Gilbert Roy and Le Cheval Canadien


Gilbert was riding and driving Canadian Horses at a young age.

This year marks the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the ancestors of the Canadian Horse in what is now Canada. Horses sent to the French colony by King Louis XIV eventually became the distinct breed we know as the Canadian Horse. Gilbert’s experiences with the breed, sometimes called Le Petit Cheval de Fer, or Little Iron Horse, goes back to his childhood on a farm in Matapedia, Quebec. In that part of Quebec, life on the farm was much the same as it had been in the early years of the twentieth century, especially for Gilbert’s mother, Monique, who had been left a widow with six children when Gilbert was only three years old.

From a very early age, Gilbert loved working with harness.

From a very early age, Gilbert loved working with harness.

Gilbert loved working with harness from a very early age, an attraction that would stand him in good stead when working with Canadians. As soon as Gilbert was able, he would harness the farm’s horse to do much of work done today with tractors, ATVs and snowmobiles. One of the most hardworking farm horses he remembers from those days was a little Canadian (unregistered, of course, since papers were of no value to a farmer at that time) named P’tit. Gilbert and P’tit would haul water from the creek for his mother’s big garden, bring hay in from the field, and the many varied chores required on a largely self-sufficient homestead.

Gilbert and P'tit with a young work crew hauling hay.

Gilbert and P’tit with a young work crew hauling hay.

Gilbert’s first horse was a Canadian cross mare. Since they had no trailer, he had to ride her home to the farm, a distance of several miles, and although she wasn’t well broke when he picked her up, she was doing much better by the time they reached home. Because she was a red roan, he called her Rosie, and she was put to work logging and hauling, as well as being his saddle horse.

Gilbert and Rosie.

Gilbert and Rosie going hunting.

When he got older, Gilbert went to live with his brother, Albert, who had a riding stable in Joliette, Quebec, and was head wrangler for his brother’s string of about 40 horses. Every spring, Gilbert would make sure both new and old riding horses were schooled enough for their clients of varying skill levels to ride. Many of their string horses were Canadians, because they were inexpensive and easy to find in Quebec. Around the same time, Gilbert was competing in various rodeo events, from bronc riding to barrel racing. One of the best barrel racers he rode was a Canadian stallion belonging to a friend.

Fast forward to 2001. Gilbert had moved west to BC in 1980, spent some time working with thoroughbreds in Osoyoos and Maple Ridge, bred, raised and trained Quarter Horses for many years, and now worked as a farrier and horse trainer in Langley. He lived at the ranch of Jim McCrae, founder of the Back Country Horsemen of BC and a diehard mule man. Gilbert used to help him take clients and gear to his camp on Snass Mountain, and worked with his mules. Jim was giving a Stock Management clinic to a group of Back Country Horsemen members and Gilbert was helping out.

Gilbert riding Cherry Creek Danzon Gina at her first show in 2002.

Gilbert riding Cherry Creek Danzon Gina at her first show in 2002.

One of the students at the clinic was Ruth Donald, a rather inexperienced horse owner who owned a young Canadian mare. Gilbert was saddling up Jim’s mule for Ruth and they got to talking. When she realized that not only was Gilbert a skilled horse trainer, but that he was from Quebec and familiar with the Canadian Horse breed, she asked him if he would work with her mare. He rode the young mare in her first Canadian Horse breed show in 2002, just after the Canadian was declared Canada’s National Horse.

Gilbert was one of the founding members of the Canadian Horse Heritage & Preservation Society  (CHHAPS) in the fall of 2002, and went on to show Gina in a number of CHHAPS shows. The CHHAPS shows included various events that showcased the versatility of the breed, from performance and in hand classes to driving and pulling. The Little Iron Horse Competition required a horse to compete in a Trail Class, a reinsmanship (driving) class, a timed 1/4 mile trot under harness, and a stone boat pull. In 2003 at the Historic O’Keefe Ranch in Vernon, B.C., Gilbert and Gina won the Little Iron Horse competition. By that time, Gilbert had adopted both Gina and her owner as family.

Gilbert and his Canadian mare competing in the stoneboat pull at O'Keefe Ranch.

Gilbert and Gina competing in the stoneboat pull at O’Keefe Ranch.

Gilbert and Gina cattle penning.

Gilbert and Gina cattle penning.

