BONNYVILLE – The pony racing season started off on a big stage when local participants went to the Calgary Stampede earlier this month.
Griffin, Stella, and Layla Purdy, along with Autumn Cory, got back on their horses this year to compete in the sport they’ve all come to love: youth wild pony racing.
“Pony racing is done on wild ponies,” Griffin explained. “They run out of the shoot with three people on a team and they’ve just got a halter on. The person closest to the head has to grab it to slow the pony down so the rider can get on. Then there’s the anchor in the back that also slows the pony down.”
The teams work together to try to get their rider on as quickly as possible for two jumps.
James Purdy, Griffin’s, Layla’s, and Stella’s dad, said it was a unique experience to be able to see all three of his children competing at the Calgary Stampede.
“It’s a big show, good experience, and it was really neat for us to have all three competing there together at the same time,” he described.
This was Griffin’s third time at the greatest outdoor show Alberta has to offer. After growing up going to rodeos, he thought wild pony racing looked fun and asked if he could sign up.
“We asked if there was room for me and there was, so I just went in and didn’t really stop from there,” Griffin told Lakeland This Week.
The 13-year-old, along with his teammates from Calgary, did fairly well. They got first on five of the seven days they rode, and came in second on the other two.
“We did really good, we were the winning team,” Griffin said.
This is Griffin’s fourth year competing in the wild pony races. It was his interest in the sport that prompted his sisters, Layla and Stella, to sign up this year. Layla even roped her friend Cory into joining the team.
Purdy said he was surprised when 11-year-olds Cory and Stella wanted to compete in the pony races this year. Stella and Cory both took their first try at the event in 2018 at the Bonnyville Pro Rodeo, but hadn’t been in any competitions since.
“I didn’t think they’d want to go again but when Calgary came up, they jumped on it.”
Stella and Cory agreed heading to the Calgary Stampede was an experience they wouldn’t soon forget. Their team managed to get first two of the days they were there.
“It was really fun,” expressed Stella.
Other than competing, Cory said she enjoyed “just hanging out with my friends a lot.”
The youngest Purdy, eight-year-old Layla, stepped onto a big stage for her first-time pony racing competitively. She believes her team did well and had a great time at the stampede.
According to Purdy, Layla’s team won best looking.
Like many seasons this year, COVID-19 significantly impacted how many competitions happened this summer.
“Usually, these kids start during the May long weekend and they’re rodeoing May long weekend all the way through a lot of the summer,” Purdy noted. “This year, the start was the Calgary Stampede. Generally, they’ve had several rodeos and lots of performances and practice when they get to the Stampede. The Calgary Stampede was the start for all of these teams for the year, and thankfully, they have a few more to do, so that’s good.”
The teams will be heading to Rocky Mountain House in August for the Battle of the Rockies and to the Ponoka Stampede during the September long weekend.