Heavy Horse Pull welcomes its first female teamster
Horses for courses, goes the old expression. Well, Priscilla Tames has just
about visited them all.
The president of the Saskatchewan Barrel Racing Association has started to
think big the past couple of summers . . . really big. And as a result, she’s
making her Calgary Stampede debut this weekend at the annual Heavy Horse Pull
competition under the Big Top.
Tames, of Vibank, Sask., is the first female teamster in the history of the
Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull, having established her own Valhalla Horse
Enterprises pulling team in 2009 after spending a couple of summers working for
Jack Grad, also of Vibank, and setting the hook for his Bar G Bar Percherons
pulling outfit. But she’s definitely no stranger to the equine species.
“It’s awesome. I’m having an absolute ball with this,” says Tames. “Anything
I can do with a horse, I like to give it a try. I’ve jumped. I barrel race right
now. I team rope. I’ve shown horses. I’ve been to Calgary for a 50/50 futurity.
To try something new is always fun for me. I like challenges.”
Thursday night, at the Victoria Pavilion, the Heavy Horse Pull weekend
officially kicked off with its ninth annual Team Auction, and all 22 entries
found suitors as the auction pulled in a total of $39,300 in bids. The
Springbank Belgian team of heavyweights owned by Dennis Weinberger of Cochrane,
Alta., garnered the top bid, $4,100, from New West Truck Centres. Another
Weinberger-owned Springbank Belgians team commanded the highest price in the
middleweight division, at $2,300, from the Calgary Co-Operative Association Ltd.
A team headed by Stan Grad’s Soderglen Ranches of Airdrie, Alta., and Randy
Dodge of Albany, Ore., earned the top bid among lightweight rigs, at $2,300,
from buyer Jane Grad.
This year’s Heavy Horse Pull has drawn rigs from as far away as Michigan,
Oregon, and Washington, with teams primarily featuring Belgian and Percheron
horsepower. Outfits compete in three classes based on the total weight of the
two-horse team – lightweights from 2,400 to 3,000 pounds, middleweights from
3,001 to 3,500 pounds, and heavyweights tipping the scales at 3,501 pounds and
up. The lightweights will kick things off Friday night, while the middleweights
test their strength on Saturday and the heavyweights take centre stage on
Sunday. The sled starts moving at 7 p.m. under the Big Top all three nights, as
these brawny behemoths of the equine world pull as much as three times their own
weight a distance of 14 feet.
Stan Grad’s Soderglen Ranches rig and its mammoth Belgian pulling duo of Jim
and Ben, are back to defend their Stampede heavyweight title after setting an
arena record in 2009 by pulling a 13,100-pound sled the full 14 feet. Bob
McGowan of Lebanon, Ore., are hoping for a repeat in the middleweight division,
while the lightweight division will see a new champion crowned.
Tames, who has pulled at Regina’s Agribition, will be trotting out her finest
Percherons in the middleweight class on Saturday – Tim, a 10-year-old gelding
weighing 1,736 pounds; and Pearl, a nine-year-old mare weighing 1,571 pounds.
“Last year, I pulled lights all year, but this year, I took off one of my
older mares and replaced her with Tim, which puts us up in the middleweight
class. No more training wheels – I’ve moved on to my two-wheeler, I guess,”
Tames said with a laugh.
“I’m not in Calgary to win. I’m here to do my best. I mean, to win would be
amazing,” added Tames, whose team earned $1,900 from Ted and Enid Jansen at
Thursday’s auction. “But I’m coming in barefooted; my horses don’t have the
special cleats. And I’ve only been pulling a year.”
Since it was established in 2002, the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull Team
Auction has become an increasingly popular event for individual and corporate
supporters, with attractive and affordable branding possibilities. The Heavy
Horse Pull allows supporters a great opportunity at promotion, a unique venue
for entertaining clients, and the chance to view some top-notch agricultural
For successful bidders, the Heavy Horse Pull advertiser’s package includes
passes to watch their teams during competition from a private VIP section under
the Big Top, signage on the horses during competition, stall signage in the
barns, and an exclusive party in the Victoria Pavilion alongside the horses
after the main events.
“It’s a great opportunity to get up close and personal with these horses,”
said Bill Nelson, chair of the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull committee. “We’ll
take your picture with them. We’ll tour you through the barns. They’ll go to
your corporate functions. You come to the cocktail receptions every night and
rub elbows with them.
“It’s an overall great Stampede experience at a very reasonable price,” added
Nelson. “And the teamsters we get from all over North America are real
first-class, entertaining characters.”
Heavy horses have been part of Calgary’s annual agricultural fair for 125
years, dating back to the Stampede’s predecessor, the Calgary Industrial
Exhibition. As a species, they’re the longest-running agricultural component of
the Stampede and its predecessors, and the only livestock class consistently
presented throughout that period.
Article courtesy of the Calgary Herald