If you’ve been keeping up with our Stampede Spotlight feature here on the Stampede Blog, you’ll know that heavy horses (also known as draft horses) were traditionally used to carry heavy loads.

You’ll be able to learn all about them by visiting Draft Horse Town, new to this year’s Stampede, where you’ll see examples and exhibits on how they were used to help settle Western Canada. You’ll also be able to witness first-hand just how much load these beasts of burden can haul by catching the Heavy Horse Pull competition in the Big Top, July 16-18.

That said, heavy horse owners are very proud of their horses and sometimes enjoy showing them off. They’ll dress them (and themselves) up, outfit them in beautiful costumes, hitch them to some fancifully decorated wagons, and give them every opportunity to strut their stuff in front of a crowd.

This year, you’ll be able to see these magnificent beasts in all their majesty and splendour at the Heavy Horse Show, taking place in the Saddledome between July 9-12, and featuring musical performances from members of the CPO on July 10 and 11 in the evenings.

The Heavy Horse Show at the Stampede will feature all the heavy horse breeds (Belgian, Clydesdale, Percheron, and Shire) in various competitions.

Generally known as draft horse showing, there will be many different classes (or competitions) that will be showcased during the first four days of Stampede. Some of the classes involve showing just the horse being lead by a person on the ground through various patterns (halter class). Cart classes, where one horse is driven in a cart by a person, and hitch classes, where four or six horses (divided into pairs with one pair in front of the other) are hitched to a wagon. The unicorn class is a competition where three horses are hitched to a wagon, with one horse hitched and leading the team.

Several competitions will have these beautiful animals stepping in time to specially selected music performed by members of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO).

Some of the aspects that teams will be judged on is how cleanly they navigate the patterns they must navigate through, the physical conditioning of the horses, conformation, manners, and how well they can work together as a team as a whole.

My favourite competitions are the ones that feature musical performances by members of the CPO. I love orchestral music, so while an urbanite like me may sometimes have trouble grasping some of the various aspects and intricacies that the teams are being judged on, I can still appreciate the performances of the teams while at the same time, enjoy the live music that they must perform to.

I also like the various costume classes where both the horses and the people will dress up in magnificent costumes. The thought and effort competitors put into their entries is very obvious, and all of the costumes usually end up looking very spectacular.

So if you’re trying to plan your Stampede in advance, and are looking for an opportunity to see these heavy horses on display in all their splendour outside of what you’ll find at Draft Horse Town and the Heavy Horse Barns, check out the Heavy Horse Show in the Saddledome, July 9-12. The competitions featuring performances from members of the CPO take place in the evenings on July 10 and 11.