Gilbert also taught Ruth’s Canadian mare to work cows, and competed in the weekly cattle penning competitions in Aldergrove with her. He even used her to demonstrate cattle penning skills at the Cowplay clinics he was giving at Twin Creeks Ranch in Aldergrove at that time.

Since then, Gilbert has also worked with Canadian Horses belonging to other members of the Canadian Horse Heritage & Preservation Society, mainly to get them started under saddle or harness, although he used another Canadian mare, Nisa, as his “demo” horse during his Cowplay clinic in 2013.  His help with little Pistachio was in a previous post, as was his participation in the Northwest Horse Fair in Albany, Oregon, with John Hartley’s stallion, Kurt.

Ylacey arriving at Proud Horse Ranch, Feb. 2015.

Ylacey arriving at Proud Horse Ranch, Feb. 2015.

Now in 2015, Gilbert is once again getting a young Canadian mare ready to be ridden in her new home. Ylacey, a sweet mare belonging to Hayley Bouzek of Langley, is at Proud Horse Ranch learning how to be a calm and accepting riding horse, and Gilbert is looking forward to watching Hayley get to know her in the near future.

Here are more photos of Gilbert working with Canadian Horses.

The Canadian Horse has survived in North America since 1665, but it is still a breed at risk. View this Canadian Horse Heritage & Preservation Society article for more information, and if you love the breed, spread the word and encourage others to support this wonderful heritage breed.

Highland Pony meets French Canadian Cowboy in the Cariboo

Frank and his Highland Pony Lairg

Frank and his Highland Pony Lairg

The Cariboo is a melting pot. Here on Watch Lake Road, Ann Armann has a herd of purebred Highland Ponies at Circle H Ranch. Gilbert lives just down the road, and it turns out the French Canadian horseman’s first client in the Cariboo has a Highland Pony from Circle H Ranch.

On one of the many occasions when Gilbert was shopping at the 100 Mile House Timbermart, he was talking to Frank at the service desk when the conversation turned, as it often does with Gilbert, to horses. Frank mentioned that he was having a little trouble catching one of his horses, and that it had become almost impossible to get a halter on him. The young gelding’s name is Lairg (named after a town in the Scottish Highlands), and he’s one of Ann’s purebred Highland Ponies.

Horse and handler both have to be comfortable with each other

Horse and handler both have to be comfortable with each other

Gilbert immediately recognized it as a communication problem, a very frequent problem between horses and their owners. Once the spring mud dried out and the footing became good enough, Gilbert went over to Frank’s to help him learn to converse with his Highland Pony. How would a French Canadian know Lairg’s language? Horses, it seems, have a universal language, and Gilbert learned to speak it long ago, living with horses since he was barely able to walk.

Working on the lead line

Frank working Lairg on the lead line

First Gilbert worked with Lairg in the corral while Frank watched, explaining to Frank as he went along just what he was doing and why. Gilbert wants to make sure the horse is comfortable, and even has fun during a training session. It wasn’t long before Lairg was allowing himself to be caught and haltered, then happily following Gilbert around. Then it was Frank’s turn to work with the horse, while Gilbert watched and continued to give him pointers.

Good communication starts on the ground, so even if a client has been riding their horse already, Gilbert always starts with fundamental ground work to improve the horse-human relationship. That means lots of work on the lead line to establish the horse’s respect for his handler. After the first session, Frank was able to catch and halter his horse. He learned how to get Lairg’s respect, and to correct him firmly and fairly when they had a difference of opinion.

Fundamental groundwork is essential for establishing good communication

Fundamental groundwork is essential for establishing good communication

Gilbert took the photos on this page at the second session, during which Lairg was even learning how to stand quietly “ground tied”. They’ll keep on working together until Frank and Lairg are able to safely hit the trail on their own. Stay tuned for updates!

Note: Click on any photo to enlarge. Thanks to Frank for allowing us to share Lairg’s story!


Does this Highland Pony look hard to catch now?

Does this Highland Pony look hard to catch now?

Sheena: The brave little mare who never gave up


Sheena, the brave little mare

In November of 2008, Gilbert made the acquaintance of Diane Robert, a fellow French Canadian who boarded her 24-year-old palomino Quarter Horse mare, Sheena, at a barn in Langley where Gilbert had a client. Thanks to Diane, here is Sheena’s story:

Diane had worked with Sheena as a foal, and she had been a little spitfire, very smart and spunky, showing a lot of promise. After her early handling, she was turned out to pasture to grow big and strong until she was old enough to ride.

