Bryn Lukowiak, AG Media committee

There’s a new show in town this year. Draft Horse Town, to be specific. This year, the gentle giants of the Calgary Stampede have another slice of the spotlight in the Agrium Western Event Centre. The Teamster Challenge will be joining the ranks of the Heavy Horse Pull and the Heavy Horse Show.

“It’s a hybrid of a chore-horse competition, but we’ve added a few more challenges to make it more spectator-orientated,” says, Keven Graham, Draft Horse Town committee member and teamster. “It highlights the skills of our teamsters while still entertaining the crowd.”

They’re not calling it a race, but as Keven puts it, “there’s still a winner.” The competition features two teams – comprised of two horses and a teamster – going head-to-head in a variety of challenges based on historical and current uses of the draft horse.

The specific challenges aren’t confirmed yet, but Keven’s able to give a little bit of a sneak peak into what guests can expect to see.“We’ll likely have two stone boats – a wagon of sorts without wheels – with hay on them. Teamsters will start with an empty stone boat and then travel a course, stopping at a pile of hay where they put hay on the stone boat. Then the teamster drives through a course on the way back, unloads the hay and crosses the finish line.”

Keven hinted at the possibly of a log pulling challenge as well. Log pulling is a common use for draft horses, both currently in logging operations and historically. The Teamster Challenge addition will have teamsters maneuvering through a serpentine course, while pulling the logs.

“We’re looking at doing a water race as well,” says Keven. “Teams will have to fill a barrel with water, do a course with it and then race back. We’ll judge based on who has the most water left in the barrel. That relates to going out and watering your livestock in the wintertime, back in the day. You wanted a nice smooth team and driver so when you got there you still had lots of water left.”

“Most of the competitors are going to be the Draft Horse Town Teamsters,” adds Keven. “This has been something we’ve talked about for a couple of years, so we’re excited it’s coming to life. The teamsters love driving horses and this gives them another opportunity to do just that.”

The show will run on Tuesday, July 11 and Wednesday, July 12  from 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. The judges will be retired teamsters who can easily explain what’s happening in the competition to the audience.

“The audience can watch for a few things in the competition. If we’re not running into things,” Keven chuckles, “that’s a good start. Watch for how the horses love the environment and the work they’re doing as well. If you listen closely, you’ll also be able to hear how the teamster talks to the horses throughout the competition.”

There’s a sense of camaraderie between the teamsters of Draft Horse Town. As much as the event is a competition, Keven is quick to point out, “if someone needs a hand, we’ll all be there.”