Obrey Motowylo may have been the one to guide his horses around the track to win last Sunday’s Bonnyville Chuckwagon Championship, but he was quick to point out that the victory was a family affair.
Although he crossed the finish line in second behind hometown favourite Rae Croteau Jr. in the championship final heat, Motowylo’s penalty-free clocking of 1:17.53 stood up as the winning time, just 85/100ths of a second ahead of reigning World Champion Layne MacGillivray.
“I’m running quite a few new horses and to know they’re working out gives me confidence to carry on,” said the 50-year-old reinsman, who vaulted to the top of the driver standings (ahead of Grande Prairie Stompede champ Chanse Vigen) thanks to his seventh career World Professional Chuckwagon Association Pro Tour victory. “I know it’s early in the season, so really winning the second (show) isn’t a great deal, but it’s definitely a confidence booster.
“It’s tough to win shows on our World Pro circuit. Every win you get is definitely a notch in your belt.”
Croteau and Mitch Sutherland both knocked down barrels in the final and received five-second penalties to finish third and fourth respectively.
“You’ve got to leave the barrels standing,” said Motowylo, who also commended his sons Ethan and Hayden for working well as his outriding tandem throughout the four-day show, which he led from wire to wire. “My sons both outride for me and I’m pretty proud of them. I don’t even look over my shoulder. I know something dramatically has to go wrong for them to not be there. They’re both at the top of their game and I’m really proud to win with them.”
The 2021World Champion also commended his wife Angie for her work behind the scenes in the barns, specifically her attention to detail with getting the horses ready to race.
“We truly are in it as a family with both my boys and Angie back in the barns pre-stretching the horses and everything,” Motowylo said. “It’s a true family win.”
In addition, his parents Harry and Shirley were in the stands in Bonnyville to cheer his Choquet Insurance Group Ltd – The Co-operators outfit on to victory.
“My dad and my mom were both there to watch me, so it was special,” said Motowylo, who was born in Two Hills but soon headed northwest to Clyde with his family.
It was on the family farm just east of Clyde where Motowylo’s dad discovered the sport of pony chuckwagon racing.
“Dad got rid of the cows and bought about 100 head of pony horses and they were kind of kicking around the fields, grazing down the grass, keeping the grass trimmed,” recalled Motowylo. “The neighbours come over one day and told him you’ve got horses here to make pony chuckwagon and chariot horses. Dad didn’t even know what that was.”
Soon his dad and older brother Mike were racing pony chuckwagons and the youngest Motowylo at the time discovered his passion as well.
“As soon as I turned 15, I grabbed the lines and I’ve been at it for 36 years now or something,” said Motowylo, who went on to win three World Pony Chuckwagon championships in addition to a trio of North American titles.
From there he joined the Western Chuckwagon Association for a partial season in 2004 where he won the Teepee Creek Stampede. Next up was one season with the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association where he earned accolades as the circuit’s high-point rookie driver before he joined the WPCA for good in 2006.
The Motowylos now reside in Hoadley, which is a hamlet located about 45 minutes northwest of Ponoka.
“Not much there, but that’s my area and that’s why I go by the Hoadley Hornet,” Motowylo said. “That’s what (announcer) Les (McIntyre) calls me because of my colours, black and yellow.”
The next WPCA Pro Tour stop for Motowylo and his fellow drivers is the Dewberry World Chuckwagon Races from Friday to Sunday.
Pleased with how his main outfits performed in Bonnyville, Motowylo now plans to rest many of his top equine athletes in Dewberry.
“For me it’s a training show,” he said. “I’ve got four new horses that still haven’t been in races, so that’s going to be training for me and just try to build and strengthen some more back-up horses, I guess. I’m not worried at all about results. That’s just a fun show – laid back and try some new horses.”
Meanwhile, last year’s Dewberry champion Evan Salmond, along with his older brother Wade, have decided to return to their homes in Saskatchewan instead of competing at the circuit’s third stop.
“It’s our only weekend we get off all season, so we came home actually, back to Saskatchewan,” explained Evan. “We thought about it a little bit, but we’re kind of down a bit on numbers of horses this year and we’re just giving them a break. They’ve got a lot of days ahead, so that was our one reason. The other reason, like I said, is we don’t ever get to see home all summer, so this is our only chance to go home.”
-Submitted by Laurence Heinen