When she was between 10 months and 2 years old (in about 1986), Sheena suffered severe injuries while turned out to pasture. What exactly happened, or how often, nobody knows. The end result, according to Diane’s vet, was a horse with semi-paralyzed hindquarters, a spine needing constant readjustments, tense neck, back and hip muscles, and a life of constant pain.

At 26 months, her resting position was all four legs within two feet of each other and back humped. When she walked, she would drag each hind leg and slap it hard on the ground, as if she had lost motor control. Her rump muscles had not developed normally for a Quarter Horse and she had problems with balance, so doing anything with her feet became a risky business.

Sheena was bathed and groomed regularly at Tickety Boo Farm

Diane bathed and groomed Sheena regularly after her move to Tickety Boo Farm

Around that time (in 1987), Diane heard about a chiropractor in Vancouver who was working with horses. The chiropractor did ten weekly treatments on Sheena, readjusting her spine. She also showed Diane some leg exercises which would help loosen up the muscles in Sheena’s rump and shoulder. The treatment improved Sheena’s condition enough that it became safe to work with her feet, and to train the little mare for light riding and driving, although she was still far from being rehabilitated.

For the next ten years or so, Diane and Sheena enjoyed each other. After 1997, however, Diane was subjected to the usual demands of motherhood, with less time for her mare. During that time, Sheena had to be moved to different barns, under the care of different farriers. Against Diane’s instructions and without her knowledge, the little mare was turned out with large groups of horses, left outside in the rain for days on end, and improperly fed and trimmed. Her initial injuries were exacerbated by being chased, kicked and bitten by the other horses, as well as being clawed by a bear and fighting rain scald. By the fall of 2008 when she met Gilbert, Diane’s little mare was in worse condition than when she came off the pasture as a two year old.

Sheena getting special treatment with a leg poultice

Sheena getting special treatment with a leg poultice

At that time, Sheena’s health and feet had deteriorated so badly that the vet’s prognosis for her was very poor, and Diane was forced to contemplate euthanasia. The little mare would lose her balance and fall, sometimes several times a day. But Sheena still had that spark, and Diane decided that if the little mare wasn’t ready to give up, neither was her owner. Determined to give her one more chance, she made the long drive from Port Coquitlam to Langley four or five times a week to make sure Sheena was getting extra feed, and to perform the strengthening and stretching exercises that would help her keep her balance. Then she met Gilbert Roy while he was shoeing horses at that barn.

Diane wrote that when she first met Gilbert, “Right away, I sensed that he was very knowledgeable about problem horses and took pride in his work. It took him well over two hours to trim my mare’s hooves and put two shoes on her front feet.” Sheena was so weak that she had to lean against the wall in order for him lift one of her feet. “Without any hints or clues from me, he told me that her feet had not been done properly for about two years,” she wrote, and that it would take several trimmings “to get her back on track.” He recommended a supplement to improve her weight, and showed Diane how to do some slow walking and turns with Sheena to improve her flexibility and her awareness of where her hind legs were.

Diane wrote, “After a week on [the supplement], I noticed a stunning improvement in her weight. Even the veterinarian noticed the improvement in both her weight and strength at each of her subsequent monthly visits.” Thanks to Diane’s diligence in following Gilbert’s instructions, Sheena did not need the wall to support herself during the second shoeing. After seeing the rapid improvement and how Diane was so willing to work with the little mare, Gilbert agreed to work on Sheena on a weekly basis to see how much she would be able to improve.

Sheena waiting to be set free after her bath

Sheena waiting to be set free to canter in the field at Tickety Boo Farm after her bath

In 2009, Diane wrote: “Gilbert combines physiotherapy, mind therapy, massage therapy, chiropractic adjustment, nutrition, shoeing and horsemanship, all tailored to the specific needs of my horse and myself. Each week, he adds a different exercise to improve her balance and flexibility. And he also trains me to spot when she had enough for the day. After just six sessions, her well-being is like night and day. She looks happier and feels less constrained in her movement.”

