“Is that a young man or young woman?” That was the question I was asking myself as I watched the Calgary Stampede Showriders at the Nutrien Centre at the Calgary Stampede this week.
At first, I thought it was a young woman with short hair. But as I looked closer, I realized it was a dude. I’m always up for a unique story so I decided to investigate further.
With the help of Jill Barron, my friend and coach of the Showriders, I caught up to 21-year old Mason Rowat from Langdon, Alberta. In what is a traditionally a young woman’s discipline, Mason is the first ‘young man’ to participate with the Showriders in over 20 years.
“I saw the Showriders at the Calgary Stampede a few years ago and decided that’s something I wanted to do,” explained Mason. “I went to their website and found out that participation was open to young women and men ages 16-21. I went to the try outs 3 years ago and was accepted.”
Even though COVID has hampered a number of the events the Showriders normally participate in, Mason said the experience has been great nonetheless.
“It’s really improved my horsemanship a lot. And it’s also helped me meet new people and get over my shyness. Performing in front of 17,000 people can be a little nerve-racking.”
This is his last year with the Showriders but that doesn’t mean the end of his horse adventures. He currently manages the grounds and herd for the Calgary Shriners Mounted Patrol. And he hopes to continue to compete in endurance rides and extreme cowboy obstacle events.
Mason doesn’t see himself as a trailblazer but hopes that he might inspire other young man to try out in the future.
“We start try outs this fall,” explained Barron. “It’s an 8-month commitment. We have high expectations with 100% attendance requirements. But the experience is a lot of fun and can be life-changing for a lot of the riders.”
For more information, go to http://www.calgarystampede.com/…/stampede-showriders
Photos and story by Craig Couillard