Saturday, January 12, 2013
Every January I am reminded of Denver’s famous National Western Stock Show. Since I was a little girl of 9 growing up in Denver, my father and I would attend the stock show to see the rodeo and all the livestock exhibits. When I was sixteen, I showed my first horse at the Stock Show, unsuccessfully I might add. The National Western Stock Show had already been an important part of Denver’s history when I started attending.
From the online history of the National Western: “The year was 1906. Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House, there were 45 states in the Union, Colorado was getting ready to celebrate its thirtieth birthday and sirloin was ten cents a pound. On the outskirts of Denver, a growing town with a population of 200,000, stockmen from around the West gathered to show their animals, buy and sell breeding stock and encourage a meatpacking center to rival those in Kansas City and Chicago. From this beginning, the National Western Stock Show, Rodeo and Horse Show was born. The grand champion steer that first year was a Shorthorn that tipped the scales at 1,150 pounds and befitting its status, fetched an eye-popping 33 cents a pound.”
Initially the stock show grounds were pretty primitive.
As the show grew so did the facilities. In 1989 the National Western’s executive committee chaired a successful drive to convince Denver voters to approve $30 million in bonds to expand Stock Show exhibit space and build the Events Center. With 240,000 square feet, seating for over 5,000, and 354 stalls for equine guests, the state-of-the-art Events Center opened in 1995 and vaulted the National Western to the forefront of the nation’s horse show arenas.
During the 80s and 90s Don and I were working full-time and also attempting to produce a high quality Appaloosa horse. We had purchased our first stallion in 1983 (C.B. who passed away in 2011) and made plans to show him at the stock show.
Showing in January is no easy feat. Horses like to start putting on winter hair in October and to prevent that and keep them in show condition, we had to keep heavy blankets on him and installed artificial lighting In the barn that mimicked summer hours. It also took hours every day to keep him in good physical shape and all of this had to happen as the weather got colder and the days shorter.
Our hard work and the fact that C.B. was an incredible horse paid off – he won the Appaloosa Aged Stallion class and in the process, beat the stallion who just two months before was crowned the World Champion Aged Stallion at the biggest Appaloosa show in the world in Oklahoma City.
One part of stock show that most people try to forget is the weather but it has become infamous. For some reason the two weeks of stock show are often the worst weather of the year and that was certainly the case the year we showed C.B.
In 1984 when we showed him the horse barn facilities and the indoor show arena were not attached. It required a 100 foot walk with your perfectly groomed (and nearly hairless) horse. We showed around lunchtime and the temperature was 22 degrees BELOW zero. We covered C.B. with a heavy wool blanket, trotted him the 100 feet to the arena and slipped him up under the overhead heater at the entrance to the arena. Our timing was perfect – the last class of younger stallions was just coming out, Don handed C.B.’s lead to our professional handler, I grabbed a hold of the back of the wool blanket, and in they went with the blanket sliding off the back of C.B. as he moved forward.
This year is upholding the reputation of stock show weather. The cold started yesterday and we are not expected to get above 19 degrees until next Wednesday with lows 10 degrees BELOW zero or worse. I sure am glad that these days all we have to do is throw another log on the fire and relax on the couch with a good book.
Now if we could just get more snow!