Soon Gilbert was able to put shoes on all four feet, and Diane could start working Sheena on a lunge line, something that had been impossible for many years. “Both my horse and I have learned tremendously from Gilbert.”

She wrote: “Gilbert Roy is a natural healer able to combine multiple disciplines geared towards the well-being of horses. He understands them from the ground up and inside out. His knowledge is phenomenal. I feel extremely fortunate to have met him and work with him on my horse. I have no reservations whatsoever in recommending him to work on any problem horses.”

Sheena eventually came to live with Gilbert at Tickety Boo Farm. Diane came to see her two or three times almost every week while she was there. Although she was never able to realize her dream of riding the spunky little mare again, she watched Sheena canter happily through the pasture and enjoyed pampering her with regular brushing and bathing. The little mare was safe in a cozy box stall with an adjoining sand paddock, where she would stand surveying the farm and other horses when she wasn’t turned out in the pasture.

Diane’s spunky little mare never lost her spark and plucky attitude, and it is a testament to her dedicated owner that she recognized and respected Sheena’s strong will to live and let her enjoy her final years in safety and comfort.

Sheena circle

Six months in the Cariboo

DSC04523At the end of February, Gilbert, Ruth and their animals will celebrate the end of their first six months in the Cariboo. They packed up and left Tickety Boo Farm in Langley at the end of August, and moved to a 124-acre ranch in Lone Butte, just southeast of 100 Mile House. There’s still lots to do before he can start “horsing around” the way he likes to, but he’s starting to feel very settled in at the new ranch. The ranch wasn’t well set up for horses, so before the onset of winter, he had to make sure there was a secure fence around a large turnout area, with continual access to shelter and unfrozen water. The barn had to be cleaned out and reconfigured so there was a safe place for an older mare. He had to find hay for the winter and clear out a place to store it.

First load of firewood in October

First load of firewood in October

Meanwhile, there were dead trees to fell and buck, and to be hauled out of the woods and stacked for firewood in a very short time. There was work to be done on the house to get it ready for the cold weather, and to make it feel like their very own home. There’s a very long driveway between two hay fields that is subject to deep drifts of snow, so equipment for snow clearing had to be sourced or repaired, or in some cases, both. There was the unpacking and organizing of many years worth of accumulated stuff, from nails and screws to saddles and harness, not to mention furniture, clothing and all those miscellaneous items that seem to follow people around in case they’ll come in handy one day.

Deer running across the front field

Deer running across the front field in November

Add to this a few trips out of town for work, plus getting to know the nearby towns and making new friends in the South Cariboo, plus entertaining visitors and celebrating Christmas, plus the everyday chores that are part of owning animals and a 124-acre ranch where the temperature can fall to 30 below Celsius, and it’s been a very busy first six months. It has also been a challenging, exciting and exhilarating time. There have been truck and tractor breakdowns and repairs, getting an old Arctic Cat in running condition (his first snowmobile since he left Quebec), digging out underground water taps to the barn, keeping the barnyard cleared of snow.

Cow and calf moose OctHe never tires of the views around the ranch or when driving into 100 Mile House to shop. There are animal tracks in the snow to examine, and sometimes the animals themselves to see, like moose, deer, coyotes, foxes and what-the-heck-is-that-little-critter at the edge of the field? He’s enjoyed getting to know neighbors and local ranchers.

Trail through the aspens

Trail through the aspens

When the snow clears, there will still be many fences to fix, or in some cases build from scratch. There are trails to clear of several years worth of windfall, and in some cases to widen and level enough for a horse and cart or sleigh. He has plans for a round pen and riding ring for training horses, and the riding ring will be large enough for teaching horses to drive as well. There’s a new woodshed and a chicken coop to build, and a garden plot to dig. There are pole corrals to build at a couple of nice spots where visitors to the ranch can set up camp with their horses.

A typical Cariboo sunset

A typical Cariboo sunset

When spring comes and the weather warms up, Gilbert hopes to be ready to start booking new clients in the Cariboo for both his horseshoeing and training. He’s looking forward to finding new riding buddies, and some places where he can put his cow horse back to work. In the meantime, he has more than enough to do. After all, he still needs time to sit back with a fresh mug of coffee and admire the view of that big, sunny, Cariboo sky.

