and performing on stage. Trainers pay close attention to the horses to ensure that every request is adapted and respectful of what they are ready to offer. Our philosophy is rooted in patience, trust and deep-seated respect. This genuine sense of caring and authenticity is inevitably what resonates with our audiences.


Grand Cavalia | Credits: Fran??ois Bergeron

As a strong advocate of horsemanship, I can honestly say that after viewing several shows, meeting the performers and trainers, and particularly visiting with the horses, that there is no hint of exaggeration in that statement. This is an amazing display of horsemanship, riding, and what can be accomplished with the human-horse connection.

But lets not forget the 2 legged part of this production!

The 49 exceptionally talented artists in the show hail from around the world. Acrobats, aerialists, riders, dancers and musicians. With over 600 Odysseo performances under their belts, these performers make the seemingly impossible look easy. You will not be able to watch this show without considering a membership at the gym.

As we watched these incredibly nimble people literally flying about the stage, I wondered how they keep coming up with new ideas for aerial performances. The fact that all the manoeuvres are beautifully intertwined with story themes, stage settings, music and artistic presentation speaks volumes about the creative minds behind this production.

But you have to see it for yourself.

For a preview of the show, great pictures and more information, visit??


Geocaching events help support STARS

 Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

It’s no mystery for Brenda Murdoch. The New Norway area resident gets excited to be involved in fundraising for STARS.

Brenda combines her love for horses, the mystery of finding objects and raising money for charity by geo-caching in Alberta’s back country.

“It is a fun way to raise funds for STARS. We all know of someone in the community that has benefitted from the service,” said Brenda. “We ride horses in the back country where there is little or no access to hospitals, so it is double important for us to have a service like STARS come out when accidents happen.”

Geo-caching is not limited to geography because stations are set up throughout Alberta.

“It’s not limited by time. We hold a special one-day event, but people can complete the tasks from spring to fall. We hold a fundraising event in each province, but not everyone can attend that day,” continued Brenda. “It’s one big blanket fundraiser for Alberta.”

Geo-caches are hidden in back country spots and riders find them with their horses and GPS trackers. Each rider looks for sponsors, or has a web site on which people can donate. Brenda raised the sixth highest amount this summer.

New Norway resident, Brenda Murdock, equine geocaching with her horse in the mountains west of Longview, AB.

New Norway resident, Brenda Murdock, equine geocaching with her horse in the mountains west of Longview, AB.

“You can check how active each rider is and read their stories on experiences they have had,” said Brenda. “This is the first year we have had geo-caches all over Alberta. We have excellent riding spots along the Battle River, so it would be nice to have more local riders get involved. All you need is a computer, horse, GPS and a truck and trailer. You can take a camera and take pictures and then write about your adventures.”

Completing the tasks can be done by any level of riders.

“It’s fun and full of adventure. It is a new way to explore Alberta and go places you normally wouldn’t go,” said Brenda.

Every summer, Amazing Backcountry hosts The ABC Race for STARS, a horseback geo-caching event held throughout western Canada. Competing riders raise money for STARS Air Ambulance through pledges made online. In 2013, 194 donations were received amounting to $17,850. Over two years the total is $37,150.

“We credit everyone with the success of our organization not only in this province, but also as we usher in a new era of STARS in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. STARS has come a long way since our humble beginnings in 1985, but our main focus is still the same – it’s about the patient,” she added.

Amazing Backcountry riders has over 120 members throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan who participated in the STARS fundraiser. Top money earners for STARS were Mike Harink of Wetaskiwin, Alison Mannix of Rimbey, Scott Phillips of Spruceview, Kathy Wheeler of Calgary, Nicole Darling of Priddis and Brenda Murdock of New Norway.

“In conjunction with STARS, we look forward to expanding the ABC Race for STARS further across the western provinces and including even more riders,” said Brenda.

Amazing Backcountry is an equine geo-caching activity where horseback enthusiasts around the world hide and locate geocaches using their GPS and the Amazing Backcountry website. All caches are tracked online and each contains a log book and items left for trade between riders. There are currently 64 caches placed on 37 different trails throughout Western Canada.