By Don Crosby, For the Confederate
This year’s Holstein Rodeo had two new events -- sheep shearing and farrier competitions.
The introduction of Eastern Canadian Sheep Shearing Competition this year for the first time involved the shearing of about 2,000 sheep and lambs by 13 competitors.
Safety for the sheep and all of the animals competing in the rodeo is of the utmost importance to organizers
“Safety here is paramount for the sheep but also for the bulls and the horses and other animals. And you’ll find one or up to three veterinarians on site at any time. We look after our animals because, let’s face it, they are our bread and butter,” said Don Lewis, one of the founders of the Holstein Rodeo and organizer of this year’s sheep shearing competition.
Mr. Lewis said the veterinarians check out the animals prior to competition to ensure that they are healthy.
He said it’s rare that animals are injured in this type of rodeo. Injuries are more likely to occur where there’s interaction with other mechanical devices or vehicles.
He was referring to the tragic death last week of three horses killed as a result of a crash during the chuckwagon races at the Calgary Stampede.
The care with which organizers work to ensure safety for animals at the rodeo is borne out by the injury free record to animals in the performance ring during the rodeo’s 11 year history, said Karen Foster, one of the owners of A Bar K Ranch which has hosted the Holstein Rodeo for more than a decade.
Ms. Foster said during an interview leading up to the start of Saturday’s competition that horses and other animals used in the competition are fitted with protective gear to prevent injuries.
Calves and steers used in tie down and breakaway competitions are trained for those activities. So they become accustomed to the experience. As well many come from ancestors with a long history of rodeo competition.
“Their parents would have been in the rodeo so that’s what they would have been bred and used for. When they are finished here they go right back to their mothers right away. The actual show ring isn’t really the training course. We have practice nights. You can work on your horses and train them,” Ms. Foster explained.
“Calves have been tied down, horses have been bucked out and bulls have been bucked out,” before showing up in the rodeo ring, said Ms. Foster who noted that the amount of risk during competition has been reduced to a minimum.
“There’s risk in walking down a sidewalk in Toronto going to the Gay Pride parade,” she said.
Mr. Lewis noted that in all of the Holstein Rodeo’s history there’s been only one fatality.
A few years ago a woman, who was competing in the barrel races, died after her horse slipped and fell, knocking her to the ground, during a practice.
Mr. Lewis is optimistic that the sheep shearing competition will continue on next year
Thirteen shearers, including the winner from the Calgary Stampede, took part in this year’s inaugural competition. They came from the U.S. Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
“The winner of the Calgary Stampede was here competing last night and sheared a lamb in 36 seconds,” Mr. Lewis said.
The Holstein competition is one of six events in North America. During the final shearing off event competitors were required to shear as many as 25 animals in an hour.
“It’s something we’ve worked hard to get ,” Mr. Lewis said.
Supervising the event was Don Metheral of Collingwood, himself a champion sheep shearer and four time winner of the Calgary Stampede event.
“We’ve got top individuals. . . The shearing world is small and the shearers are enjoying this event. So when that happens word will spread. As a committee we need to get more prize money. Make it worthwhile,” he said.
Mr. Metheral said the top prize winner takes home a maximum of $2,000, which is the same as the purse from the Calgary Stampede competition. He would like to see that amount increased to make it worthwhile for competitors to travel from one event to the other.
The guest master of ceremonies for the sheep shearing was author and playwright, Dan Needles who gave a play by play of the action.
“I’m just so proud it’s in my back yard. For so many years I’ve travelled to so many others. Up until about eight years ago we had the Royal Winter Fair. That was sort of the Canadian championships but the money kept dwindling and it made it not worthwhile to put it on. We’ve got the same prize money as the Calgary Stampede,” Mr. Metheral said.
The other new event at this year’s rodeo was a farrier’s competition presented by the Ontario Farrier’s Association with demonstrations on Friday and shoeing competitions on Saturday and Sunday.
Three nights of concerts featured Holstein are resident Megan Morrison, along with Marshall Dane and the Law, Dean Brody as well as George Canyon, Wendell Ferguson and the Good Brothers.
Organizers estimate attendance at Saturday’s event topped 3,000.