DSCF3286 IMG_1004

DSCF3232 Barnyard snow piles2

How to play with cows in one easy lesson

A few riders took advantage of the opportunity to learn how to play with cows last Sunday at the Anderlinis’ arena in South Langley. Gilbert first introduced “Cowplay” to Langley about 10 years ago at Twin Creeks in Aldergrove, back when Ralph & Sharon Caravetta owned the place and held cattle penning and sorting competitions on a regular basis. Gilbert gave about one clinic a month over a period of about 6 months, and quite a few riders cut their teeth on cows, so to speak, at one of his full day clinics.

Cows looking for something to do

Cows looking for something to do

Well, around ten days ago, he found out there were some cattle at Anderlinis’ looking for something to do the following Sunday, so he talked to Ralph and Sonja about it and they decided maybe a cowplay day would be a good thing. Turns out it was just that.

There were enough riders to make it worthwhile and give each one their money’s worth in terms of time to play with the cows. There were four more experienced riders who’d done cow work before. This was a good opportunity for them to spend some quality time with the cows, helping to move them around and practise their sorting and cutting skills with Gilbert there to give them pointers. Then there were another five riders who were new to cows – or should I say, cows were new to them – and their horses hadn’t worked with cows, either.

Herding the cows

Herding the cows

Gilbert always starts out with safety checks. He checks everyone’s tack, then gives the riders some exercises to do while he assesses their horses’ temperaments and the riders’ skill levels. They have a good warm up, and then practise the moves they’re going to need for working cows. The Anderlinis have a mechanical flag, which is a stand-in for a real cow, and gives riders a chance to learn the right positions and practise the turns.

CowplayThen the cows come out, a few at a time, and the riders get their horses to track the cows, just following comfortably behind, getting used to pushing them around. When all of the horses are comfortable being around the cows, Gilbert coaches each of the new riders to approach the herd and pick out one of the cows, which he then helps them to cut out of the herd and push down to arena wall to the other end. Each exercise gets a little more difficult and teaches the rider and horse just a little more about working cows.

Gilbert on his Canadian Horse mare and Kelli Lee on her Arab

Gilbert on his Canadian Horse mare and Kelli Lee on her Arab. She’s set on cutting out that beige-y cow with the dirty bum.

Judging from the tired horses and riders at the end of the day, they played with the cows long enough to make everybody happy. If there are more cows looking for someone to play with, there might be another such cowplay day in the future. Who knows?

Anyway, there’s a short video from the clinic on YouTube. Feel free to check it out.

A few clips:

A visit to Timber Ridge Trails

Gilbert, Ruth & Snickers at Timber Ridge Trails

On the Monday of the August long weekend, Gilbert, Ruth and Snickers went to check out Timber Ridge Trails in Lumby, BC.  CHHAPS (Canadian Horse Heritage & Preservation Society) is planning a September retreat there so we wanted to take a look at the facilities.  We were lucky enough to run into our hosts, Darlene & Laverne Wolney, at a  restaurant in Lumby, so we followed them out to the campsite.

Coffee on at the fire pit.

It was just after an exciting display of thunder and lightning, accompanied by a heavy rain, and we’d had a long day followed by a good meal, so we had a quick tour of the campsite, then retired to the cabin for the night.  After a very quiet night – we didn’t even hear the coyotes that Darlene asked about the next morning – we woke up to a relatively cool, overcast morning.  As the first one up, Gilbert started the fire in the big firepit before Darlene arrived to make coffee. (Note: click on any of the photos to see larger version)

The huge frypan and old woodstove in the cowboy kitchen.

Darlene at the fire pit at Timber Ridge Trails.

Our hostess Darlene made cowboy coffee and pancakes for us, which we ate at the kitchen’s skookum wooden tables, built by Laverne.  Laverne has made almost all of the furniture and structures at Timber Ridge Trails using wood from the area mostly milled on his own equipment.  Very impressive!

The kitchen structure and furniture were made by Laverne Wolney

Campsite at Timber Ridge Trails

There are 10 campsites at Timber Ridge Trails, spaced around the grounds.  There’s an outhouse at each side of the camp, and a cute little shower house where you can take a shower using sun-warmed water.  For those who don’t have sleeping quarters in their horse trailer, a camper or a tent, there are three options.  There’s a cute little shepherd’s hut (again, built by Laverne), with a small double bed that sleeps one or two, and a cozy cabin with two sets of bunk beds that can sleep four.  They also have a travel trailer that they can bring in, which will sleep up to six.  If there are too many trailers for the ten campsites, visitors can overflow into a nearby meadow.

