Story by Jody Robbins
CALGARY, ALBERTA — Hold your horses! If you’re set to get the most out of the Stampede, you’ll want to steer over to the new ENMAX Corral Show — TAILS: Three Horses. One Legend, pronto.
Weaving the tale of three horses, whose interlacing lives created the Spirit of Stampede, the show salutes these loyal companions of the frontier. But TAILS, isn’t just about equine heroes. It pays tribute to all those who inhabited the prairie a century ago, and the stories of those who developed the wild west, are revealed through the horses on their journey of being reunited.
Produced by the 2012 Calgary Stampede for the event’s centennial anniversary, this ain’t no dog and pony show. They brought in the big guns, like professional animal trainer Bill Lawrence (the horse trainer for the film version of War Horse), Métis actor Tom Jackson and former Cavalia trick rider Sally Bishop.
TAILS is unique in many ways, but mostly because it isn’t your typical variety show.
“Our goal was to develop a great story first and then bring it to life with equestrian arts that showcase the magical bond between horses and their human counterparts,” says Dan Finely, the executive producer. “A key component of this production is that it loosely follows a fact-based storyline.”
With trick riders, First Nations dancers, 35 horses and other animal performers, including trained bison, raised especially show business (that’s right, star buffalo), timing is everything.
“There’s so much talent involved, we’ve really had to work together to make this happen. Unlike the movies, there are no do-overs in a live show,” Lawrence says.
Lawrence has worked for the past six months getting the hero horses up to speed with liberty training, where the horses are free and the work is based on trust and using body language — without bridles, treats or strings.
But don’t worry about these high-calibre athletes being overtaxed. Recipients of special feed, massages and chiropractic care, the equine stars receive higher-than-standard care. The Calgary Humane Society and Alberta SPCA have the same unfettered access to these animals as they do with the rodeo stock. The horses in TAILS work a maximum of five minutes each per performance.
During one 50-minute production during the Stampede’s opening weekend, the crowd went wild in response to the impressive stunt work and collectively held their breathe as 2,500 pounds of buffalo stampeded precariously close to their seats. Roping in more applause was the charreria, Mexican-style rope artistry by internationally acclaimed artist Tomas Garcilazo.
“Nobody’s going to believe what I just saw,” says Vanessa Pesquiera, visiting the Stampede from Phoenix, Arizona. “People have to come see it for themselves.”
Free with Stampede Park admission,TAILS runs three times daily: at noon, 4 pm and 8 pm, at the Stampede Coral.
MORE ABOUT THE 2012 CALGARY STAMPEDE
Dates: Until Sunday, July 15
Rodeo tickets: Prices range from $12 for standing room to $389.25 for lounge access that includes a three-course dinner. Visit the Calgary Stampede’s website for details.
Other event tickets: Garth Brooks, Brad Paisley, and Johnny Reid are among the headline concert acts announced for the 2012 Stampede. You can find concert tickets and tickets to other events, including the nightly “Century” show featuring Paul Brandt & the Young Canadians, at the Stampede’s website.
Free breakfast: Visit FlapjackFinder.com for all the free breakfast spots throughout the Stampede.
More news: Visit the Vacay.ca 2012 Calgary Stampede page for more articles, videos and special features.
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NOTE: Photos courtesy of Calgary Stampede