When it comes to beautiful places in Alberta, the Calgary Stampede’s two ranches, the OH Ranch and Stampede Ranch, arguably supply some of the most breathtaking views throughout the year. As the green grass fades to brown and the leaves change to red and gold in the cooler weather of the fall, the ranches continue to provide striking images while adapting to the changing seasons.
The change in seasons also means adjusting and adapting care for the horses and cattle that call the two ranches home. The Stampede Ranch, neighbouring Alberta’s Badlands, is home to a herd of approximately 500 horses. In a normal year, roughly 200 of those horses, high-performance Calgary Stampede bucking stock, would be settling in back home after a busy season competing on the North American rodeo circuit.
“It’s been disappointing not going to the big rodeos this year, not getting to showcase the horses,” says Tyler Kraft, who manages the Stampede Ranch as well as the Stampede’s Stock Contracting business. Kraft adds that there were some benefits to staying closer to home, “We did get an opportunity to work on things around the ranch that we didn’t always have time to do before.”
As high-performance athletes, it is important for the horses to stay at the top of their game even during the extended down time caused by the pandemic. Kraft and his team have worked hard to ensure they have kept their fitness and competitive spirits high through a handful of small training events as well as exercise at home.
Kraft will now be preparing the herd for winter, ensuring the horses all receive hoof trims and vaccinations before the colder weather sets in. The yearlings and other younger horses will be kept close to the ranch once the snow flies, with the more mature horses staying further provided the winter weather isn’t too harsh.
Head southwest toward Alberta’s fabled Cowboy Trail and you’ll find the Calgary Stampede’s OH Ranch. Proudly carrying on traditions begun more than 135 years ago, the OH Ranch remains a working ranch to this day. The shift to cooler weather means harvesting and canning produce from the gardens, regular checks on the cow/calf pairs and never-ending fence repairs thanks to the movement of wild game such as deer, elk and moose.
“This is the best time to ride the land with all the beautiful fall colours and warm weather. It reboots the soul,” says Deb Pigeon, who maintains the traditions of animal husbandry and stewardship of the OH Ranch land with husband Ken, adding, the change to fall is a busy time. “We will gather cattle and wean calves in late October. It usually takes a week to bring all the cows and calves home. It’s also time for our winter feed to arrive and to stockpile straw for winter bedding.”
Along with the sunshine and warmth, the mild fall has brought some added benefits to ranch life. A longer growing season means more home grown beets, potatoes, squash, zucchini and onions for the ranch kitchen. It has also allowed the calves to further thrive and grow prior to weaning.
On many days, the Pigeons head out early in the mornings on horseback with their dogs. They find it’s best to get to the cattle before they head to the thick brush in the heat of the day, and very much value the role the dogs play in their ability to care for the cattle.
“Our ranch dogs are always a big part of working cattle,” says Deb. “They can take the place of extra riders in most situations.”
Throughout the year the scenery at the OH Ranch is spectacular, but the warm fall weather has brought on an added bonus of stunning sunsets with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop. With these incredible views, it’s not hard to understand why this land and ranch have remained so special over the generations.