The charming shepherd’s hut, made by Laverne from larch trees cut near the site.

The horse stalls at Timber Ridge Trails

As far as accommodations for horses are concerned, the camp is equipped with fourteen solid panel stalls arranged adjacent to each other in double rows.  Their proximity helps keep damage to the natural forest floor to a minimum.  There’s a bin for manure, again to keep the camp’s landscape as natural as possible.  There are hitching posts near most of the campsites for ease of tacking up.

There are plenty of trails to ride, from one or two hours to a full day if you choose.  The trails are marked with color-coded markers, but Darlene makes sure all the riders have a color-coded map and her cell phone number in case they get lost.

It’s a peaceful spot, away from any sign of human habitation, yet an easy drive from Lumby.  There’s no electricity, but lots of non-electric amenities.  We’re really looking forward to our “retreat” in September 2012.

Timber Ridge Trails is located at 81 Kerby Road in Lumby, BC.  The hostess is Darlene Wolney, and she can be reached at 250-309-3544 or via email at

More photos below (click on any photo to enlarge), plus see more photos and the trail map on a separate page.

Sun warmed shower at Timber Ridge Trails

The water wagon at Timber Ridge Trails

This little bunkhouse sleeps four

Bunkbeds in the bunkhouse

Inside the bunkhouse

Gilbert in La Belle Province

In April 2012, Gilbert decided it was high time to return to his home province of Quebec to visit with family.  He flew in to Pierre Trudeau Airport (formerly Dorval) on the “red eye” from YVR, and was met by his older brother, Albert Roy, a well known horseman with a ranch in St. Jean de Matha, Quebec, north of Joliette.  Once there, Gilbert was caught up in a whirlwind of activity related to Albert’s business of boarding, training, selling horses and running a tack shop.  Albert is known for his involvement with the RTPQI (Regroupement Team Penning Quebec International) and was on a team that finished 5th in the world championships in Germany.  (There’s a photo of Gilbert on the “bienvenue” page of Albert’s website – can you find him?)

Albert Roy’s shop in St. Jean de Matha. He has his own line of Western saddles under the AR brand

Soon after his arrival, Gilbert’s “healing hands” were put to the test when he worked on two of the horses in his brother’s barn.  One was a trail horse who had started kicking out when asked to go forward and didn’t want his face touched.  Gilbert understood that it was a pain issue and went to work massaging the horse.  The owner, a chiropractor for humans, told Gilbert, “Merci Gilbert pour le temps que tu as pris pour m’enseigner à relaxer l’esprit et le corps de mon ami-cheval Vegas.”  (Roughly translated: Thank you for taking the time to teach me how to relax the spirit and body of my friend, Vegas.)   The other horse was a reining horse belonging to Gilbert’s sister in law, Debra Roy, who is a top level “coach for coaches” certified by the FEQ.  Her horse was high-headed, worried and wouldn’t let anyone touch his head, so he was very difficult to bridle, let alone ride.  After two hours with Gilbert, Chunky Monkey was so much improved that Deb said the change in her horse was like night and day.

By the next weekend, they had loaded up Albert’s trailer with equipment to take to a horse expo in St. Tite, Quebec, north east of Trois Rivieres.  Unfortunately, partly due to the cold weather, the attendance was down, but Gilbert enjoyed checking out the famous rodeo town of St. Tite.  He had competed there himself many years earlier in bareback bronc riding, and again in 2000 in the team penning finals against competitors from around the world.

It’s an attractive town, with many interesting old fashioned buildings.  One of the things St. Tite is famous for, is that it’s home to the internationally known Boulet cowboy boots.

A rodeo town

Back at St. Jean de Matha, Gilbert enjoyed some shopping at the store run by Albert’s daughter Natalee, and watching some of the boarders at Albert’s barn, including a young girl who had trained her pony to lie down and play dead, among other great tricks.  Sadly, it was indoors and most of the photos didn’t turn out very well.  If it had turned out, one of the best shots would have been the pony giving her a “high five” as he lay on his back and she straddled his belly.

