Two members of RCMP’s K division are going to the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas to represent Canada — and it’s going to be a trip to remember.
Heading out for the Dec. 6 to 15 competition are livestock investigators Cpl. Dave Heaslip of Ponoka who covers northern Alberta and Cpl. Christian Reister who covers southern Alberta.
The idea came to Heaslip who felt a need to represent the RCMP and Canada in a large venue; he already does the grand entry during the Ponoka Stampede. It was Wayne Vold who suggested they consider contacting NFR organizers, explained Heaslip.
A phone call to organizer Shawn Davis put the wheels in motion and Heaslip and Reister will carry the Canadian flag during Canada Night. “We are absolutely thrilled to do that…it’s the Super Bowl of rodeos.
There were several hurdles to jump to ensure both horses would be allowed to enter the United States and be ready for noise and excitement of the finals. Horses needed a Coggins Test, which checks for a specific equine virus as well as have permission from the RCMP and Alberta Agriculture.
“We certainly have to have our horses continually slicked up,” he said.
They are also given daily training and an obstacle course to give the horses an awareness of dealing with noise at the rodeo.
“We have to desensitize the horses so we’ve got 8×10 (feet) tarps close to the rafters hanging down. We’ve got plastic tarps on the ground, we’ve put fans with inflorescent tape snapping and the local fire hall provided us with three strobe lights that flash,” explained Heaslip.
They also have a recording of the 2012 New Year’s Eve fireworks display from Sydney, Australia. “Next week the Roman candles fireworks come out and we’ll be using some ear plugs for them…It’s all done now in the dark.”
Each of these challenges makes their horses less likely to bolt and he feels they are going to be ready for the finals. “The horses are responding really well.”
The drive starts on Dec. 8 with a stop in Idaho Falls, Idaho where they will meet up with colleagues from the International Livestock Identification Association. Heaslip is bringing two horses, Duke and Duchess, and Reister is bringing Spud. All three are quarter horses and he looks forward to the experience but knows there is still work ahead for them to be ready.
“To ride on the same dirt as those guys (competitors) ride on is an honour, especially leaving from Ponoka steeped in the history of rodeo,” he stated.
Heaslip grew up in Saskatchewan and moved to British Columbia until he settled in Ponoka; Reister grew up in the Alliance area. Both investigate instances of livestock strays, animal abuse, thefts and fraud. Heaslip also certifies Mounties before they can ride in a parade or other events representing the RCMP.