University of Calgary

Behind the chutes, inside the barns at Calgary Stampede

Veterinary medicine researchers share behind the scenes experience at Stampede Stories

June 25, 2014

In the chutes, staring into a bronc's eyes seconds before the gates swing open, and in the barns, patting the back of a mud-caked team as they're unhitched from a chuck wagon harness, are two University of Calgary professors.

Ed Pajor and Renaud Leguillette, both with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, dedicate nearly every hour of the 10-day Calgary Stampede to watching over the animal athletes.

When the University of Calgary, in partnership with the Calgary Herald host Stampede Stories - a pancake breakfast and lecture at the downtown campus on Friday at 7 a.m. - Pajor and Leguillette will share their tales of the sights, sounds and smells behind the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

"One of the most surprising things to me is the behaviour of the bucking stock before and after their events," says Pajor. "Before observing animals at the Calgary Stampede, I thought animals at rodeos would be completely wild and very difficult to work with. To my surprise, most animals enter the chutes easily and when they're in the chutes they appear calm and relaxed. When the gates open, they buck, but once done they return to their pens in a calm state quickly. It's not what I expected at all."

Pajor, an animal welfare and animal behaviour expert, and Leguillette, an equine internal medicine specialist, evaluate animals as they compete in the rodeo and chuckwagon races. Their work offers a unique perspective of the Calgary Stampede that few outside the cowboy ranks will ever experience.

"I love to see the horses being walked by the team members after the chuckwagon races to cool them off. There is an incredible bond you see with man and animal at times like this. These people live so close to their horses - the family spirit is incredible, "says Leguillette.

"The animal athletes are really the stars of events like Stampede," adds Pajor.

Stampede Stories kicks off the University of Calgary's annual Stampede celebrations. It features a free pancake breakfast starting at 7 a.m., live entertainment, a showcase of historic images and memorabilia as well as a public lecture with Pajor and Leguillette.

WHAT:   Stampede Stories - Behind the chutes; inside the barns, a free      
        pancake breakfast and public lecture                                
WHEN:   Thursday, June 26 from 7 to 8:30 a.m.                               
WHERE:  University of Calgary downtown campus, 908 8th Ave SW