The trick pony

Then Gilbert, Albert and Natalee drove all the way to Matapedia on the Gaspe peninsula to visit their mother, who was recovering from a stroke.  They had a great visit at the old farm where they had lived as children, although it had changed a great deal since they lived there during the 60’s.  Some of the old horse drawn farm equipment that Gilbert had learned to use as a child is still there on display.

Back at Albert’s ranch, it was time to prepare for an auction.  When Gilbert was in his early teens and even smaller than a jockey, he used to make a few dollars riding horses for people who wanted them to look good at the weekly auction.  He was such a good rider he could make almost any horse look good, and the auctioneer could point out that even a child could ride the horse.  Now Albert decided to challenge Gilbert to ride one of the horses he wanted to sell   The young Quarter Horse mare had never seen a rope, but Albert challenged Gilbert to do a roping demonstration on her at the auction.

Gilbert worked horseback with Royale, the mare, for a few hours, getting her used to having the rope whirl around her head, then used to him throwing the rope and catching things from her back, and finally to dragging odd things, including a plastic barrel, around the arena.  Next day at the auction, watching Gilbert warming up the little mare outside, a woman made a good offer on her before the auction even started.  Gilbert went on with the demonstration, however, in order to publicize Albert’s own upcoming auction, and had the crowd whistling and stamping their feet as they enjoyed his cowboy roping demo.  Albert could have sold the little mare four times over!  He was so pleased that he’s planning to fly Gilbert out to prepare horses for his own annual auction next spring.

All too soon it was time for Gilbert’s return flight home.  He had enjoyed visiting his family and was not only proud of his brother Albert and what he’s accomplished as a horseman in Quebec, but also of his niece Natalee Roy, who is now the fourth generation of Roys to be successful horsemen, or in Natalee’s case, a horsewoman!

Gilbert and his niece Natalee in front of the AR booth at the horse fair.

There’s an interesting thing about Gilbert and his older brother Albert, who was almost like a father to Gilbert since their dad, Valmont Roy, died in a tragic accident when Gilbert was only 3 years old.  Unbeknownst to each other, they both got Jack Russell terriers a few years back.  Gilbert’s little JR, Snickers, used to ride Rambler, the farm’s palomino gelding.  Albert’s little JR, Cowboy, has a full vote at family meetings when they’re gathered around the dining table.  He sits on a chair with his paws on the table, and if anyone says “let’s vote”, he raises one little paw!

Albert’s Cowboy on the left, Gilbert’s Snickers on the right

All in all, Gilbert says he’s proud to be a trans Canada cowboy!

Oregon in the early spring: A Canadian Horse adventure

Nisa learns to hold the herd – solo!

Back in October of 2011, at the time of the Mane Event in Chilliwack and the CHHAPS(Canadian Horse Heritage & Preservation Society) AGM, CHHAPS chair Ken Morris stayed a night or two at Tickety Boo Farm.  Ken’s one of our favorite people, and the former owner of Naro Haras Nisa, a little Canadian mare that Gilbert is training to work cows.  Ken and Gilbert got to talking about the Northwest Horse Fair in Albany, Oregon, and they decided it would be a great idea to have Gilbert travel to Oregon for the Fair in March of 2012 and participate in the Canadian Horse demo.  The plan evolved to where Gilbert would be riding John Hartley’s Canadian stallion Ranch Samaguy Dream-Boy Kurt in the demo.

Canadian Horse display

Part of the plan was also for Ruth and Gilbert to transport the beautiful display panels for the Canadian Horse booth.  The panels were donated to CHHAPS in 2011 by Kim Reid, who had them made about 10 years previously for the now defunct BC Canadian Horse District.  So Ruth and Gilbert rented a truck and camper large enough to transport the 4’x8′ panel, and to serve as their home away from home while in Oregon.  Having been in Oregon for the NW Horse Fair back in 2004 when Nisa was a yearling and enjoying some lovely warm days, they fully expected spring to be well under way in Oregon.

Ken with Nisa in 2004

Ken with Nisa in 2004

Snow and puddles in Oregon

Surprise!  Much of the drive through Washington and Oregon was in pouring rain, which didn’t let up after they reached Albany.  They arrived two days before the Fair so that Gilbert and Kurt would have a chance to get to know each other before the demo.  They parked their camper under a big tree at the barn where Kurt’s trainer, Kristina Eckert, had been working him.  By morning the camper was being bombarded by clumps of wet snow falling from the branches.  Yes, it snowed overnight!  This was not something they had come prepared for.  Cowboy boots and sneakers do not do well in two inches of slush.  Gilbert seemed oblivious to the weather, however, as he put a couple of rides on Kurt and got him used to rope work.

