By Karlene Skretting
Westwind Weekly News
Sisters Abby (20) and Megan (18) Perrett of Raymond not only share a love of horses, but the two are currently sharing an experience of a lifetime, together, surrounded by horses.
The girls are two of 12 Calgary Stampede Show Riders this year.The Stampede Show Riders are a dynamic group of young equestrians with a distinctive western flair.
It all began when Abby saw a post on the Calgary Stampede Facebook page, she then convinced her sister to join her at tryouts in March. “I thought it would be fun to try out and see if we could make it,” shared Abby during a telephone interview with Westwind Weekly News, Tuesday, from her trailer at the Stampede.
The girls tried out on March 4 and 5. The first day was a mandatory pre skills clinic and the second day was a judged audition where the girls had to perform a choreographed routine with their horse.
“They definitely had a good audition and the judges were happy with what they saw so they were chosen … ,” said Jamee DeWit, Calgary Stampede Show Riders director. “They are personable girls, very friendly and excited to be here representing the Calgary Stampede and the Show Riders.”
DeWit went on to add that it is rare to have sisters riding together and that it has been over 10 years since it last happened.
The Perrett sisters were quick to credit their grandpa, Dennis Jessop, for sharing his love of horses with them at a young age, and as they grew he taught them to ride and about more advance horsemanship skills.
“He taught us when we were kids. We grew up around horses. He showed us everything,” said Megan. “Horses have always been a big part of our life.”
Making the squad was just the beginning; the girls were then responsible to attend regular practice sessions every other Sunday in Calgary from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“It was a huge time commitment. We’d have to get up by 5:30 a.m,” shared Megan. The girls had a three-plus hour drive both ways and traveled one of the furthest distances to participate.
But so far the girls agree that the experience has been well been worth the volunteer time and effort.
Over the course of the summer the Show Riders will take part in close to 50 performances, 37 of which will happen during the 10 days of Stampede. They will also have made appearances at other rodeos and parades.
Their performance is a nine-minute musical ride, similar to the RCMP Musical Ride, explained DeWit.
They do choreographed manoeuvres to music, some of which include the pinwheel, suicide cross and their signature manoeuvre, the C lazy S formation where the horses form the CS brand in the middle of the arena.
“This takes months of practice to perfect these manoeuvres,” said DeWit. “They are difficult and can be dangerous if not practiced and perfected.”
There are a lot of things that come into play like spacing, finding their partners, timing, remembering to ride knee-to-knee and shoulder-to-shoulder and using the entire arena.
“It was scary at first, but after I started riding, it just felt so natural that the nerves went away,” explained Abby about her first time in front of a big crowd, riding before the Chuck Wagon Races at the Calgary Stampede.
She remembers everything falling into place and barely even noticing the crowds because she was so focused on doing what she loves.
Abby is particularly enjoying the experience because she is fortunate enough to be riding her beloved 15-year-old quarter horse Jypsy that is owned by her grandpa and has been in the family for a long time. “She is the horse I started learning to ride on. I was excited to share this with her.”
Megan shared similar stories of initial nerves and jitters, but the excitement of the crowd to watch her perform and knowing that her sister was there beside her quickly turned any negative emotions into adrenaline and excitement.
So far Megan’s favourite moment was Tuesday afternoon during Senior’s Day. “It was packed full of seniors and they were just so excited to see us perform. Our assistant coach said that she saw some tears from some of them, so it was really cool to see how much they enjoyed it.”
Megan’s standout moments include duties outside the arena. During stand-and-pats the girls each take a 30-minute shift, twice a day, by the North Gates where guests can come up and visit, meet them and their horse and take photos.
“I just like seeing the kids faces light up when they get to see us dressed up and meet our horses,” she shared.
“It provides guests with an immediate urban-rural connection right off the bat. Lots of the time it’ll be the first time guests touch a horse or even seen one up close,” added DeWit about the importance of the Show Riders being approachable and personable.
Megan has also enjoyed meeting lots of neat people the last few days, including Tuf Cooper, a three time world champion tie-down roper.
The Show Riders were originally formed in 1985 as the mounted colour guard for the Calgary Stampede Showband, in the 90s they broke out into their own program. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Show Riders.