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    Next generation of mini-horse competitors takes part in Stampede


    Four-year-old James Gabrielson with his mom Stephanie and his miniature horse Cassiel, an 18-year-old veteran of competitions at the Calgary Stampede July 14. James and Cassiel were competing and winning over the crowd in the showmanship portion of the event dressed up as a cave man and dinosaur. Photo by Ian Busby

    There were plenty of oohs and aahs to be heard at the Calgary Stampede’s miniature horse show this past weekend, and it’s all because of a Chestermere area family.

    Four members of the family that owns Smoky Mountain Miniatures east of the city were taking part in Stampede this year, with the youngest of them being James Gabrielson.

    James just turned four, and he stands a little smaller than his horse Cassiel, an 18-year-old veteran of competitions.

    While James isn’t old enough for the complete rundown of events in the show, he did get into costume for the Stampede. He was dressed as a caveman with his horse dressed as a dinosaur, and they were winning over hearts in the showmanship portion of the event.

    “So far he’s doing really well at it and sometimes he listens too,” said James’ mother Stephanie Gabrielson. “I don’t know who gets in more trouble, his horse or him.

    “They are pretty cute so we can’t give them too much grief.

    “Cassiel’s been around a while and he’s definitely a seasoned veteran. He helps out quite a bit with learning for my son.

    “I drive in a cart with my mini. James will hopefully be doing it next year. He’s not quite ready for it yet. He has been practising but he’s not quite ready to do it in public yet.”

    Stephanie’s mother Tracy Rouleau and sister Alyssa Rouleau were also in the show once again. Tracy Rouleau has been in it since 1991, but the Stampede is still a huge deal because it also serves as the national championship.

    James is a bit too young to know how big it is to be part of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, but Stephanie says “He just knows it’s the Calgary Stampede.”

    Raising and training mini horses is a real family affair as they have 15 at their place, with four of them taking part in Stampede.

    It’s a ‘small’ hobby but one that is perfect for them.

    “It really brings the family together a lot,” Stephanie Gabrielson said. “It’s quite the hobby and it keeps us together.”