Gilbert and Kurt warming up before the demo. Photo courtesy Mandi Chestler

By the start of the Fair, which ran from Friday to Sunday, the weather had improved somewhat, but it was still slushy during the setup on Thursday afternoon.  The Oregon crew of CHHAPS members and Northwest Cavalry Association members did a great job putting up the display and other decorations in the horse barn.  Fortunately thanks to JR and KC Robinson (long story), there was a space for the camper on the fairgrounds.  Thursday night Kristina Eckert competed in the Breed Challenge, riding John Hartley’s mare Berthiaume Kurt Praline to successfully advance to the finals, while Gilbert and Kurt competed on Friday against stiff competition.

Gilbert and Kurt after the breed demo. Gilbert is wearing a Habitant sash and toque.

The CHHAPS demo began with two Canadians being ridden in historical costumes by Ken Morris and Terri Papineau, followed by a dressage pas de deux by trainer Bernadine Diers and student Natalie Pond riding two chestnut Canadians owned by Mandi Chestler, Ken on his mare Priceless and Michelle Heffner on her gelding Jeff, then French Canadian cowboy Gilbert riding Kurt and Kristina Eckert riding Praline in an English saddle and taking her over jumps.  Here’s a video from Saturday.

Over the three days of the fair, in addition to the daily Canadian Horse breed demo, Canadian Horses took part in the Northwest Cavalry demo in the big arena.  This was a real crowd pleaser, featuring swordplay and gunfire, and telling the exciting but tragic story of the horses in the U.S. Civil War.  Unfortunately, Gilbert had no Civil War uniform, but he was recruited to help with setup and safety during the cavalry demo.  Without the uniform, it was hard to tell whether he was a Union soldier in the 10th New York, although, given his Acadian roots, he could just as easily have been a Confederate from Louisiana.  Ruth made a video to share with the world.

Gilbert and one of the Storybook stallions

After a very successful Northwest Horse Fair, Gilbert and Ruth headed to Yoncalla, Oregon to visit John Hartley’s Storybook Horse Farm.  It’s the largest Canadian Horse breeding farm in the United States.  John and his fiancé, Alexis, were very gracious hosts.  The weather had improved enough to allow a Kubota tour of the ranch, visiting the various bands of horses, including the cheeky yearlings, gorgeous stallions, and of course, the mares.  One had a little filly, Zoe, by her side, and they hoped that another one of the mares would foal during the visit, but she held on until several days after their departure.  The Kubota eventually got stuck in the mud with Gilbert and John aboard, thanks to weeks of unrelenting rain, and so did the John Deere sent to unstick it, but a helpful neighbor showed up with a come-along and everyone was back to the house in time for dinner.


Gilbert and John horsing around with the yearlings at Storybook Farm

The trip home was uneventful, and 2012’s trip to Oregon is now a fond memory.   Gilbert and Ruth made some great new friends, both Union and Confederate soldiers as well as fellow Canadian Horse enthusiasts, and had a wonderful time.

Conquistadors of South Langley

Who would have thought that a French Canadian cowboy on a Canadian Horse would be a conquistador in 16th century Peru?  If you’ve seen the National Geographic Ancient Megastructures film about Machu Picchu, you’ve seen Gilbert ride Canadian mare “Gigi” into battle as a Spanish soldier.

One day Gilbert got a call from his friend, Dean Kucey, who told him to hurry over right away and bring his black mare.  They spent an hour or two getting costumed in tights and Spanish armor and made up with fake beards so they’d resemble the conquistadors who invaded Peru around the middle of the 16th century.  Then there were a couple of hours of riding their black horses in front of the cameras (along with fellow black horse owner and friend, Darrel Gatter) brandishing their spears and swords.

The end result was a few short seconds near the end of the film.   Here’s a clip:

Here’s a photo of the three of them:

Left to right: Darrel Gatter on his QH mare, Dean Kucey on a Canadian filly belonging to Kevin Washtock, Gilbert Roy on "Gigi" (Cherry Creek Danzon Gina)