Two Palliser students part of Stampede equestrian tradition

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Hannah Braun, left, on her horse Steel and Jasmine Dahl on Whiskey are shown in High River, where the Showriders rode in a parade recently.

County Central, Menno students among Stampede Showriders

Two students from Palliser Regional Schools are about to embark on a 10-day experience of a lifetime, performing for international audiences at the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

Jasmine Dahl, who just completed Grade 10 at County Central High School in Vulcan, and Hannah Braun, who just wrapped up Grade 9 at Menno Simons Christian School in Calgary, are among a dozen young equestrians in this year’s Stampede Showriders. The youth equestrian team was created 30 years ago and will perform several times daily at the Calgary Stampede.

They performed in several community parades to promote the Stampede this spring, and they’ll be riding in the massive Stampede parade Friday morning.

In the lead up to the main event, Hannah and Jasmine have been training extensively to prepare for four to five daily performances during Stampede that include musical rides, mini parades and “stand and pats,” giving fair attendees a chance to get close to the horses and chat with the young riders.

Hannah says the riders moved in to the Stampede grounds on Tuesday, where they’ll stay until the event concludes June 12. They’ll have a couple days off before hitting the road again, performing in Edmonton and Red Deer. They’ll have a two-week break before leaving in August for Saskatchewan.

Hannah has been riding seriously for about four years, but she’s had a love of horses for as long as she can remember. She’s the proud owner of a 14-year-old Appaloosa quarter-horse named Steel with whom she barrel races and ropes.

She speaks of her horse with affection, describing his calm and gentle demeanour.

Bond between horse and rider something special

“Getting to do this with him is really a dream come true,” she said.

The routines are “mentally and physical taxing,” for Steel, “but it’s totally worth it,” she said. “This is the one thing I really want to stick with. I’m a performer and I’ve found something I can do with him.

“I’m so excited. It’s going to be a great week. It’s been my dream to performing the Stampede.”

Jasmine, who lives in Carmangay, rode her first horse at age two and got her first horse at age four. She’s been riding competitively in gymkhana and barrel racing since she was 10. She says there’s something magical about the bond that can be forged between horse and rider.

“Only certain people have enough patience to understand them, or take the time to understand them,” Jasmine said.

She has developed that deep bond with Whiskey, a quarter-horse Arabian cross, describing him as a go-getter who loves to run all out.

“He’ll basically do anything or everything for you but he’s every stubborn. . . I would drop everything just to hang out with him.”

The affection seems to be mutual.

“If I go into the stall, he knickers at me. I call him Whiskers, and if I call ‘Whiskers,’ he talks back to me. It’s so cute.”

At the end of their musical ride, Jasmine and Whiskey are the final pair to make the victory lap, a chance for the horse to run at top speed. After a performance that requires restraint and control, “he anticipates it and loves it.”

Hannah says she aspires to be a veterinarian. Through the Showriders, she’s learning about her horse’s physical and mental needs.

Joining the Showriders requires a significant commitment of time and energy. Both girls say this spring was a challenge, juggling school work and training. Being part of the team requires a fair bit of volunteering by parents as well. Hannah’s mom, Karen Braun, a behaviour specialist in Palliser Regional Schools, is one of the Showrider chaperones, living on the Stampede grounds for the duration of the event.

“I am very appreciative of the support,” Hannah says.

The Showriders continue to perform even after summer ends, and both girls say they’d consider staying with the riders for another year or more. Once a rider has made the team, they can stay until they reach age 21.

Both students will earn high school credit this summer. The program counts as work experience providing the young equestrians valuable training in team building, commitment, work ethic and leadership. There program also offers an opportunity to travel. In 2012, the Showriders were part of the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, Calif. The Showriders won awards at the 2011 Grand Floral Parade in Portland, Ore., and the 2013 Frontier Days Parade, in Cheyenne, Wyo.

For more information on the Showriders program, visit