Not all good western work is done from the back of a saddle. Sometimes it happens in boardrooms, on judges’ stands, or in the arena dirt with a microphone.
Peter Fraser is a perfect example of that. He’s earned a sterling reputation, as he has judged, promoted and proclaimed both close to home and at international destinations. Fraser has been associated with Paint horses, the Calgary Stampede, the University of Calgary and, now, the Extreme Cowboy movement. In fact, he’s the first Canadian to be inducted into the Extreme Cowboy Hall of Fame! He’s also been presented with the Stampede White Hat Award. His commitment to, and enthusiasm for, all things horsemanship and horse people is truly contagious.
It’s not surprising to see Fraser’s boots firmly planted in the Western way of life. His family’s roots in his home of High River, Alta., run deep. “My Dad was always involved, with events like the High River Little Britches Rodeo and the Stampede. We were raised to volunteer,” says Fraser, who has three brothers, Dave, Bill and Bob, who are all renowned horse specialists (Dave and Bob are Canadian Champion Team Ropers). His late sister, Margaret, was also Stampede Royalty. “I was successful riding and trained my own horses, but I wasn’t the best in my family,” admits Fraser.
So he pursued an education, which became a cornerstone of Fraser’s life and career outside the horse pen.“ I say my parents dropped me off at university in 1967 and never came back to pick me up,” he chuckles. After studying education, psychology, sociology and kinesiology, he landed within the administration at the University of Calgary and retired in 2010 as an Associate Vice-President. He also played a role in the 1988 Calgary Olympics. “I’ve always been able to speak; I’ve always been able to entertain and be positively controversial.”
In his daily life, Fraser puts his sociology and psychology courses to good use, as well as his animal behavioural science classes. But he was also never far from the barn. “I went back to horses when I met my wife, Diane (they’ve been married 35 years). She was a city girl who was really horsey. We forged our own legacy in Paint horses and showed throughout the Midwest until we slowed down for the boys.”
Their sons, Cody and Casey, who are now in their 30s, grew up showing horses and competed in team penning. They are active supporters of Cowboy Up, with Cody serving as the clown and T-shirt gun master.
While Fraser competed vigorously in most sports, as well as on horseback, his knees began to give him grief, so he turned to volunteering, and it wasn’t long before he found his way to the officiating circle. Since then he has judged nearly every equine discipline. “Judging has always been easy for me. In good judging, like in sports, you learn to see things in slow motion. Everyone finds their niche.”
Understanding people and process, plus horses, has been a dynamic combination for Fraser. His resume includes such prestigious accomplishments as being elected President of the American Paint Horse Association (he’s the only non-American ever to be head of any horse breed association in the U.S.). Over his now 40-plus years of being a Stampede volunteer, he’s chaired the Light Horse, the Western Performance Horse, and the Nomination and Shareholder Relations committees, and was instrumental in the construction of what’s now known as the Nutrien Western Events Center on Stampede Park. “I’ve been blessed my whole life with choices. Opportunity has always knocked at just the right time when I needed a change.”
When the chance came along to champion the sport of Extreme Cowboy racing, Fraser ran with it, and it’s become a career within itself. He now serves as Director of Judges and Judging for the EXCA (Extreme Cowboy Association), which takes him to events around the world where he also runs clinics, as interest in the sport mushrooms.
“The number of people coming from Australia and Europe to the world show is growing exponentially and is going to be double again this year. Travelling to Europe has been eye-opening. There are amazing riders there, and our goal is to teach them the finer points of Extreme Cowboy racing… They’re Western crazy. They love the lifestyle. When I went to France last April, it was unbelievable. They were so enthralled with everything Western. They even had a replica of Fort Apache from the Rin Tin Tin TV show!”
Pending his recovery from knee replacement surgery, Fraser plans to be in Belgium in September, where he will do clinics and judge the European championships. “The beauty of Extreme Cowboy is there’s no breeds. There’s no one best way of doing things, no such thing as a perfect score. We preach the best obstacle is when a rider accomplishes something virtually nobody else can do and makes it look easy.”
Even though Extreme Cowboy is his “baby” at Stampede, you’ll also find him announcing the miniature horse show and his other favourite — the mini-chuckwagons. “One of the biggest thrills for me is being introduced as the voice of the mini-chucks!”
Whether it’s playing with the audience at the Calgary Stampede or instructing new Extreme Cowboy participants in Europe, Pete Fraser’s passion for all things Western, and life in general, never wanes. “If I don’t learn something every day, then I’ve failed. But you also have to know when to get out of the way. That means ‘go do something different,’ not that your time has ‘ended.’ I’m downright confident I have some new things coming on. I just don’t know what they are. It’ll be a surprise, but a good surprise.”