Born to Buck
Born to Buck: Creating Rodeo Superstars
For more than 30 years the Calgary Stampede has been building up its 500-head herd of horses, specially bred and selected for their athleticism, their competitive spirit and the joy of bucking.
Nestled close to the badlands in east central Alberta, the 22,000-acre Calgary Stampede Ranch is home to its world-famous Born to Buck breeding program, producing some of the best rodeo rough stock in the world.
More than a dozen of its horses have risen to international stardom, including the Stampede herd’s great stallion Grated Coconut, voted the world’s top bareback champion horse a record six times before retiring in 2010. In fact, the program has received more than 250 awards and honors over the years.
“We are extremely proud of our breeding program,” says Keith Marrington, Stampede director of rodeo and chuckwagons and the long-time steward of the Stampede Ranch. “There’s a lot more to this than meets the eye. It takes careful choices in terms of both the mare and stallion’s unique qualities and how the blends might work. And there’s the entire herd health and genetic mix to consider as well.”
The herd is managed carefully with ongoing performance and breeding assessments. The complete herd of both horses and bulls are inventoried every spring and fall. A custom built data base keeps meticulous information on each horse’s breeding and performance.
Using generations’ worth of information on performance and genetics, the Born to Buck program pairs stallions and mares that are likely to create offspring that will buck. A number of different breeds are known to have an influence on a good bucking horse, balancing size, strength, agility and temperament. Grated Coconut is a current favorite stallion, as most of his colts closely resemble him in both appearance and athleticism with a rare consistency.
At present time, there are about 500 horses on the ranch from weanlings to retired stock. Of those, about 150 are actively bucking at professional rodeos at any given time throughout Canada and the US. Each of the professional rodeo horses will buck a maximum of 15 times over the course of a year (that works out to be 120 seconds), with most averaging 11 times. Other horses in the herd fill various roles including high school or college rodeo bucking stock, part of the breeding program, as “nannies” to younger novice horses in the herd, and retirees enjoying the pastures in peace.
Every spring the resulting batch of foals arrives and each one is given a name from the same letter of the alphabet. For example, 1996 was an “F” year therefore; names like French Wake, Flavoured Cherry and Fearless Warrior were selected. In 2010, the foals will all receive names that begin with a “W”.