It could be considered a pretty high-stress situation. But Kurt Bensmiller is keeping his cool about this year’s Calgary Stampede.
“I’ll be going there to win, just like every year,” he says. “Whether the cards are in my favour? We’ll see in mid-July.”
What Bensmiller and many others will be waiting to see, is whether he can capture a third straight championship at the Calgary Stampede’s GMC Rangeland Derby. Only three men have ever managed that in the event’s long and storied history. Rolling in to the first races of the season, Bensmiller is not letting that get to him.
“If there’s any pressure, it will be what I put on myself,” he says, adding he’s feeling good about the strength and depth of his barn with 16 new horses added to his team of veterans this spring. But in Calgary, 35 other chuckwagon drivers will be looking to turn up the heat, setting their sights on knocking Kurt Bensmiller from that top spot. Among them – his younger brother, Chance.
“If anyone dethrones him, I hope it’s me.” For years Chance Bensmiller has worked with Kurt, training in the spring at his elder brother’s home. But after getting the call from the Calgary Stampede this past fall, Chance decided to change things up.
“I decided to take a different approach on my own, to focus solely on my own horses. I had some things I had to work out.” Despite making the decision to train separately this season, Bensmiller still maintains a strong connection to all of his family in the sport, including father and former Stampede Champion Buddy Bensmiller.
“A lot of guys don’t have a big family like mine. Having my dad, Kurt and brother-in-law Vern (Nolin), that family support is huge.” While Kurt is the recipient of much of their father’s assistance, Chance claims another family advantage – brother David, a talented and much sought after outrider.
“David’s my first call,” says the younger Bensmiller. “Words can’t even describe how much pressure is lifted off my shoulders knowing he is holding my lead team when the horn blows.” For Kurt, family is a big part of what brought him into the sport, and what keeps him racing.
“That’s one of the biggest reasons I got into this,” he says, adding “Not many people can love their job as much as I do and be lucky enough to share it with family like I do.”
As for sharing the wagon box this summer at the Stampede, like they have in the past, both Bensmiller brothers are hoping it just won’t be possible.
“Hopefully we’re both in late heats, and too close” Kurt says with a smile in his voice. “We’ll be too close to help each other. That’s a good thing.”
The Bensmillers are among four sets of brothers set to compete at the Calgary Stampede in 2016. There are also four father-son combinations.