Introducing Dustin Gorst and Cody Ridsdale; both chuckwagon drivers will be competing for the very first time in Calgary this Stampede 2017.
For years he has raced the Calgary Stampede track; holding steady until the klaxon blared, then leaping fearlessly onto the back of an already flying, high-powered thoroughbred.
As an outrider, Dustin Gorst is a veteran competitor at the Stampede. He has also driven the track as the demonstration driver. But for the first time in 2017, Gorst will be among the 36 drivers guiding their thundering teams around the track in pursuit of the championship and a share of more than $1.15 million in prize money. It is a sport that’s in his blood.
“Chuckwagon racing is a family sport, and everything that I do comes from my father, Gary, and brother Logan,” says Gorst. The three men and their respective families have always made the 10 days in Calgary a family affair, but 2017 will be special as it marks the first time all will compete as drivers.
Also considered part of Dustin Gorst’s extended family – his horses. Right now he’s preparing for the very busy upcoming spring training season with his own rookies and veterans. His aim is to get close to 50 training days with his horses before racing starts. A farrier and logging truck driver in the offseason, Gorst says his favourite part about the sport is simply being up in the wagon box driving his team, whether in a race or just morning practice. And his focus is always on the care and safety of his horses.
“There isn’t one decision not in the best interest of the horses. They are the number one priority at all times.”
The first time Cody Ridsdale guides his team onto the Calgary Stampede track, a longtime dream will come true.
“It’s been the ultimate goal since I first started out, so this is a game-changer for me.”
Into his 14th season of competitive racing, 2017 marks the first time Ridsdale has received an invitation to compete at the Calgary Stampede. It is a goal he has worked hard to achieve, and the first time he rolls out in front of 20,000 cheering fans in the Stampede Grandstand, he plans to have a key member of his team right there with him–a big chestnut horse named Deputy.
“The first night of Calgary, I will be hooking him on the left wheel. It’s going to be a really special night for me and I want him to be a part of it as he was a big part of getting me there.”
Another key member of the team is Ridsdale’s fiancé, Katrina Barry. A certified equine therapist specializing in chiropractic and deep tissue massage, she works with the horses providing adjustments as often as needed, as well as pre-race stretches and nightly massages.
As spring creeps closer, Ridsdale is looking forward to getting the season underway and says horses will be feeling the same way. “Spring training is a pretty exciting time around the ranch. The whole energy just changes,” he says. Adding “Katrina and I get excited to get going and so do the horses.”
As for why chuckwagon racing is a passion for him, Ridsdale says it’s simple. “As a chuckwagon driver we are ultimately just big horse lovers, so it’s a way to revolve our lives around horses.”
Both Cody Ridsdale and Dustin Gorst will be participating in their first Calgary Stampede Canvas Auction, presented by GMC, on Thursday, March 23. The auction offers advertisers the opportunity to bid on drivers in hopes of securing a one-of-a-kind experience for clients, employees, family and friends in the chuckwagon barn area. The money raised supports the drivers not just at the Calgary Stampede, but also throughout the year as they travel and care for their horses. More information on the Canvas Auction can be found on CalgaryStampede.com